Thank you, Udaipur.

January 9th, 2017

Tomorrow morning, we leave Udaipur on a train to Jaipur at 6 AM.

This is a bittersweet departure. I am starting to miss my family and friends in Iowa City. And genuinely I am excited to explore the Pink City… but Udaipur has been our home for the last two weeks. Just now, I am starting to feel comfortable here. I am familiar with the twists of the streets, I recognize certain cows and shop keepers as we wander by. We have made new friends, but just as quickly, we had to say goodbye.

In honor of this beautiful city, and the wonderful people we have met, the following is an ode to aspects of Udaipur that haven’t yet been given appropriate attention in the blog.

The food

We have been spoiled with wonderful food. Paneer (one of my favorites; fresh cheese in a variety of flavorful sauces), dal (lentils), biryani (a mixed rice dish), flavorful chicken and lamb. Curry dishes, vegetable (mainly potatoes, peas, cauliflower, eggplants, okra) dishes, chick peas, rice, naan (flatbread from white flour).

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And the sweets, oh, the sweets! Rice pudding, jamun (balls of dough soaked in sugar syrup), jalebi (fried dough dipped in sugar syrup), kaju katli (cashews, the, cardamom and sugar), cold coffee with ice cream. It has been a sweet tooth’s paradise.

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Just this evening, we took a cooking class with Shashi, a widow who started this business to support her two sons. Together we made chai, pakora (a stuffed, fried snack), chutney, curry, naan, and chapatti (flatbread from wheat flour).

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The fabric

Bright colors line the dusty streets in Udaipur. Particularly, I am obsessed with the fabric; intricate patterns and vivid yellows, greens, oranges and pinks that are rarely seen in the Midwest are commonplace here.

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When you enter a shop, the shopkeepers lay out the fabric before you, and so begins the dance for the perfect item and the perfect price. I myself am terrible at bargaining, but watching Meena and Jerry shop is always fascinating and impressive.

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Walks in the park

Every morning after breakfast, a handful of us would go for a walk in the park near our hotel. It is cool under the shade of the trees, and often soft music plays from the speakers lining the sidewalk. Women walk with friends, families explore the greenery, and men in sweatsuits crowd the exercise equipment along the path.

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Rickshaw drivers

I am thankful for the rickshaw drivers who know Udaipur’s maze of roads, who have persistently tried to understand our broken Hindi and spoken to us in their varying amounts of English. I love talkative drivers: hearing of their families, their thoughts on their hometown, on Modi and the cash crisis. But I also love rides in silence, watching the world quickly pass by.

Shanea

I could not have asked for a better roommate to share this experience with. Shanea is driven, kind and funny; I value her insightful perspectives on our adventures in India. We stay up late to blog, and wake up early in the morning to do yoga with Uday. We order ice cream through room service and talk about feminism. I know with her genuine heart and sharp judgement that she will do amazing things.

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Vanitaji

Vanitaji was our Hindi teacher. Patiently, she listened to us mispronounce words and create sentences with horrific syntax. However, with her hard work and skillful teaching we could introduce ourselves, navigate markets, conjugate verbs, and form basic sentences by the end of our ten lessons. She hiked through the villages with us and spoke with the village women, translating for the rest of us: Mewari to Hindi to English.

Vanitaji is a limitless woman: she owns her own financial advising company, teaches Hindi classes to international groups, and translates data for various research groups. She is an artist, creating beautiful paintings and pictures from cut bamboo. She is a mother, dedicated to her daughter, Anu, who is in school to be a mechanical engineer.

Vanitaji invited us to her lovely home on Sunday. She introduced us to her family, served a delicious meal and showed us her wedding pictures. We danced to Indian music and laughed over memories formed the last two weeks. Her hospitality was remarkable and I won’t forget her kindness.

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I am so lucky to have had these two weeks in Udaipur and I will never have the words to express my thanks to these people and this city.

Until next time, Udaipur.

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