Everyone in the tour group was of one mind: to find the nearest toilet, writes Tim Warrington.
So much is so sacred in India: cows, temples, Brahmin, Mother Teresa, Ganesh and the Ganges.
There's Varanasi and Vishnu — cricket's Virat Kohli and Bollywood's Shahrukh Khan — the list is long.
On my list — sacred and exalted — is the holy of holies: a clean, private, flushing toilet, which so far had been present and beloved during my short time in Kolkata.
But on day two, things — loo paper included — quickly unravelled.
On the tour bus, a blond Danish traveller had been writhing in her seat since temple No 3 for the day, when she attempted a discreet bottom toot, which delivered more than expected.
"Stop the bus!"
Soon, the entire tour group came down with gastro and bathroom cubicles swung open and shut like saloon doors in a thirsty Western.
But not me.
I escaped the bug that had undergarments bleating in misery all around me. I cleaned my teeth with bottled water. I went through half a tube of hand sanitiser every eight hours. I did everything the guidebook told me to, and more. As day three ended, I drifted off to sleep, serenaded by the distant chorus of toilets flushing through the night.
The next morning, at breakfast, as I sipped my bottled water and nibbled on my plain toast, somewhere between smugs-ville and self-righteous town, I felt the tiniest gurgle in
I bolted for the washroom, where the events that followed were X-rated and blisteringly violent. And so it remained for the duration of the three-week tour. When I wasn't glued to a toilet seat I was staring down the barrel of one, vomiting with all the gusto of a possessed, pea-soup spitting child.
But life continued. We were on tour. You have to get on with.
You must get on with it.
Many say a tummy bug and its accompaniments are all part of a trip to certain countries, but I had been here before and not fallen ill. Now I cursed the double-daal thali, as I hunched over the porcelain in the road-side restaurant washroom.
"I'm sorry," I muttered through streaming eyes as I tipped the bathroom attendant a king's ransom.
Brought up with British reserve, toilet humour is verboten in my family, so when I returned to the table to hear tales of the "fart that wasn't", I was at first reluctant to share. But this new and exciting world of cistern chatter was both bewildering and enlightening to me.
Chronic diarrhoea is a particularly tiresome brand of sickness — made worse when you're on the move, but when the entire group comes down with it, you have no choice but to share. As I listened, I realised I had escaped relatively unscathed, compared with some.
That was, until the very end.
It was our final day in India.
I excused myself from the table as a tummy rumble indicated the need for flight to the washroom, which had become almost second nature. When we reached our last hotel I was somewhat perturbed to discover my toilet had a rather energetic flush.
The intricacies of local plumbing have long been a point of confusion for me: strange pipes that lead nowhere and taps in the middle of rooms. This toilet that sprayed drops of water all over the bathroom when flushed just seemed another touch of whimsy. Simple though: close the lid before flushing.
I knicker-dropped at warp speed and sat a while contemplating the Celine Dion muzak piped into every corner of the hotel; her pinched nasal twang really was an appropriate anthem for soiling oneself.
"Near, far, wherever you are… once more you open the door ... "
Distracted by Celine's dulcet tones, I absentmindedly flushed ...