Final India: Lots, of Everything, even Beatings

This is the last regular update of my trip. I’ll recap the whole thing next week including favorite photos, but for now let me tell you how the last week or so has been. I’ve traveled through Rajasthan visiting various fortresses, palaces & caves, enjoyed sumptuous luxury, nearly offed myself in 50 degree heat, and then got beaten up by ladies carrying bamboo sticks. Here we go!

Starting in Jodphur’s Blue City (all the walls of all the buildings are painted bright blue), a spectacular sight from the massive fortress overlooking the city from 150 meters above, the air currents carried up the sounds and I could hear a school class singing, brahmin chanting, tuktuks jamming their horns, and the occasional streak of a passing fighter jet. I’m reminded that every day in India I see or do or hear something completely new and so very special.

That night I take to the street and get a whole new experience – to be beaten up by women. Batmar Festival is a Hindu ceremony where women beat young bachelors with bamboo sticks to bless them with luck in finding a wife. Get hit a lot = you’ll get married soon. In a repressed society like India it means an opportunity for boys and girls to talk and flirt, skirting the line between getting hit a little (a sign of blessing and perhaps even affection) and a lot (as bamboo can really hurt). Especially older ladies carry fierce, thick sticks and I got beaten a fair amount, then interviewed by local tv for my efforts.

The next day was complete relaxation: lunch at one of the largest palaces in the world, now part maharajah’s residence, part luxury hotel. It cost me 3000 rupees (45 euros, 3 days’ budget) but I did get a sumptuous meal and was attended by no less than four waiters. Champagne lifestyle on a lemonaide budget…

A quick stop took me through Udaipur (which calls itself City of Lakes, even though they only have two), a pretty city with an excellent vantage point from a nearby hill which I attempted to ascend on a vintage Indian bike. The combination of an 8% incline over 4 km, an incredibly heavy bike without gears, and the 50 degree heat meant I just about passed out from exhaustion, and when the last kilometer turned out to be a set of 11 hairpins I just gave up and walked the last bit. Downhill, though, was of course awesomely fun.

Ahmenabad was my next destination and I got out asap as it kind of sucked. I visited Gandhi’s ashram (what an interesting life and philosophy), and a massive stepwell, ate a lot of icecream, and counted tourists. 12 in two days, on a population of six million. Then it was an unexpected detour to see the Ellora Caves, a series of 34 temples dug into the rocks. Some are simple while others absolutely huge and with such fine detail. Something I had hoped to see, had given up on, but ended up seeing anyway – excellent fortune.

I also watched my first Bollywood movie – ‘Dum Daaro Dum‘. I’ve linked the trailer if you’re curious. It wasn’t a cliche song & dance flick, but a surprisingly well-made crime movie about drug trade in Goa. There were of course songs, and a dance at the end, but what stuck with me most was the relentless energy of the piece. Although it wasn’t in English (they spoke Hindi with the occasional English word or phrase thrown in), nor subtitled, it was easy to follow.

Tonight I head to Mumbai where I will spend the last three days of my trip. Then, on Monday, I fly to London for a quick visit, and the next day I fly home!

Here are my favorite photos of the last week. No photo of the Blue City, I forgot it, but it’s taken me two hours to upload this post so if you really want to see it, check the latest album on Facebook.

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One Response to Final India: Lots, of Everything, even Beatings

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