My first trip to India was an adventure into exotic smells and an unfamiliar culture that left me 20 pounds lighter in three weeks. And for an indomitable and fearless world traveler, I admit that it also broke me down and left me crying one night.

In the middle of my second week in India, I was served what I jokingly call a grape-juice flavored glass of thick bacteria at dinner. When I went back to my hotel room, I felt I started to feel stomach cramping. I fell ill with food poisoning and could hardly eat for various days. My work was delayed for days as I recuperated.

I left for New Delhi for the last week of my stay in India. When I arrived I went to the train station to pick up tickets to go to Agra the next day to visit the Taj Mahal. The teeming throng of people at the ticket counter was too much for me, so instead I turned away. A rickshaw driver offered to take me to where I needed to go. I pulled out my Lonely Planet guide to India and instructed the driver to take me to the hotel Karan. The driver took me to the hotel Karam (spelled with an “m” instead of an “n”) and dropped me there. I paid the equivalent of about US$ 3 and proceeded to the room in hopes of getting some rest. But the experience in that hotel room was the low point of my India visit. It was even worse than my sickness from food poisoning.

The window pane was broken, the Asia style toilet was violently nauseating, and the bed was visibly dirty. I sat on the dirty bed and tried to meditate. After a short while, I decided I needed to leave. I walked out, left the key at the front desk, and walked into the muddy street. I bought bananas and tangerines from a street vendor because I knew at least those I could peel and felt safer eating.

I pulled out my notes where I had a telephone number of a contact person in Delhi I had received from a new acquaintance in Zurich where I had been living. I walked into a different hotel and asked to use the phone. I dialed the number and the person, apparently thinking I was a prank caller, hung up on me. I stood defeated before the hotel clerk. She apparently sensed my utter desperation and offered to help. I gave her the telephone number. She dialed and ended up making that contact for me. She wrote down the address on a brown piece of paper so that I could ask a taxi driver to take me there.

I thanked her, I went outside, and I gave the address to a rickshaw driver who then proceeded down the road with me on board. The rickshaw driver stopped after a block or so, got out, and took the piece of paper to another taxi driver on the street. My rickshaw driver could not read the address. After clarifying where we were going, we began the journey. The rickshaw driver asked me to pay him in advance while we were on the journey so that he could buy liquor. I hesitated and he indicated that he would not drink it while he was driving me.

That night I was accepted at the house of the friend of the new acquaintance. They put me up in the upstairs room. Because of the incessant mosquitoes, I ended up turning on the ceiling fan at full speed and hiding overnight curled up under a small blanket hiding from the mosquitoes. Mosquitos or not, I felt gratitude for the kindness of my hosts.