Morning doesn’t sneak up in Udaipur. It clamors in, winding swiftly through the buildings and announcing it’s arrival with a heralding shout. We are sitting on a rooftop overlooking the older part of town – identified by uneven, cobblestone streets and colorfully painted architecture. Steam tendrils from our morning chai hang in front of us, curling gracefully before dissipating into the heavy humidity. Temple temple bells are chiming down the street, their sharp resonating tones blending into the morning rush below. School children wander down the broken pavement, impatient, older ones dragging their younger siblings behind them. Metal scrapes on metal as shopkeepers open their stalls for business. Others arrived earlier and are now sweeping their shop fronts with small whisk brooms. Across the street, a young wife is hanging out her freshly washed laundry while her two young children hug her legs. The city is coming to life before my eyes.
The streets of Udaipur are extremely narrow. Morning rush is a chaotic mess of rickshaws, bicycles, occasional cars, and, yes, cows too. There is never room for more than one lane of traffic and you have to squish yourself against the cold concrete walls to allow oncoming traffic to pass. I came across an elephant, plodding gently down the road earlier this week.
Visiting the Jagish Temple
Yesterday we visited the Jagish Temple during prayer time. (Lesson to remember: don’t stand too close to the bells. Your ears will ring for days!) It was an engaging and enlightening experience to attend the afternoon prayer. Bodies moved in rapid, yet graceful unison, and their prayers reverberated through the temple walls and wrapped comforting arms around us. Afterwards, as we drifted slowly down the steps, we were offered a small amount of sweet rice and milk to eat and a handful of grains to sprinkle at the feet of Ganesh, the elephant god of good fortune. I also took some outstanding pictures of the amazing carvings circling the temple. The artistry is unbelievable, and has heightened my interest to learn more about the gods.
Following the temple visit, we took a stroll yesterday up the cobblestone hills and past the fruit
vendors to take some pictures of the glorious Lake Pichola. When we reached the overlook, eager to sit down and dangle our feet in the cool waters, we were instead confronted with acres and acres of grazing cows. The lake had actually been dry for quite some time due to the 9 month drought. Oh well, at least we have easy access to the mass of cafes and shops across the lake – – we can just walk across now.
Free “Rooftop” Movies
Several of the rooftop cafes offer free movies with dinner. We have become regulars at the Ambria Cafe for our nightly meal almost every evening. It is comical to see a hord of backpackers, in all states of cleanliness and hair growth, huddled together in the chilly night breeze. We are all completely absorbed in the 5 yr old movie playing on a cracked, moth-eaten video screen while we munch on warm chapati’s and sip Kheer Beer. Every so often a mass of fireworks will explode over the city or a lively wedding parade will pass in the streets below. We pause to take photos, then slink back to our seats and tighten our pashmina’s against the night’s wind. This particular cafe also has a wonderful free book exchange. We tend to read for several hours a day, either to pass the time during the more humid hours or just to relax while drinking a chai. However, I hesitate to spend rupees on “book exchange stall” and love to find free ones. This one was proclaimed a winner when I stumbled upon Huxley’s, “Brave New World.” I left behind, “The Beach,” another backpacker favorite.
Right now, we are waiting in Udaipur trying to decide where our next move will be. We hope to go to Mt. Abu, a little out of the tourist track and a nice hill station above the plains of Rajasthan and Gujarat. However, we are hearing reports that it is quite chilly there. We will have to see how ambitious we are!