Traveling by air-conditioned motor coach through the Punjab, my fellow American Boy Scouts and I pelted passersby with marshmallows. As supplies ran low the game escalated. Skill shots – the ornate center “O” of a Be Gentle on My Curves roadway sign, an underhand toss that dropped a white dot down the plastic throat of a pot-wallah’s wares – became shit shots. Beggars cringed as a volley of missiles hurtled at them. My assistant patrol leader reached down and balanced a white cube on a cyclist’s turban. Last marshmallow in the bag, last shot: I plucked it out of the cellophane sleeve and popped it in my mouth, masticated the powdery mass until it was tacky. The bus lurched forwards. I dangled the glob in the sun and let it dry until it reached the perfect consistency for throwing. A leper approached, gazing up at us, moaning for baksheesh, for a school pen, for one rupee. He had one arm; the other was a flaking stump the color of a dangling cigarette ash. He spotted me. I nodded at him. Drew my arm back and flung it at him as hard as I could. It hit him on the forehead and clung. He pulled if off and ate it.
Milk came in Baggies that looked like saline solution or breast implants, and that was the best stuff, the one touting its processing plant pedigree from the United Arab Emirates. Untrustworthy stuff. Though you snipped the tips off when you used a bag, cunning men with heat guns scavenged floppy empties from rubbish tips and filled them with inferior product. Lacings and dilutions that were alarming to imagine. Chalk and water. Fleshy arachnids mashed into paste. Ass milk. Dog milk. Chemical solutions of lye that mimicked the precise blue hue. Water was what would could kill you no matter how stomach churning the other contaminations might have been. Mailings from Non-Governmental Organizations proclaimed the water gelatinous with fecal bacteria. Waterborne pathogens are the worst. Pregnant women advised to shower with eyes clenched. Teeth to be brushed only with UV-sterilized water. A single droplet consumed inadvertently risks Delhi belly and three days of bed-rest punctuated by very, very fast darts to the W/C or a stay in the Apollo Hospital intaking IV fluids, or a Medivacing to Singapore. The latter didn’t seem such a bad fate. But it was better not to risk untrustworthy milk. We ordered directly from the farms. Great battered tin tureens of unprocessed buffalo milk we had to boil. Cereal and chocolate milk suffered. The milk was thin as water, but for a skin of fatty mucous strong enough to snag Cheerios. It dried hard, bonded to the sides of mugs and edges of spoons and had to scraped.