Monday September 3, 2012
When Sofie says she has stomach pain, this can be just about anything: usually it means that she feels nauseous, sometimes it has to do with the lower digestive system, and more rarely it is just another way of getting attention. So, when she complained about stomach pain, 10 minutes before we were to embark to Agra and see the world famous Taj Mahal, I did not pay too much attention to it.
Our host had prepared his Suzuki Maruti for the 3 hours journey, ready to provide us with the most magnificent view upon this masterpiece of architecture – probably the most beautiful building in the world. The A/C in the car was quite cold, and Thinlay went back to get a cover for Sofie; then we left.
Sofie looked very sleepy and lied down to take a nap. But half an hour later, round the outskirts of Delhi, not far from the bridge over the Yamuna, she vomited on her self and on the car seat. Sofie has a history of becoming unwell in the car, so we decided not to return home but to continue driving to Agra.
There is a new highway from Noida (Delhi’s suburban business and university hub) to Agra.
This Yamuna Expressway was inaugurated less than 4 weeks before and promised a driving time of less than 3 hours to Agra. The old NH2 (National Highway 2) would take something like 5 hours. Although this new highway is smooth as a pool table, Sofie vomited again a couple of times. Thinlay was very sweet to her, like an older brother, and he washed her blouse at a highway parking close to a toll station.
After that she looked better and we felt that the car sickness had been conquered.
On the expressway i noticed that nobody drove German cars – seldom i saw 4WD – but most cars are small Suzukis or Tatas. On this highway toll is reasonably high (320Rs) compared to the highways to the North. The expressway is always close to the Yamuna river (hence its name) that is meandering through lowlands. Noteworthy are the many chimneys from brickyards. India needs a lot of bricks to keep up with the needs of its rising population.
After the Expressway, close to Agra, we joined NH2, and our speed dropped dramatically to about 30kms/h. The condition of the road was pretty bad. Traffic rules were abandoned to the only rule India seems to value: “when there is a tiny opening for me, i will squeeze myself in it, no matter what”.
Although at a given moment i saw a very VERY large signboard saying “Taj Mahal Western Gate”, our driver ignored it and went into the surrounding settlement, soon accompanied by a youngster in a suit who would show us a nice parking space.
But he didn’t, and showed us around, and around, until we reached the “Eastern Gate”, where he happened to know the gatekeepers and some camel drivers.
It is not allowed to drive with a fossil fueled engine towards the Taj Mahal itself. There is a big parking at about 1km, and from there many take an alternative vehicle, be it a man powered rickshaw, an electric equivalent or a carriage with horse or camel. Out of season, tourists were scarce and the few carriages available tried to ask too much for value.
I had become very tired with our ‘Taj Guide’ and thinking of Sofie, decided to walk the last kilometer on foot. She had been shaken enough and could use the fresh air, and some drops of water. Every 5/10 minutes i gave her a sip. There was a gentle breeze, and it didn’t feel too hot.
We still had to pass security, although, i had the impression that it was not so very tight. And then finally had to walk towards the giant tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.
There is a division between tourists from India, and from abroad. We had to wear protection on our shoes,
while the locals could walk barefoot. I would have liked to walk barefoot too. The sun went up to the Zenith and the temperature rose fast past 30 degrees C.
Inside the Taj Mahal one is not allowed to take pictures. Sofie had been vomit free for a couple of hours now, but all the little sips of water came out together in the Taj Mahal itself. And although at that moment we felt very very sorry for her, this story is going to follow her for the rest of her life. She’s one of the few people on earth who vomited on this architectural work of art. Only now it became clear that she had more than just car sickness.
We enjoyed the view, the Taj Mahal itself, and everything around it, and decided to slowly go back home. On our walk to the exit, Sofie had cramps again, so I left her with Thinlay and Dhundup in an air conditioned restaurant,
and took a walk looking for some pharmacy to buy an anti-emeticum.
Fortunately, I met some helpful people on the road and after 3kms i found a pharmacy shed, where a very nice pharmacist gave me 10 domperidone tablets for 50Rs. I went back to the others in a rickshaw. Sofie didn’t want to take one pill. Seconds later she vomited again however, and this experience made her decide to take the pill anyway. It kept her from vomiting till we safely arrived back in Delhi.
Sofie couldn’t keep anything inside her stomach till midnight. Afraid for dehydration, i gave her the oral re-hydration solution that our doctor had prescribed ‘just in case’ 7 days earlier. It worked. Although it doesn’t really taste well, it kept Sofie’s stomach in tune, and another 24 hours later she was back to her normal self. She must have caught a stomach flu, 1 week earlier in Belgium while in childcare. These viruses have an incubation period close to 7 days.