(The setting is 1997. Sanstorm is suffering from Dysentery. The following action takes place in Sanstorm’s mind.
She is wearing a grey pleated dress with a low waist and a string of pearls. Her hair is a rigid wavy bob. She stands as the meals wait for her to speak. The first meal is chips and chipsticks served with a spicy tomato sauce. He lounges on a settee, looking nonchalant. The second meal hardly qualifies. It is a Pepsi. She stands, leaning on the mantelpiece wearing synthetics. The third meal is a fried egg with pepper. She is seated on a chaise-long.)
San: You may be wondering why we are gathered here. The reason is simple: the culprit is in the room. One of you is the unhealthiest meal I ever ate. One of you must be. The symptoms were irrefutable. Days on end became patterns of hours broken into three twenty-minute phases – twenty minutes writhing in agony, twenty minutes in the bathroom, twenty minutes asleep. It was horrendous. And one of you, at least, is to blame.
Chips: Well, it’s hardly likely to be me, is it? You ate me in Bombay. I reckon you picked up the bug in Calcutta. Wasn’t that where it all started to go wrong?
(The vision in San’s mind melts and we see a long table in a hostel in Calcutta. She had been in bed all day, feeling a bit off. Bit of an upset tum. She had surfaced for dinner. The rest of the group had been to meet street children and to visit Mother Theresa’s centre for the Dying and the Destitute. They had been told: don’t eat the fish in Calcutta.
It was fish-cakes for dinner. They gave thanks. Someone prayed:
“Thank You Lord for such a moving day, and we pray that this meal might not be…”
San clears this memory and focuses on the culprit.)
San: No. The bug I had in Delhi was different. A fever, nausea and vomiting. After I threw up at the airport and drank that foul watermelon-flavoured -rehydration-juice and that lovely cup of tea on the plane to Bombay, I was fine.
(Chips shrugs and looks into middle distance.)
Pepsi: A big brand like me isn’t going to be to blame. Everything is prepared in a controlled manner. You can’t blame me, in fact, you should thank me for the hydration.
San: Ah, yes, but it wasn’t controlled was it? Don’t you remember that balmy night? I was walking along the promenade at the seafront in Bombay. I ran out of water – and then I saw the Pepsi stand. I thought it would be a can or a bottle – but it came in a cup! I think maybe it was made with concentrate…
Pepsi: Oh. (She looks uncomfortable) I see. So, why’s she here? (deflecting, staring at Egg)
San: I don’t know. I just remember she was there. I thought I would go for something plain, and then it arrived with a ton of black pepper on it. I was so depressed I could cry. You’re right. She’s got nothing to do with it. (Egg disappears.) So that leaves you two.
Pepsi: (looking at Chips, still deflecting) What was his story?
San: It was my last night in India. Everyone was going out for dinner. They were going somewhere nice for a last authentic curry. I’d had enough. I just wanted something plain that wasn’t a chapatti or boiled rice. I wanted something with no seasoning. I wanted chips.
Chips: (looking smug) You see, the ladies love me. (He grins)
San: It’s the irony that gets me. I’d have been better off going for the curry. The other girl that came with me that night ended up with a parasite.
Chips: Yes, but I was top of the bill in the “A1 Air-conditioned Lounge”. A classy joint, if ever I was served in one.
San looks from Chips to Pepsi, and from Pepsi back to Chips. Chips to Pepsi, and from Pepsi back to Chips. Chips to Pepsi, and from Pepsi back to Chips…
Back to 1997. San wakes up. She would never know… she would simply never know…
On the bright side, she would lose a lot of weight, and get to see a lot of daytime tv…