9.26.10 - 10.1.10 97 °F
The trouble makin’ trio reunites! We met Melanie Sunday night in the beautiful city of Udaipur. Monday we toured around a bit to see the largest palace in Rajasthan which is filled with artifacts from past royal families such as the fancy carriages they sit in atop elephants as well as lots and lots of detailed painting depicting battles, festivals and everyday life way back when. There was even a photo of the last elephant fight in 1951 of two elephants on opposite sides of a wall with interlocked trunks… ouch! Gorgeous, sparkly mosaics covered many of the walls and ceilings and gave us tons of inspiration for all kinds of projects we can try in our future homes!
Since Udaipur is centered around the Pichola Lake, most of the restaurants were situated on top of the buildings with a phenomenal view and a perfect spot to watch the sunset. I should also mention that the lake is personally owned by a man in Udaipur but the water is owned by the government. So currently the only boats allowed on the water are a select few tour boats and the owner’s hot shot son.
After dinner we went on a hunt for sweets on some back streets and came across a large group of women socializing. This was a neat scene first of all because of the vibrant colored saris but also because you never see groups of women out and just enjoying each others’ company especially not in the late evening. I found out from a friend later that most females are required by their families to be inside by 8 or 9 pm and only socialize on weekends.
Day two in Udaipur was fantastic! We wandered off the main streets and found a clothing store with fixed prices! Shopping without bargaining is such a treat! After shopping we had plans to meet some guys that Melanie had befriended for a motorcycle ride. Our new friends, Shakir and Sayid zipped us out of town a bit to see Tiger Lake (no tigers are hanging around these days). We hung out there in this gazebo type structure and introduced the boys to powerkicks. We spent a while perfecting our form, taking pictures and attempting to learn some standard Indian dance moves. Since there was no traffic for part of the way back to town, Sayid let me drive his motorcycle! I must say, shifting in Mello (my car) is much easier.
The boys dropped us off at the cooking class we signed up for where we met our classmates for the night, three friendly Aussies. Our teacher, Shashi started by telling us her incredible life story. She is a Brahmin woman which is the highest caste in the Hindu faith and the strictest. Her husband was murdered by his best friend over a matter of 40,000 RS or about $880 dollars nine years ago when her sons were only 7 and 9 years old. The man only spent one year in jail after he paid the police off in order to be set free. She commented how much better our legal system is, how infuriating and scary! When a Brahmin woman is widowed she is not allowed to remarry and is confined to her home for an entire year after her husband dies. For the first 45 days she cannot eat and must sit in the corner and mourn with the women who come to cry with her from sunrise to sunset. After her husband passed away, neither his nor her side of the family helped out financially or otherwise. She had to hire out her young son to do laundry for people in secret because Brahmins are not allowed to do low level house work. Once she could leave her home she also worked as a cleaning lady in secret to make ends meet. The building they lived in rented rooms to travelers and one couple who stayed there was so impressed with her cooking that they suggested she teach a class to foreigners. Since then her class has become a rocketing success and she proudly said she’s so successful and busy she hires people to do her laundry and clean for her now. Various travelers have helped her translate her recipes into other languages and she has learned enough English to teach the five hour class with sassy confidence. She ran a tight ship with the six of us eager pupils directing us to “flip now” “more flour” “you stir” We had a wonderful time learning to cook all the curries, chapathis, tea and even cheese we have been enjoying for the past month. When we asked her where we could buy all the spices, she said it would be better to buy from her for a fair price instead of trying our luck at the market because of our “skin color problem.”
Shashi told us one other crazy story about how her father-in-law used to sit in the kitchen while she cooked and she had to wear a scarf to keep her face and eyes covered out of respect and therefore couldn’t see her ingredients very well. He then complained to his son/her husband that she was a bad cook. She can’t catch a break!
Even after all she’s been through Shashi is an incredible woman and seems to be truly happy. I am so grateful and pleased we got to spend time with her. What a humbling experience. Melanie was talking to a girl in who had to get married when she was sixteen because her dad fell off a ladder and couldn’t work anymore so they needed to marry her off quickly. She seemed in awe of our travels and seemingly restrictionless lifestyle and told Melanie, “you have a beautiful life.” Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up and forget but these women remind me that I am pretty darn lucky!
We left Udaipur for Jodphur (without Meli Baba ) on a sleeper bus Wednesday night and arrived around 5am. Even at such an obscure hour we were surrounded by rickshaw drivers arguing for our business. Honestly I’m becoming a bit numb to the harassment these days so it’s not so bad.
After sleeping a bit more at our toasty hot hotel we went to visit Jodhpur’s main feature, the impressive Mehrangarh Fort set atop a hill in the Old City. Since we’re not just ordinary tourists, we chose to zip line around the Fort instead of just touring the palace inside!
Jodhpur is the second zip line in India operated by Flying Fox, a British company that boasts of their safety and highly maintained French equipment. We were harnessed and spieled by two young energetic Indian guys who would be our guides. The course consisted of six different zip lines of varying lengths between 70 and 300 meters over small waterways and structures in the fort and with a killer view of the city. What an amazing location! We were like secret agents sneaking into enemy territory to save the day! We got along so well with our chatty guides that they tried some powerkicks and invited us out that evening. We asked them what would be appropriate to wear and they simply suggested we wear something “mesmerizing.” We gave the mesmerizing thing our best effort and enjoyed the local tour around town and getting to know more about life in Jodhpur.
The next day we met up with Prateek and Sam (our zip line guides) again to see some sites and go to a movie. I must say I am borderline obsessed with Bollywood at this point. It’s a perfect mix of a musical and your classic romantic comedy and just so fun to watch! Even though we don’t understand Hindi, we follow the story lines pretty well aside from the occasional “one line zinger” that Prateek didn’t translate. This was the second Bollywood movie I have seen in a week and it’s quite the event for everyone else watching too. When the hot shot lead struts onto the screen flexing his muscles the theatre went absolutely nuts, with hoots, hollers and cheers from males and females! A similar frenzy ensues when the stunning leading lady seductively looks over her shoulder or kicks up a bare leg changing her clothes. It was crazy!
I had a really good chat with Prateek about various questions I had about India and Indians. I found out that babies wear all that eyeliner to make their eyes stand out but also to protect from disease. Prateek also shared some similar frustrations with issues/topics we’ve wondered about like the crazy driving, drinking taboos and population control. He thinks the hang up on development is that the people in office right now are very stuck on tradition and people are unwilling to try to do things different ways but progress is still being made. It’s nice to know these things are troublesome for Indians too because I don’t like feeling like a know-it-all westerner when I complain about the disorganization of things. He added that zip lining is safer than driving in India and I’m not surprised!
Next up, Jaisalmer and our hottest desert stop yet!