Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why "Delhi Belly"?

Trust Mint Lounge, possibly the most cerebral of India's weekly publications, to figure out that a feature on a "stomach disorder" named after the country's capital would be the perfect story to be published in the week that the Aamir Khan-produced film hit cinemas.

Headlined "We are landing in Delhi, loosen your belts", the article traces the history of Delhi Belly (the stomach ailment, not the film) and provides some interesting asides:

It’s not Al Qaeda, but Americans take Delhi Belly seriously. According to a US diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity since he is not authorized to share this information, his embassy in New Delhi maintains a laboratory devoted to testing for germs and diseases such as Delhi Belly. Embassy staff often arrive at the office carrying small brown bags that have jars with “poop” samples to be tested at the lab.

It must have taken some doing for the writer, Mayank Austen Soofi, to extricate this piece of information from a diplomat. We also learn that there are limericks on Delhi Belly. Here's one:

A New Delhi tourist called Justin
Sensed a stir in his lower intestine
He made a dash for the dunny
But he felt something runny
Now his shorts are consigned to the dustbin.

We are told that that there is no record of the phrase's first appearance but R.V. Smith, author of several books on the city, claims the term first appeared in the summer of 1857:

The Indian mutineers had taken over the capital and the British were encamped on the Ridge where many of them were incapacitated due to upset tummies. It was they who coined the term Delhi Belly.

We are also given the other side by Delhi-based Delhi-based Prof. Pushpesh Pant, author of India: The Cookbook:

Delhi Belly is dead. Now our hygiene standards are high, bottled water is available everywhere, dhabas cater to foreigners and many eateries serve gol gappas with mineral water. The Delhi Belly scaremongers are the types who dine at five-star hotels and who like to run down India, which is now a powerhouse economy.

Whether you are outraged at the thought of an attack of the runs being labelled Delhi Belly and want to know why this is so or you just happen to love soaking up new information, this article is an excellent example of a good idea executed well. Read it in its entirety here.

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