These are the provisions I packed for my 38 hour train ride from Mumbai to Kochi. That is longer than a train from Mumbai to Kochi should take, but when I booked it I did not know that or that we were stopping by Bangalore on the way (it is not actually “on the way”, per se). They are: a lime-looking orange, baby bananas, roasted lentils with spices, roasted unspecifed pulses with spices, Larabars. I also consumed a lot of chai (spicy sweet milk tea), a vegetable biriyani (fried rice), a dosa (crepe made from something fermented) and wada (savory doughnut) with coconut chutney upon the recommendation of the Keralan family with whom I was sharing the compartment.
The compartment was kind of crawling with cockroaches. I mean, not crawling, but there were a lot. I’d see a couple an hour. But they were small! I thought to myself: Katie, these cockroaches are not so bad, you have seen way bigger cockroaches than this, and after all they can’t actually hurt you. Just chill. Some of these thoughts were true. These cockroaches were, at most, the size of pen caps, and in Sri Lanka I believe I saw cockroaches the size of kittens. But I was wrong about them hurting me.
As I was climbing into my bunk last night, spreading my filthy sheet over my filthy vinyl bed, a man from the Keralan family popped up from the bunk below, wearing a scarf wrapped around his head (though I’m sure it was well over 90 degrees) and said to me, “Little cockroaches! Very dangerous! Little little! Very much damage if go in ear! Scarf head! Scarf head!”
Have you seen Brokedown Palace? I have, and easily one of the most terrifying scenes of that movie, of any movie, is when the American girl who is not Claire Danes starts weaving around the prison grounds (they are in Thai prison for potentially smuggling drugs) all Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas style so obviously everything thinks she is on amazing drugs (turns out drug use is a popular pastime in Thai prisons), but NO! A COCKROACH HAS CRAWLED IN HER EAR AND IS EATING HER BRAIN OR SOMETHING.
This is not something I want to happen to me. Not ever, and not in India, where I hear they have great doctors, but I only want Dr. Gregory House poking around in my brain and he isn’t even real, so basically: not ever. I wrapped my scarf around my head, but after testing it with my finger I became certain this is not a strong enough barrier for these little cockroaches.
Why did I think it was so great they were so little? Why did I throw out those earplugs the airline gave me? There’s a lot of time to ask yourself a lot of questions when you are awake all night because of terror and also because of the sweat dripping down your face from the scarf wrapped around your head when there’s like 99% humidity.