Tuesday, December 19, 2006


This Friday I’m leaving Bangalore for the first time since I arrived. I’m taking advantage of the long holiday weekend (yes, Christmas is a holiday in India) for a 3-day canoeing trip on the Supa Reservoir. To prepare for the trip, I went from store to store yesterday trying to find things I knew I would need, such as a sewing kit to patch my backpack, industrial-grade insect repellant, and a dry bag to keep my camera safe.

My last stop was visit to a pharmacist to pick up iodine in case I needed to treat the reservoir water for drinking. As happens every time I need to buy something that I can’t point at, the pharmacist and I went through the usual custom of me saying one word over and over again, each time adding a slightly different inflection -- “Iodine? . . . iodine? . . . iodine?. . . . iodine? . . . you know . . . brown . . . *cough*, *cough* . . . ack!” as I tried to recreate the horribly painful childhood experience of having the back of my throat painted by a Q-tip dripping with iodine.

The pharmacist went to the back of the store and returned with something I didn’t recognize, but was definitely not iodine. I pointed at the brand name on the box and reemphasized that it was iodine I was looking for. He then insisted that it was iodine in the box, it just had a different name here. I looked back at the box. There was a drawing of a sleeping frog on the back. “Iodine is an element. The name doesn’t change.” He considered the point, then shuffled off to the back of the store again. When he returned to the counter, he smiled confidently, said “iodine!” as if to convey that we were finally on the same page, and then presented me with three boxes of Viagra.