Sunday, January 22, 2006

The city of lakes - “UDAIPUR”.
This is not the first time that this has happened. Just when I was dying to have a break from my routine life, it comes, like a fresh whiff of air, which reinvigorates me to take on further questions of life. As I reached Ahemadabad, to board a metre gauge train to udaipur, I knew this would be a special visit.
The flickering yellow bulbs, in obviously, uncomfortable coaches of the metre gauge train, took me close to nostalgia. The toilets were unusually clean and the coaches well kept. Being the off season, it wasn’t crowded to my respite. It took ages for the engine driver to blow the whistle, and then gallop his mighty chariot towards the destination. Being the winter season, I was made to carry few extra blankets with me, and thus I made a cozy “bichouna” on which I could retire. But unfortunately, the bed sheet kept skidding, on the plastic sleeper berth. As the train, started chugging and swaying sideways, I found myself slipping into a mood of carelessness, long away went the rules of good behavior, and the anonymity which embraced me, was my companion for the rest of the journey. The chill, though alarming, was quite enjoyable, and being tired of all the luggage shunting, I had done in the day, I immediately, switched into slumber mode. Before falling asleep, I knew one thing for sure; I must catch the sunrise, first of all. In the ghats of Aravalli range, “Kharwa Chanda” station, slipped away quietly, as if it was still waking up from a delightful sleep, and there behind a marble stone laden hill, I see the rim of the Orange globe, how peaceful, he rose to fill the airs with his golden arms. The rays lightened all the faces in the coach and a beautiful co-passenger smiled back at me, obviously, because she enjoyed the company, of nature, of course. My wet palms, after the brush and face wash, slowly dried out by the warm rays and then suddenly, the chill bit them, so pleasingly that I had to hide them in the woolen gloves, my Aajoba had lent me. I was happy for having caught the spectacle, and then population of udaipur, started making its presence felt. The familiar stench, smoke oozing out of “chulhas” meant to heat up, “Bambaas” of bathing water, kids lining up on a tiny trail to reach the school, the milkman humming a mysterious tune cycling along with the train, and birds flying away in calculated groups for work. By the time, I could satisfymyself fully, the scene gets changed and I am amidst, iron and ballast, and … it Udaipur city? A fellow passenger asks me, I try to hide my astonishment over the metamorphosis of the railway station, and assure him that it is Udaipur indeed. The change was all because of the gauge conversion, I discovered. Being educated placed me in a funny situation. I had decided to take a “chakda” to the training school, so that I don’t spend much. Here comes, a rikshawallah, who entices me in his “khatara” by saying that, “ saab, aaj to eid he, aaj sab chutti pe henge”. Ok, I struck a deal and reached the school, only to realize that I was fooled. Anyways, I got myself registered and after a wash, and necessary arrangements, I set off on, my foot!!!! Yes, on my foot, to discover the changes this historic city had gone through.
Within no time, I reached Fateh sagar lake, I was amazed by the sheer opulence of this magnificent lake, this time around it had rained well in this part, and thus, it looked as vast as an ocean with islands on all the four sides! As I walked briskly, a distant observatory caught my attention, and I felt the calling, from somewhere there only. As I sipped on a piping hot “Espresso”( this is how they spell it) I asked the vendor, about the observatory. His reply was, “saab, sarkari log jaa sakte hain andar, apne ko malum nahi”. I took the long road around the lake to reach there. On my way, I received few inquisitive glances from passer-bys as they were not used to see somebody walk so far. Before I could reach the observatory, a road took me to a place, from where I had heard those callings. Few minutes away from the lake, here was a village, which had all kinds of hutments found in India. It was called “shilpgram”. It housed rural artisans in it; they would sell their goods and thus earn a living. One such artist took my attention; he was a “warli” artist, from rural maharashtra. As I sat down to talk with him, I found the ground, coarse with cow dung “Leepan”. How happy was I to know that he was not one of those miserable people, who were dying to receive some recognition. His wife was from a village next to Baroda, and that, kind of, made us close friends. We both pondered over the dismal state of art and culture, and he felt happy that I understood his apathy. He offered me to, purchase a painting, but I told him that I was not as rich as his esteemed foreigner patrons were. He gave me a small painting, for 50 bucks, which otherwise would have fetched him a good enough, 300 bucks. As I set out to watch other things, another guy, a “madhubani” artist pulls me inside his hut to show his expertise. I chatted with him, and then left. Some 2 hours later, I was happy with whatever I got to see, and wondered who was calling me.
Now it was getting hot and I was hungry. Looking for food, I reached a stall, where I ate, very real “Daal bati choorma” for a reasonable 50 bucks, and then as decided, I entered a bar near by. The bartender was the owner of the resort himself. Being my shameless self, I asked him, “Boss, first time pee raha hoon, kuch tasty pilao” he could not stop laughing and that pressed me to clear myself, “jyada chadhe nahin aisa kuch, majaa aana chahiye”. “sir, Tom Collins pilau” Amit Deshmukh st. Destiny b. Bartender. He sounded as if he had preserved some Tom Collins ka pee and was offering me that. I asked what would the contents be, “lime juice, sugar syrup, and gin” he said. “Wine kitneki he, sir?” I asked. “ Sir, poora hi lena hoga”, “yahaan log kam peete hain”. I was an established drunkard it seems, in his eyes. “ nahi nahi vo Tom Collins vala hi pila do, badhiya banana ha!, majaa aana chahiye”.
He prepared a concoction, which tasted very much like limbu pani I have outside Mumbai central station for rs 2.50 only. Here I was doling in rs.130….????? I had it, along with peanuts as accompaniment, and then ….I left. The gin never appeared for me to make mighty wishes, and thus I was laughing on myself, for this wonderful deed. For the world, I had drunk, but for me, it was some augmented nimbu pani of sorts. By the time, I could reach the observatory again; I was not interested in it anymore.
I reached the hostel, where my other room partners had arrived. After a decent dinner, I resigned, and then had the most peaceful sleep in the past one month.
Rest of my tour went off thick and fast, as study began. And no sooner could I set out again, on that road, it was time to pack my backpack. Those were very tranquil, quiet and happy 7 days of my recent life.
It was nice meeting you, Udaipur and of course, Mr. Tom Collins!


Blogger blah_blah_blogger said...

Lovely post...nice description of the journey...makes me nostalgic, remember all the masti we did when had gone there for our training? this life sux man, i love that life...remember that girl Juliet? Haaa...memories...and I thoroughly loved your booze escapade...idhar aa, mai tujhe char honey bee pilata hoon...bohat mazaa aayega...

1:40 PM  
Blogger amit said...

seriously funny,but it feels so good when we are on our own, walking naughtily, looking inside the stores or restaurants to catch a glimpse of the memory that we would cherish for so long. smile at strangers, humm old songs and eat local food. its so funny, that we kind of, compartmentalise ourselves so well, so here i am a volatile backpacker, and tomorrow, a ticket babu in his dusty straitjacket. but hey, travelling gives me the ultimate kick. i dream of walking on the banks of narmada, looking for a gurukul, where old and new lessons, religion, discipline, technology, music, games, and everything is taught under one roof. sounding foolish, but guess, if there's such a place.

2:31 PM  
Blogger blah_blah_blogger said...

u r revived a few old memories...i remember looking at the sorry state of the sabarmati from the gandhi ashram...and i m telling u, the sabarmati never reveals its true self like it does when seen from the ashram...the first thought that came to my mind was what if the sabarmati could flow again...what if the ashram could come back to life? what if the charkhas could spin again? probably, it's life of a different era but very very enticing...

9:26 PM  

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