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Travel: Global Myths - No 22

Another story from the travellers' grapevine
JOHN HAYWOOD was a young backpacker who was enjoying a year travelling around India before going to university. Everything had gone smoothly for the first couple of weeks, especially his visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra and to the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan. He had no health problems and he felt fresh and energetic.

After John began heading south, however, he noticed the tell-tale signs of "Delhi belly". One day, he finally found himself in a small town in the middle of Madhya Pradesh, quite unable to move any further. He had constant stomach cramps, and he was labouring under the endless need to rush to the nearest toilet.

He was staying in a grotty hotel with a communal toilet at the end of the yard. The toilet basically consisted of a smelly hole in the ground but, unfortunately, he was obliged to spend a good deal of his time squatting over it. It was filthy and foul liquids oozed between his feet.

Squatting there one evening, Johnreflected on what had gone wrong with his trip. He had spent so much money to come out here, but what on earth for? To be humiliated by the misery of uncontrollable diarrhoea? He couldn't even be bothered to brush away the flies and hornets that swarmed between his legs. Just as he was finally coming to the conclusion that there could not be anyone in the world more miserable than himself, John suddenly noticed a strange noise coming from the hole. He peered down into the darkness and, to his astonishment, saw a face staring up at him.

"Sorry to disturb you, sir," came a sad voice. "I am the cleaner."