Stuff to do! My first task, after coffee of course, is to get myself to the spice market a mile to the northeast of my den on Gangaur Ghat. I prefer to walk at this time of day, though some would call that perverse: not for the heat but for the fact the entire way there I’m dodging scooters, Enfields (‘Royal’ no more) and tuk-tuks that change direction more often and abruptly than a white-water slalom. (For the rules of the road, see my Vietnam piece, Motorbiking II, and trust me that India’s off the scale worse.)
But I get there in one piece. This being my fourth visit, and third this trip, I don’t spend as much time savouring and snapping as I otherwise would. The markets of the Global South are a constant delight, and any misgivings I have about gawking and lens-intrusion are trumped by the knowledge they won’t be around forever. It’s my bounden duty to record for prosperity their colour; their life affirming, in-your-face-and-gutsy-with-it vibrance.
The jaggery man. Jaggery is sugar, as raw as it comes, downstream of the cane.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the best mangoes in the world come from south-west Pakistan and north-west India. Yellow-pink, and more wrinkled than those shiny red-green jobs from South America, they pack a thousand times the flavour.
Chillhis, yes, but do you know what the yellow stuff is? Answer at end of post.
My favourite sector. You don’t see fruit, veg or spices grown at Udaipur market but you do see the basket weavers at work.
Girl on a Motorcycle.
One of these has done the Hajj. Which one, though? Tough call.
Enough of this. I don’t have all day! My errand is to relocate the modestly titled Ganesh Cycle Works, which should but doesn’t have as its logo an elephant riding a bike. And my mission? To apologise for the fact that, having promised in October to send prints of photos taken of the three-generational proprietors, I didn’t for the simple reason I couldn’t read the address they wrote down for me. And, apology made, to get it again – this time in large print.
Grandfather and Grandson. Few men his age look this dignified, taking an afternoon nap. Tyring gig, running a bicycle repair shop. Some would say it’s two tyring.
That’s it. Now I can get on with the rest of my busy day. I’ll retrace and overshoot my steps, speeding like an arrow past the no-chance fishermen on the footbridge at Gangaur Ghat, and onto my favoured dhobi wallah, as right royal a queen as ever scrubbed up a kurta.
I leave my primary granddad shirt, grimed at the collar. Nobody believes the quality or price – better and cheaper than owt you’ll get in India – of this £4.50 purchase from Primark. That’s because very few, North or South, grasp the true and truly evil nature of imperialism. Oops, there I go again. This is just a travel blog, honest …
Time for my second coffee, this one at the Johnny Tea Centre, where I’m equipped to deliver on my threat and snap Mrs Johnny with aid of off-camera flash, as she goes at the dough for her hygienically dubious but gastronomically divine samosas. Once I’m sat down with a glass of the scalding nectar, photographing the clientele at the entrance is less kit intensive.
Then its bye bye Mr and Mrs Johnny as I head for the lake on an indirect route that takes me through one of the town’s poorer areas.
Before the lakeside I hit a slightly more bourgeois part of town, one I know from the previous Friday to be predominantly Muslim.
Not quite pretty, the girl’s got that special something that’s worth far more than good looks. And she takes real good care of her handsome little bro.
Still in the Muslim quarter, I happen upon this tuk-tuk man taking the shade in back of his vehicle. I tell him he looks like a Bollywood star. That’s nonsense but I find as a rule that, contrary to popular wisdom, flattery does indeed butter parsnips.
It’s now early afternoon. The lake beckons, as does the posh Hotel Amet Haveli. I can travel on fifteen quid a day, hotel included – and I’m not talking doss house – no problem. But once in a while it’s good to taste life’s finer joys. And wouldn’t you like to sip a stiff G & T on the terrace by the lake, even if it did cost more than you generally spend in three days all-in, then take a dip in a pool of delphic delectation?
Shame I quit smoking thirteen years ago. What better curtain call on this day of contrast than to puff on a fine Havana, stroll past a magnificent cockerel strutting his sunlit stuff, and check out the ‘authentic’ Rajput artwork before ankling amiably back to the cave for a well earned siesta?
So that was my day. How about yours? And I knowed you was wondering so here’s the answer to my killer question – turmeric root. It stains indelibly all it touches but, for its embittering counterbalance, is as fundamental to Indian cuisine as cumin or coriander, chillhi or garlic.