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Posts Tagged ‘Udaipur’

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15th August

The yoghurt smothered banana left my spoon and arched a smooth trajectory towards my mother, where it landed on her top. We glared at each other surprised as well as furious. The argument, as all good arguments are, was a petty one.

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I gathered my things (P.D.Q. I can tell you) and stalked across the terrace and down the steps to the small garden below where I paced, breathing deeply. After a good ten minutes I returned to our breakfast table over looking Udaipur’s picturesque Lake Pichola. We muttered apologies to one another and we both giggled – the day was underway.

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Jamil was taking us on ‘The City Tour’. I would never normally do the city tour but it was probably a good way to take in all the necessary Udaipuri sights without exhausting Mum (now bespattered) too much. As it turns out it was a waste of time and money (in my opinion, for the opinion of the other members of the tour you will have to ask her).

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Our first stop was the spice market, which rankled a little as I knew where this was having spent most of my last visit to Udaipur there and would have preferred to visit under our own steam. We were taken to the edge of the veg. market and given time to wonder around and the opportunity to buy spices from Jamil’s friend. I declined this offer knowing that the really good spices were much deeper inside the warren of market streets.

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We made our way to the market where beautiful vegetables in a rainbow of colours are laid out on burlap sacks and the noisy bartering and weighing on old-fashioned hand held scales takes place. We were soon centre of attention and the market women wanted to have their photo taken.

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This is common place in India, wherever you go people of all ages implore “please madam, one photo” and then stand stiffly to attention for the photograph. I snapped a couple of the women who then insisted that mum went to join them for the pictures.

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The fat, jolly lady pulled up a plastic crate for mum to sit on and patted it. Quick as a flash, however, the adjacent veg. seller and owner of the bright orange crate pulled it back, “NO” mum could not sit on her crate. The first lady then rattled off some rapid Hindi and the crate was pulled back for mum.

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This continued for about a minute until our lady triumphed and secured the crate and indicated that mum take her seat for the photo. Almost in slow motion, as mum started to sit down the crate-owner pulled it out from under her. Mum was suddenly up-turtled, legs in the air! The entire market was in hysterics and once I realised that there was no saving mum from her fate I started rattling off photos to capture the comedy.

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After such auspicious beginnings the tour continued. We saw some mausoleums, king ones. They were alright, bit over grown and covered in pigeons and their effluent – fun when you have to remove ones shoes out of respect! Then we drove to see the statue of a famous horse, a warrior horse whose name was Chutak. He was loyal to his Kingly master and bravely defended him and then died in battle.

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Most importantly, lunch was an incredible thali.

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After which we went to the Princess gardens where we were supposed to admire the fountains. Instead we found ourselves inside the onsite Science Museum, in the loosest sense of the term, you understand. The officious man in charge pounced on us when we entered the room – his next victims had arrived. He was delighted when he found out that I was a teacher too. Being a teacher is usually the easiest lie to tell about ones employment and education status in India, being as it is an honourable profession. He led us around his museum which contained such strange exhibits as a pile of labelled local rocks, fun-fair mirrors, a magic (how did we do it?) tap and a large free standing pulley.

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“Madam, Madam. Come” he ordered us from one display to another. “Look Madam!” “oh! yes” we politely nodded. “Here, Madam. Here!” “Touch the Peacock” he bodily moved me and then mum towards a plaster peacock. We both touched the peacock. We managed, but only just, to keep straight faces when he showed us riding a bike, Benny Hill style, standing up against a vertical mirror. I was then made, yes MADE to do the same. This continued around the mercifully small ‘museum’.

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If either mum or I tried to skip an exhibit or didn’t pay enough attention to the wonders of an exhibit, we were admonished and physically returned to the exhibit to appreciate the marvels within. The last item was a camera obscura and Mum was told to “SIT” and “look” which she obediently did. We managed to escape at last and made it out into the pouring rain where we stood next to the giggling school girls under shelter. Suddenly he was back, he looked at mum and said “I had to say goodbye to my English girlfriend” I let out an ill-disguised guffaw. Mum gave me a steely look, “let’s go now before he tries to make me his wife.”

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After this we told Jamil that yes it had been a wonderful tour but now we would like to go back to our hotel. My recommendation is that if you ever have the luck to visit beautiful Udaipur that you do not do the tour.

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The rest of our time was more purposefully spent. We took an art class. This I loved, not just because I really enjoy the intricate, delicate work of Indian Miniature Painting but because it was such a fun thing for mum and me to do together.

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Mum has fallen in love with Nandi. Nandi is the vehicle of the Hindu God Shiva and he is a bull and the reason why the cow is sacred in India. You will find a Nandi at every temple entrance and he is the subject of her painting.

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The teacher was intrigued by her choice saying that in all his years no student had ever requested a Nandi. I chose the national bird of India: the peacock.

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We took a cooking class. It was my second lesson with the same teacher so we took a more advanced class. We learned paneer butter masala, dal fry, pumpkin curry and veg. biryani. Our classmates, a married couple from Leeds were soon exchanging surreptitious glances and clearly thought that this mother/daughter duo were more than slightly unhinged. I am not sure exactly what we did but after eating they dived into their room and we could hear uncontrolled fits of giggles.

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We had impromptu Hindi lessons over cold beer at the bar by the bridge, we watched Ian Fleming’s ‘Octopussy’ play out against its real life backdrop – minus Roger Moore’s quizzically arched eyebrow of course.

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We looked after a 21 year old Scottish boy who was lonely, saw a traditional dance recital and weaved our way amongst the many bovine inhabitants – who just collapse wherever they deem fit. Looked through piles of pashminas and declined to buy any, we watched the women washing their clothes on the ghats from our beautiful room and had a romantic dinner in a posh restaurant with an amazing view of Udaipur city palace lit up like a fairy castle at night.

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We also had to eat part of said dinner in the drizzling rain but like the good Brits that we are we pretended not to notice. And on our last day at breakfast a very lovely gentleman leaned over and said “I have noticed you around and have to tell you, you are the best dressed ladies in Udaipur!”

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Quitting whilst we were ahead, we decided, we had better leave Udaipur. Our quarry was still Jaisalmer where we want to do the camel safari and sleep in the Great Thar desert under the stars.

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A Problem in Mumbai

11 August

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We had a problem. Mum’s brand new suit, tailored by ‘Master’ had Hindi writing in orange indelible ink over the back of one sleeve. Clearly it could not be worn. We were bashing the doors down at the fabric shop even before they opened and their baffled faces turned wary as we made our complaint. They discussed in heated Hindi the issue. Everyone from the owner to the cleaner had a good look at the offending sleeve. It was scratched by everyone’s index fingernail, held up to the light, sighed over and finally declared to be chalk. We (mother and I) poo-pooed this idea at once, it was very clearly not chalk and rather glaringly orange indelible ink.

Master was called. And while we waited for him to arrive we started the process of going through new salwar suit packages. In their desperation to please, nearly every cellophane-wrapped parcel was removed from the shelves. A servant was sent to buy stain remover and master arrived and grassed up the desk clerk by announcing that he had authorised the using of the inky material.

We left them with the problem and went off to buy skeins for my cross stitch as my entire nine month collection had been mislaid. For some reason the haberdashers is always located in the vegetable market where we duly went and I merrily bought thirty-four Anchor brand skeins at under £1.00 – serious bargain.

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However, we had another problem. This one was far more serious. Whilst packing our rucksacks that morning it was discovered that Mum didn’t have her camera (the beloved G10). We tried to mentally retrace the previous day’s steps: The tour, the thali, the internet cafes. Had we been to the perfume shop, what about Leopold’s? The days meshing together in a confused jumble. “Don’t worry about it” I said (rather magnanimously, I thought) “It’s just a possession. No-one has broken a limb” But Mum was inconsolable, she would not be consoled. “Besides which, this is India, if an Indian person has found it we will get it back” I added confidently. “If a foreigner has found it – you can kiss your Canon goodbye.”

On our way to the tailors we had been to Leopold’s – it was not there. We had asked at the cloth shop – also not there. So, after the haberdashers we wended back through the streets to the first internet cafe from the day before. But we were stopped out side the temple and the man explained that today was a festival for Shiva and he performed a small puja (offering or prayers) for us. Tying a red and yellow string around our wrists and painting our foreheads with red tikka. After which we continued our journey to the internet cafe where we explained our situation to the desk-dude and he went to get his boss. The boss arrived, took one look at us and exclaimed “Madam, you left your camera. Don’t worry I have it here safe.” Mum and I almost burst into tears.

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Nerves jangling like a temple bell we strode back into the fabric shop, battle-ready. What would be their solution, if any, or would we be fighting for our money back? On entering our nostrils prickled with the acrid scent of stain remover, not unlike old fashioned nail varnish remover – before they took the poison out. But the indelible ink indelibly remained. Chalk indeed!

In the end it was us that solved the problem suggesting that Master (we were starting to doubt the veracity of the epithet) found some off-cuts of same baby-pink material and inserted panels into the underside of each arm. But he would have to be quick because we had to check out at 12 and our train was at 14.00 from Bandra Terminus (don’t you just love the names? Terminus – makes me want to coo-chi-coo India under the chin).

I ditched Mum and started Olympic power walking back through the Colaba streets to get back to the hotel before the clock took us over into the “next day charges”, my dupatta billowing behind me like chiffon wings.

We hit the road (Jack). After an eventful local train journey to Bandra and fight with a rickshaw driver we eventually made our way to the correct train station and platform. We still were not sure of our travel status. We were told by the inquiry desk that we had been allocated one seat between us and by the Chief Reservation Manager that we had been allocated a first class cabin….

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As it turned out we had only been allocated one seat/bed for our eighteen hour train ride to Udaipur. It was a Lower Side berth meaning that we had our own window and was luckily in A/C class. We immediately engendered the animosity of all the other passengers (all men) around us because the passenger from the upper side bunk is supposed to be able to sit on the lower side bunk whilst it is a seat during the day (it gets converted into a bed for the evening). We drew our curtain across us, thus maintaining a dignified purdah (the custom (mostly Muslim) of keeping women in seclusion; veiled), from behind which we giggled, chortled and on occasions roared with laughter as we negotiated legs, bags, books and even dinner.

We settled down to sleep at around 22.00 a contortion of legs and carefully positioned bottoms as we top and tailed on the tiny Indian-person-sized (albeit a fairly wealthy Indian person) bed. As we had also pissed of the officious conductor by only having our reservation printout and not our ticket in triplicate, notarised and signed by the mayor we had not dared to ask for the possibility of another bed. My meek request for another pillow was stoically refused, my eyes not even met and I was dismissed with a wrist-flick like a beggar child.

At 1.00 I was given a reprieve, however, and told that I could move to bed 22. Soothed by the gentle chug and throb of the train and the mental security of knowing that I was not alone on this train, I slept like a baby, waking refreshed and ready for the rickshaw scrum in beautiful Udaipur.

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