Monday, July 16, 2912. Udaipur
I can't help thinking about Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Kusay (sp?) every time I hear the name of the founder of Udaipur, Udai someone. And then I can't help but think of the Simpsons episode where Bart wants a little brother and claims that his father thinks he is one Uday who doesn't need a Kusay.
Udaipur is a city I originally had though of avoiding as the books describe it as India's most romantic lakeside city and overrun with tourists and congested with traffic. Surprisingly though, it is a much calmer city than I expected. Maybe it's just in the lakeside area where it's rather touristy, but I like it. It's a nice break from the rougher places I've been staying. It's less industrial and gritty. I also enjoy the fact that many little restaurants show the James Bond "Octopussy" movie every night at seven pm. Apparently a chase scene, perhaps with boats, was filmed here. I'll have to see it to remember. All those Roger Moore movies of my childhood blend together, even "Moonraker" with its space scene inspired by the Space Shuttle program and with the evil Jaws and his giant metal mouth. I don't know how our parents tolerated their two sons' love of everything Bond. Well, I know how Dad did, he loved the women. Otherwise...
So the ride here was by bus. I've heard the buses are much more dangerous than the trains, lots of collisions, but there is no rail line between here and Jodhpur. I got here safely, but the bus left before anyplace had opened for food and the road was pretty bad. There was a lot of construction and many times the detour was a improvised bulldozed dirt road around the work area. Things hurt after seven and a half hours of bouncing and jostling.
But I got to the hotel, which is down a little footpath between shops selling leather goods and blue washed residences, and found the amazing room I'd reserved on hostelworld.com. To get AC is a premium, but at twenty dollars a night, I can handle it. The room is windowed floor to ceiling on two sides with a view of the lake. Being five storeys up you can see pretty far. The windows have gauzy drapes of pastel yellow and green that billow when the overhead fan is on.
As this is a tourist town, the restaurants offer a decent variety of foods. There are a lot of European and Korean tourists so "continental" and Chinese food is popular. I had a delicious bowl of chop suey (I know, but so I did the Japanese tourists who came in after me) and then figured out the lay of the streets immediately surrounding my hotel. I wandered downhill probably less than a hundred yards and came to a ghat. It may have been a religious bathing area at one time, but now young people hang out and cows stand around crapping. A little down a ways there is a footbridge with seven arches--and turnstiles on each end to keep vehicles and cows off. Of course the water is filthy, I saw people come down to empty garbage into the narrow waterway that connects the main lake with another one just to the north, but young boys and even a few men were swimming during sunset.
With the water there are some different birds in the air too, including storks. Lots of them. At dusk I thought the storks were flying off to roost en masse somewhere, but I think storks are not flocking creatures. I squinted and realized the stream of birds was actually comprised of the largest bats I've ever seen. I'm used to the tiny mice that flit erratically. These were large graceful birds, some peeling off from the group to double back and retrace their path. Most streamed past my building while others detoured and flew right over me. Each one looked just like the Batman emblem. I guess modern life is quite out of touch and lives in reverse relationship to nature.
That was yesterday. Today I rested up and finished my writing about Jodhpur. I went out around eleven or twelve at do an obligatory visit to the city palace. I'd skipped the one in Jaipur and the one in Jodhpur. I figured I should see the one that proclaims itself the second largest in India. I'd seen the palace at Amer. This one definitely was big but I don't know if it was bigger than Amer. It seems to be more recent and had a lot of influence from the British occupation, at least the newer parts did. There were something like eleven different stages of development, one for each emperor or family of emperors who occupied it. I spent a couple of hours there going through the thirty point audio tour. I felt exhausted. Perhaps I've just seen too many sites to be awed anymore.
When I left I wandered back down to the waterfront I'd found the night before. Instead of young people and cows, in the middle of the day I found four weather worn women of varying ages at work. They were each with a tub of clothes doing laundry. I watched as one strelked a article of clothing with either a rock on one of the steps or a bar of abrasive soap. Another was whacking the soapy hell put of a pair of jeans with something that looked like a cricket bat. I didn't want to be obvious so I began walking down to the footbridge where I could get a view of the steps and maybe get a photo from five hundred feet or so. On my way a group of middle school boys passed me going in the opposite direction. Instead of the usual smiles and hellos, they started throwing a cluster of "fuck fuck fuck me fuck me fuck fuck" in my direction. For my own edification I called after them, "You might want to rethink that offer. You say that to a German and you may get more than you want. Some of them are into little Asian boys." My apologies to the one German girl I know. But from what I saw on late night tv in Macedonia pulled off the German satellite, those Germans take some pride in their fetishes.
I got the the footbridge and tried to get a few shots. I may have been too far away but I tried. As I stood there a young man told me I had a nice camera. I don't ever like a conversation that stats like that. "Where are you from? Oh, US? Oh, Ohio? Oh, hey, can I ask you something? I have one friend in California who says there is a big field where the government grows skunk. Is that true?" I tried to clarify that a skunk is an animal and I don't think the government wants more of those. I got the notion though that whoever this Californian may have been, he may have been speaking of skunk weed, which I think is marijuana. Perhaps bad, smelly marijuana. I've never been curious about drugs, so forgive my naïveté.
The guy continued that, no, not an animal (he looked confused), but like he is from Kashmir where they grow hashish. Yep, he was talking drugs. I guess this is how one lets another know he sells. I stopped him and asked if it was legal to grow hashish. He looked unsure but continued, "Why not? It is just a flower. It is natural. It is not chemicals, not like drug." I pointlessly countered that it was natural chemicals and that it was a drug. My comments weren't pointless, actually. I wanted to take some minor control of the conversation and not have him accomplish what he wanted to do. "Look, if you're looking to sell drugs, you've got the wrong guy. Maybe hippies come here looking for stuff, but not me. No thanks." "No, not hippies, lots of people, smart people, want drugs!" he argued, putting himself a a drug seller. I continued filling the air with refusals, "Nope, nope, don't care. Never touched the stuff, not interested. That's bad stuff, them drugs!" It was a little comical. He began walking away and he shouted at me, "Why don't you shut your mouth you asshole! My stuff is for people with money, not poor people like you!" To be mean, the more he raised his voice the more he sounded lie Apu from The Simpsons. I told him I'd shut up just, and I looked around to make sure who was and wasn't there to hear me, just as soon as he went and fuck himself. "What you say?!" he yelled. "Why don't you shut up before I throw you in the lake!" I may have lost weight on this trip but I could feel my belly shaking with laughter. It was so funny. Apu was storming off and yelling at me. I half expected him to call me Mr. Homer. I would never normally go into such an insulting vein, making fun of an accent, but here I'll allow myself. If you sell drugs, then you're a dufus to me, and I'll take whatever childish pleasure in insulting you that I can. It's my version of positive peer pressure.
When I got back to the room the power was out (karma?) so I went one flight up to the rooftop dinning area to put this wonderful day down in writing. I Got half way through when it started to drizzle. Perhaps the monsoon would serve Udaipur now. I went back down to my luxurious, powerless, and now stuffy room to finish my thoughts. Saddam's degenerate sons would love this place.