Local Adventures in Udaipur: Leave your Watch at Home
Posted on 05 December 2016
“It’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it and you’ll come out the other side.”
The trip to Udaipur, a somewhat remote village located in the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan, on the border of Pakistan and 3 hours from New Delhi, is an adventure in itself. For Hindus and Muslims alike, it’s the hotspot for weddings and honeymoons, dubbed the City of Lakes, an oasis in the otherwise dry desert climate and bland landscape. The picturesque city is one of the top locations for filming Bollywood movies, so famous Bollywood actors can be regularly found lounging in the luxury hotels. It’s always a good sign when the majority of tourists are native Hindus and Muslims, as you know you are in for an authentic and traditional experience.
I arrived in Udaipur in September, positively overwhelmed by the lush, fresh green landscape, covering mountains and huge lakes. Monsoon season is over, welcoming a more comfortable climate with temperatures no higher than 30 degrees C and refreshingly cold nights. The smell and noises take some getting used to: cows roam freely on the roads, auto rickshaws whizz through streets without speed limits, past tiny street-food carts ready to crack you a refreshing coconut; garbage is disposed and burned alongside roads in the absence of a functioning waste system, grills chirp through the night and overtone the buzzing of the obligatory ventilator and at dawn the muezzin wakes the city with his prayer song.
As foreign and trivial as these impressions feel at first, one quickly adapts to the Hindu way of life embracing the disregard of time and making rest and relaxation a priority, without a doubt the two favourite activities of every local.
The Hindu culture is largely shaped by the colonisation period, which allowed for each state to develop its own proud traditions that set them apart from each other. Rajasthan has kept the British influence alive, seen in kids embracing cricket and wearing school uniforms, and the standard Lipton tea and Cadbury chocolate is still imported. However, rapid modernisation to match Western standards has left an alarming divide between metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Mumbai versus the rural undeveloped suburban parts. Udaipur is caught somewhere in between - for someone on the search for unapologetic rural charm, jaw-dropping scenery and interaction with the indigenous culture and their customs - this is the place to go.
During my stay, I chose to forgo luxury hotels, to properly immerse myself into the local culture. I learned to let go of my Western inclinations for time efficiency and over-planning. In India, time becomes irrelevant - in fact I stopped wearing a watch all together - only living and acknowledging the moment counts. If you plan ahead you loose a moment that could've become a memory. What's more, the word for 'today' and 'tomorrow' are the same in Hindi. In the age of early burnout and other stress related immune diseases, our Western culture has a lot to learn from the Hindu's about acceptance, love, compassion for the family and faith in the (countless) gods.
You learn to embrace the simple way of life and get in touch with your personal self - eating food only with the right hand teaches you about texture and somehow completes the experience of having a meal. Picking up produce from market stalls teaches you to appreciate what's in season and get creative in the kitchen. Taking a hike up one of the many hills, finding a chapel at the peak and enjoying the view over the lakes in time for sun rise is one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had. Preserving the innocence and organic approach of the Hindu culture will be difficult, as locals become more and more impressed and interested of emulating the Western approach and technology - smartphones, TV's, iPads, video games - but until now, "the Sleeping Giant" (what Obama called India), has remained a paradise for getting in touch with soul and nature.
© All photos via Malin Jonsson