Today I’ve rented a bike. It was on top of my list of things I miss. I nice bathtub, polish on the nails, pizza, movie, and a bike ride. It’s a shame the saddle was the most uncomfortable on earth and after 10 minutes I was already tired of riding.
I’m in Kochi, the capital of Kerala. Nice town, with buildings of Portugues, Dutch and British architecture, coming from the colonial past of the region.
I have diarrhea again, it looks like it wants to keep me company until I go back home. It’s raining. Good, it was very humid. In a few hours I have a train to Chennai, on the Eastern Coast. From there is my flight back to Italy in less than a week. A nice bath and pizza the first night, aubergine parmesan on Christmas eve, on Christmas Day anything that the house has to offer, and then… I have a lot of dishes I miss.
Aleppey is a small town South of Kochi, in Kerala, built on water. Very charming. I stayed only a couple of days because accomodation was more expensive than the rest of India (20 euro), but I would go back.
It’s been a while since the last time I’ve written something. I guess I got tired.
After Pushkar I went to Udaipur, a romantic city, perfect for solo travelers; then Ahmedabad, where I was for one day and visited an ashram founded by Gandi and I ate a lot of ice creams and iced coffees. Then Mumbay, full of people, with an average income that is four times the average in India, but where 60% of its inhabitants live in slums. Slums where they pay a rent, and have electricity in the house, but still slums.
And I arrived here. I think I am in Paradise.
Kannur, in Kerala, a region in the South-Western Coast. In the morning I have breakfast in the jungle, among various birds and banana, coconut, pineapple and mango trees. Then I walk five minutes in the jungle and I arrive to the beach. Empty. When it’s busy there are 8 people. I can’t see the faces of the other people on the beach because they are too far away.
So what was meant to be 2 days to spend here became 3, then 4 and finally 6. Tomorrow I should live. Surely before the 15th I have to go because I have a train booked from Kochi to Chennai, from where I will fly back. 10 days left.
I almost forgot the most important part of this holiday. They feed me three times per day, and the food is the best I’ve had so far in India. Surely I got back the few kilos I lost with diarrhea and others. In the North the food is good, but it’s more oily and heavy and after some time you get tired of it. Before I got here I couldn’t take curry anymore, and I really wanted some tomato pasta. In these last 5 days I’ve eaten (Indian) like a wolf. And desserts are even better! I must use cinnamon and coconut more often once I go home.
Five days and I’ve read three books, sunbathed, eaten, played on my notebook. Nothing else. Awesome!
I really needed this time of relax. And now I’m ready to go back to the urban jungle, made of people and rickshaw and alleys and horns.
I didn’t like Jodhpur too much. I’m glad I was there only for one day. I don’t know if it’s because I was very tired because I didn’t sleep much on the train and I might have had some fever, but people were particularly annoying. A man kept looking at me while walking in front of me, with a not-so-nice look, and I had to tell him to fuck off to make him stop. Kids kept coming to me asking for money and pulling my shirt. A kind man invited me to his blue house and at one point he asked to exchange one euro in rupee to pay for his wife medicines, a wife that was on the terrace sunbathing. Another guy started laughing while looking at me. The special saffron lassi is not that good at all. Restaurants are more expensive. So, nothing good.
The fort is nice, built by one of the many mahrajas. Jodphur is also called “the blue city”, because many buildings are painted in blue. A nice shiny blue. Inside and outside. In the past it was only brahmin houses that were painted in blue, one of the highest chastes; today anyone can paint his house in blue.
Now I am in Pushkar, on the shores of a sacred lake. People come here from far away to bath in the lake. I haven’t seen much yet, but the little I’ve seen relieved me. It seems a nice holiday resort. People is relaxed and happy. My room is beautiful, painted in lilac, with green, white and blue strikes. And a warm shower (at least the first two minutes). I haven’t had a warm shower in two weeks.
Pushkar is in Rajasthan, a region in the North-West of India, near the border with Pakistan. In Rajasthan you can also find Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, where I was in these last weeks. On the bus coming here we passed villages where the elder men were wearing turbans in the most bright colors. White, red, red with white dots, yellow, orange; fluorescent greens and fuchsia. Some women wore their sari (the long shawl that they wear on their head and that they knot around the waist) of a super bright yellow. At first I thought it was muslim women who wore the sari on their face, but it’s actually quite common, so to avoid men’s looks. But why do men have to look at women lasciviously in the first place? Why don’t they look at their dirty nails?
There were a couple of trucks on the road that had had an accident. It didn’t surprise me. Here the only rule is that of the strongest. The largest vehicle has all the rights. So when our bus was overtaking another vehicle, if from the other side a motorbike was coming, this last one had two options: either stopping or going out of the road. Pedestrians are treated even worst. Pedestrian crossings or not, it doesn’t matter. The problem comes when you have to cross a large road. To cross a road with many lanes you have to do like in that frog game on the Commodore 64, when you cross the first lane, than the second, you wait among the running cars that the third is free and so on (the same is in China actually). Roundabouts have no rules. You don’t actually do the whole tour if you just have to go left or right, bike or car or pedestrian. And you don’t need to stop to see if a car is approaching when you enter a new road; it will be their duty to see you and anticipate your moves and let you in. But the most dangerous remain overtakings. If there’s a bump or a bend, it doesn’t matter. If another truck comes from the other side you just slow down and go back to your lane. If it’s only a car or a motorbike approaching, it will be their duty to stop or go out of the road.
I was walking on the street and from an open gate I saw a group of people dancing at drums rythm. A bit further there was a procession, with drums and trumpets and people dancing. Men in the front, women following. At the very back, a guy on a horse, dressed like a Mahraja; he was probably someone important. On the side walked some poor guys carrying lamps that seemed very heavy. And behind them a chart with a generator, for the lamps. The noise of the generators fought with the drums, to see who could be heard more. At one point they stopped, while music and dances continued, and from a gate people brought yogurts, that here they call curd and that they eat at any time (it’s the main ingredient for lassi), to refresh the partygoers. I would have liked one too, but strange enough I wasn’t offered one. When the procession started again the street was full of the empy packages. I don’t know if it was a wedding or a religious celebration.
I went out for dinner, but I had to come back to wear some shoes, it’s too cold! Why? We are not that heigh.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?” This seems to be the approaching sentence of men in Jaipur. Yes, I do mind. Why? Because in 24 hours 10 people have already asked me the same question. “Why do Westerners come to India to get to know our culture and they don’t speak to locals?”. Maybe because locals are too annoying and people get tired?
Well, they don’t get it. And most times they are boring questions, where do you come from, what do you do, what did you like about India, and so on.
Tonight another guy approached me in this same way. At my reaction, the same as usual, rude, he said that this wasn’t what he wanted to ask me. It was “Can I offer you a chai so that we can chat a bit?”. Ok, not much difference, but because he had the guts to reply to me (usually after my rude reply they run away) I got curious. And I got this free chai (well, half to be honest, they brought us a glass of tea and one emply, where my half was poured.
Well, he wasn’t too bad. He told me some interesting stories. Like, why are Indians not good at playing football (soccer)? Because at every corner they would open a shop. And this is so true! All ground floors of the buildings are shops or restaurants, not one single flat or house. Flats are from the first floor up. No garage, there’s no need for them.
He likes cricket, anyway. I don’t know anything about cricket, and he says that he’s not even trying to teach me something because it’s very complicated and after 2 minutes I’d be tired. I only know that matches can last for days. And people don’t get bored because they put money on them, so they are always interested in how the match goes.
He then told me that they their arranged weddings do work because the mentality is different, people are ready to compromise to stay together, while in the Western World this is getting more and more difficult. Which is true.
A bit earlier I had another interesting meeting. I was at a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and was looking at pooja (or puja), one of their celebrations-prayers, and I guy talked to me. He works for a travel agency, that provides buses and guides to groups of foreign tourists. He doesn’t understand why so many elderly from Europe come to India and spend all the time inside their buses, like in a cage. They go out of their hotels, get on the bus and get off just to visit palaces and museums. No walking in the streets. No talking to locals. They can’t even go to the shops they choose, they go where they are taken. Well, I guess some people are scared of somthing so different from their own country and growing old it gets more difficult. But he is right, that’s not traveling. It is true that here in India at some point you get tired and you don’t want to talk to anyone. But sometimes interesting exchanges can happen.
Jaipur is very pretty. “The Pink city”, it’s called. They use a lot of “sand stone” to build, which I am not sure what it is. I visited the palace of the town today. €4.5. A lot! But it was worth it. Inside was a museum with traditional clothes and accessories worn by Mahrajas. And it’s a nice building. When I went outside a guy on a rickshaw offered to take me on a ride. At 30 cents, for one hour. This included a visit to a couple of shops, that weren’t mentioned in the offer, but it was nice nevertheless. I bought some earrings at less than one euro. But I left the carpets where they were. In the factory where they pring saris, I was covered in golden powder. I’m still sparkling.
Bye from Jaipur, Rajasthan. A region famous for the colours of its fabrics.
I have always loved traveling, since I was in my mother's womb. I love to see new places, meet new cultures, eat the food of the world. Recently I discovered that pictures can sometimes show more than I can do in words.