All is not well at Tiger Hill


As the sun rises over Tiger Hill in Darjeeling, India, the pushing and jostling for position stops as we all stare in wonder at the magnificent picture unfolding in front of us. The magnificent Kanchenjunga Mountain is tinged pink by the colour of the sky and is a spectacular sight.

As I take in the view I try to ignore the twinges in my stomach. So far, two weeks in India and only the mildest of stomach discomfort and I want it keep it that way. As the twinges get worse they move down my stomach and into my bowls with a growl and I am overcome by the dreaded feeling that all is not going to be well.

Panic sets in and I make my way through the crowds not really sure where I am going but knowing that I need to get out of here as I begin to feel faint. Hurriedly scanning the area for a toilet I realise that on top of the remote Tiger Hill, the only possibility is inside the shack that I needed to pay to enter at the bottom of the hill.

With no other option, I hurry towards the shack over-flowing with people like a crowded chicken pen. I am greeted by an official who wants to see my ticket. With his limited English and my non-existent Hindi, I do the dance of the Westerner who needs the toilet and he immediately understands shouting ‘outside the back, outside the back!’

Easier said than done! In true Indian style, the place is so full that it is virtually impossible to penetrate the wall of bodies in front of me. I abandon my polite British manner and start pushing. As people angrily turn to face me with my shaking body and pale face I simply blurt out ‘toilet!’ and they quickly move out of my way and point to the outside.

Holding onto my growling stomach, I wander in blind panic to where I think the back of the building is. Sweating and feeling like I might pass out at any minute I manoeuvre past the last few people and a fresh wave of dread washes over me. I realise there is no door to the outside. I have gone the wrong way!

Fighting back through the crowds is not an option and as I start to childishly wail, people begin to show concern. I make a clenched dart for the window manically shouting ‘toilet! toilet!’ Thankfully, there is no glass in the window and it is just my size so I haphazardly throw myself at the wall and try to climb up whilst trying desperately not to relax my composure in any way or it will all be over!

Realising my desperation, a brave man in the crowd gives me a leg up and I manage to haul myself through the open window. I’m positioned rather awkwardly though and one leg is bent behind me while the other is already through the window.

Feeling weak, I do my best to give my leg a yank but I feel some resistance and a hear whimpering sound. I turn and see a startled sari-clad Indian woman frantically gripping her head scarf which I have wrapped around my leg as I perch on the window ledge.

In my effort not to disrobe her but sheer need to get out, I fall from the ledge onto the floor in a heap, leaving the poor embarrassed woman to redress in the scarf which I have thankfully left behind.

Onlookers stare in disbelief as this pale faced, panicked Westerner picks herself off the floor. I see a hut in front of me and with one final push I make a dash for the door and fly inside just in time. Thankfully it is the toilet but if it wasn’t I’m afraid there would have been nothing more I could have done!

N Vivian

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