Choking in Udaipur

Dates: 23 – 25 October 2017

Location: Udaipur

Hotel: Dream Heaven

Arriving in Udaipur for a few days means the pace has slowed considerably and it also gives me a chance to almost catch up with posts.

The tuk tuk drivers and shop keepers are much more pushy here.  It is quite a tourist town, including (especially?) for Indians from interstate here for Diwali.

Before I get into the details, my future self is sitting in the roof top restaurant in Jodhpur.  It is 6PM and 4 or 5 mosques are broadcasting the call to prayer, the Hindu temple has some bells ringing and with the general background noise it is quite a cacophony right now.

Back in Udaipur, speaking of roof top restaurants, the view from the roof of Dream Heaven Hotel is spectacular.

This image is for illustration purposes only and may have been taken in 2016

One of my favourite quirky shops is in Udaipur, the University of Arts, which is full of hundreds and hundreds of marionettes.  The owner is always delighted to show them off and do a performance.

Here he is in action with his puppet The Magician

On a previous visit, Dawne and Jane had done a cooking course with a woman named Meenu.  They wanted to catch up with her so we went to Meenu’s restaurant which is a single table in the home of her parents.  They sleep on a mezzanine floor above, and beside the table is a sink that has as decoration, the family toothbrushes.

You don’t believe me do you.  Take a peek at the eating area, the computer room and also meet the family.

The food was pretty good and Meenu is yet another strong, intelligent, determined Indian woman, doing her thing independently.

Jump to next morning and we went  for a walk to find Meenu’s house.  A social visit with chai and snacks turned into a yummy meal when we were joined by some other Meenu fans.  Meenu loves cooking.

Wandering off we passed a spice merchant.  Best I could tell was he ground his own spices and when we inquired about a large sack of dried chillies he was very willing to dump them on the floor.

Generally something like this doesn’t bother me.  I have been in a factory grinding chillies to powder without a worry.  But this batch set me off.  My eyes were watering, I was coughing and sneezing, breathing was getting harder and I was dry retching.  I recovered pretty quickly when I went outside and thinking I was now immune, I went back in.  Nope, it all started again.  That was enough for me which was too bad because I would have loved to watch him work.

I do that a lot, stop and watch people work.  Bangle makers, clothes dyers, scissor sharpeners, food preparers, builders, whatever I happen to spot.  The simple way that jobs get done is endlessly fascinating and I am sure they are wondering why I am watching.  Imagine if you were working your mundane job and a tourist spent 10 minutes watching you.

We walked past a school and were spotted by these girls who started chanting one photo, one photo, one photo… Since I am travelling with 3 teachers, it wasn’t long before we were inside the school and mobbed by the kids.

It was recess or lunch break and pretty soon the bell rang and the kids went to class.  I had been hanging with some older boys and went to their room, standing in front like I was the teacher, trying to get them to sit.  They were too excited.  Pretty soon the real teacher came in and she wasn’t happy, threatening the kids with a ruler while behind her back I was imitating her, stopping when she turned around.

Of course something like this never turns out well and then the principal came in and I ended up in his office in a chair facing him.  First time visit to Principal’s office in a long time. He didn’t speak English so there was an awkward silence and I would hold eye contact with him.  Eventually I asked/signed whether my friends had left and he indicated they had.

I should know better about asking for information or directions in India. They had actually been in another class, I thought they were gone, they though I was still with the boys.   We didn’t find each other again until dinner time.

Tonight dinner was going to be a little different.   A cooking class with Shashi, we were instructed to come hungry, which was actually bad advice.  Better would have been come ravenous because there will be way too much food.

Where Meenu’s setup was pretty organic and in the kitchen of her house, Shashi, her son and daughter-in-law had a slick setup designed for western tourists.  We were in a big clean kitchen that had been purpose built and was fitted with loads of chairs, utensils etc. including aprons.

She started by telling the story of being in the Brahmin caste and when her husband died a fair while ago, she had to sit alone, in a corner, for 45 days.  My understanding is that the life of an Indian widow is not too good.  I think they are prevented from remarrying so they often end up very poor.

But this trip has been about strong women persevering and succeeding, Shashi is one of those women and I suspect is now doing very well.

Tiff and Dawne with Shashi

Shashi ran most of the class with her son helping occasionally.  Without checking the complete menu from the error filled handout (that we corrected for them) we cooked chai, paneer butter masala – including the ‘magic sauce’ which is the basis of Indian cooking and transformed mine after my  last trip.  We also made pakoras, malai kofta and 4 different breads: rotis, naan, paratha and stuffed paratha.

There were other people in the group and I sort of pity them.  A French Canadian couple and a French man who seemed to speak no English plus his son.  The 4 of us are loud and playful and get over involved in everything, we may have dominated the class.  We laughed a lot and Shashi was quite playful back.  But poor French man looked like he wasn’t having fun and the others, while getting involved if prompted, didn’t throw themselves into it like we did.

Daughter-in-law was friendly and engaging and gorgeous but didn’t do any cooking.  Married women traditionally live with the son’s family, so you can guess their status. In this photo, she was doing some food prep sitting cross legged on top of the bench.  I can imagine this going down well in Australian restaurants.

We rolled out of there stuffed to the gills and looking forward to our next Indian party.

Next post will be from Jodhpur, half way through our trip.  It feels like months be has been less than 2 weeks.

One Reply to “Choking in Udaipur”

  1. tina

    Great again Steve, I was laughing to myself with some of the comments and that restaurant with the table and sink was hilarious, keep enjoying yourself and keep writing, I love it stay safe love and kisses xxxxx


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