Attack of the Killer Red Worms (really!)

I’ve been scratching my head, trying to think of a suitable title for this blog entry. There’s not much that can accurately describe the revulsion that you might have after reading this, so if you are of a nervous disposition or have a weak heart, probably best to skip to the next post.

Continue if you are brave enough.

A couple of weeks back I had the worst stomach upset I’ve ever had since being in India. Yeah, you hear the horror stories of people being laid up for days and not being able to move, but that probably affects less than 1 in 2 people. You’ve got less than 50% chance of losing a 1/3rd of your body weight via the toilet, so there’s not that much to worry about.

Well, like I said, the worst stomach upset ever, it just wouldn’t go. I even had to take time off work. It’s not pretty, I know, but we’re about to go downhill even further….

Last week, without warning, the water was shut off. You never know just how much you take running water for granted until you’re a greased up furball who can’t take a shower. Plah. Not nice.

Sometimes the water has gone off before, and it’s usually back on within a few hours. This being a work day and all, I decided not to think too much of it and started working from home.

By the time the evening came around, the water still hadn’t been turned back on and I was starting to worry a bit. We have hand pumps (yeah, think Victorian times, you get the idea) out the front of our apartment which are used by people living in the slums (and on a side note, the noise of the squeaky water pump being operated at 6am every day is both an incessant annoyance and a audible reminder of the privileged life you lead) but even these had run dry.

The evening came round and we had a problem, there was still no water. All I can say is; thank goodness there’s a bucket under my AC to collect the condensed water!

The next morning, and I wasn’t just a greasy furball, but a decidedly odourous one at that. I said a little prayer to the God in the temple next door to me and went to switch on the tap.

Putt, pssst, put, put, psssssssss

(that’s the noise the taps make when there is not enough pressure to make the water run. It’s also one of the worst sounds in the world because roughly translated it means, “buddy, you ain’t gettin’ a shower today”).

Aragh. Nightmare.

I called up my mate and asked what’s going on with the water, it will be back in 5 minutes, he says.

Sidenote: Invariably, if you ask how long something will take in India, it will be an arbitrary five minutes. If you ask for directions, the answer will be keep going straight, when you get to the traffic lights, turn right. These are the subtle clues you need to pick up and determine that the person doesn’t know, without them explicitly telling you that they don’t know. It’s polite or something.

Anyway, translating the “5 minutes” in to “I don’t know”, I set about working from home again.

A few hours later, the God in the temple next door finally got around to reading my triplicated request for running water, and water flowed from the taps once again. I was able to finally take a shower and go through the transformation of greasy furball tramp to sharp, sophisticated businessman.

Later that day, I was on at my friend to find out why the water had been cut off for so long. He knocked on the neighbours door and came back a few minutes later looking very smug with himself.

The reason for the water being turned off was this…

The very same water that I wash in, wash my clothes in and wash up my plates, saucepans, utensils and cutlery…had been infested. With worms. Tiny red ones.

Apparently the whole street had been complaining for over a two weeks and the water authorities finally did something about it by switching the water off without informing anyone and removing and cleaning out the infestation.

I can’t believe I didn’t notice it, but when you switched on the taps, small red worms would come out, tiny little larvae and other crap.

On the bright side, at least that explained the severe stomach upset.

8 Comments Attack of the Killer Red Worms (really!)

  1. admin

    To gross you out even more, later on that same day I removed the top from the cistern of my toilet…suffice to say I will be mentally scarred for life, and the lid is now held down with a ridiculous amount of duck tape! It was unholy I tell you.

    Given the choice between no water and no monsoon…I would have to sit and consider the options carefully.

  2. sarah!

    that is so so gross!
    truly, that is the most disgusting thing..
    would love to be able to say something more witty, but i’m simply grossed out.

  3. viksdes

    peter does that pic actually show the red worms that came out of the tap? or is it a random pic..I haven’t seen worms come out of taps before..yes they do sometimes come up the drainage line and enter my bathroom. May be you should just put the real pic else I am sure many foreigners would think even worst about India.. All the best mate!

  4. admin

    @Viksdes: No, all the thumbnail images I use on this are high quality shots from istockphoto. I didn’t think people could stomach a photo of my toilet cistern, so I bought a stock image instead. I don’t think people would seriously believe worms of this size could possibly come out of a tap. Foreigners don’t think bad about India, they are just shocked at how different it is. This blog simply documents my experiences in India, and I try to do it in a light hearted, humourous way.

  5. Natalie

    This is scaring me. Today my mom told me she found a thin little red worm in our shower and we didn’t know where it came from. This is the first time this has happened and i want to know if i should report it or something. Help.

  6. Darwin


    Hey, this morning in Cochin, I noticed three worms in my bath water that looked just like the ones that you described. Do you know what type of worms these are? (I am trying to determine if they are parasites and, if so, what they do and how to rid the body of them.)

    Have a great week!

    Take care,


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