What I love about my country is that we have the best of everything – right from the snowcapped mountains in the Himalayan states, to the lush green forests in the North East, the sunny golden beaches adorning the coastal regions, the deserts of Rajasthan and historical monuments in almost every part of our country – you’ve got it all here and no wonder we call ourselves Incredible India.
Actually, the list is endless what our country has in store in terms of tourism, and sometimes it makes me wonder, why go anywhere else, when an entire lifetime may not be enough to probably explore every fold of the Indian tapestry of heritage and culture that history has left behind.
I have always wanted to visit Rajasthan. I did visit Jaipur and Jodhpur several years ago, but Udaipur was on my travel wish list for long. Rajasthan is one of the most beautiful states in India steeped in history, tradition, and places to visit and of course the food!
Recently, I had a chance to visit Udaipur, a beautiful city known for its palaces, heritage buildings and the glistening lakes. I’ve been to several tourist spots in India and abroad like Malacca, especially the ones steeped in history, and Udaipur reminds me of one of those heritage cities or towns, where you can walk through and learn so much about the place, just by observing their everyday life.
What I liked personally from my trip to this royal city was that it gave me a glimpse of another aspect of my country that often gets overshadowed when we live in a big city like Mumbai.
Mumbai, though the business and entertainment capital of India, sometimes lends a ‘frog in the well’ syndrome to those who live in it – where we are sometimes oblivious to a world existing around us. It made me feel immensely proud to come from a country that has something for everyone. For a person who loves history as a subject, found Udaipur and even the UNESCO Heritage Site Chittorgarh so enthralling.
Right from the palaces, to the forts, the story of bravery and valour of the kings and the beautiful Queen Padmini in Chittorgarh, about which there was so much written about with the release of a recent Bollywood film. I cannot comment much about the film (I haven’t seen it and don’t wish to comment), but when I stepped to the Chittorgarh Fort and walked through the ruins, I tried to reimagine what a world it would have been to live in. I walked on the paths in those manicured rose gardens where once this beautifully radiant queen would have spent a moment or two admiring nature’s beauty.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnanimity of the mighty fortresses that bear testimony of the foresight that the rulers and kings had in order to protect their territory and their people. There’s a reason we learn history in schools, so we understand the visions our ancestors had for our country, and the mistakes we shouldn’t make.
Personally, the way I like to travel is that I love to walk through the town, if possible. In Udaipur, I took a stroll through the roads dotted with curio shops, artisanal cafes mostly curated for international tourists. Just like in some places I’ve visited in Goa and in Kerala, Indian tourists are not too entertained, there were similar undercurrents in Udaipur too. Who cares, this is my country and no snooty restaurateur can stop me from sitting in his café to enjoy a meal that I pay for happily.
If you’re walking alone, my advice to you would be to avoid any narrow secluded lanes and be careful of some locals approaching you. However, they usually call out to and approach foreigners, so we Indian tourists are better off in some respects. Traffic is a bit chaotic and very noisy, but if you’re an Indian tourist, you’ll be used to it by now.
Throughout my evening walks, I inevitably found some quaint lakeside cafes to sit and sip on a piping hot cup of ginger lemon tea to enjoy the setting sun. I would sit and watch the rays romance with the bouncing waves of the lakes whenever a tourist boat would chug by. I like how this is a place where time takes a pause, something that I personally relish coming from a fast-paced city like Mumbai.
For me, art holds a very precious place in my heart. I’m no art connoisseur, but I value and treasure art by unknown artists and no matter where I go, I always find an art gallery or maybe it finds me. Udaipur has many such art galleries where local artists work tirelessly for hours to create those magnificent Rajasthani miniatures. They will show you how each of the colours and dyes is created using various alloys and the number of hours and days it takes to create a masterpiece. Usually, art is one tangible thing that you get to hold that replicates the cultures, traditions and beliefs of a place. As a souvenir that is what I brought back with me, a miniature painting from Udaipur.
Some evenings were spent walking through the cobbled streets viewing antique and silver shops and ethnic wear. I would take a stroll through the streets and hug the wall to avoid getting hit, whenever a car would drive past, as the narrow lanes were big enough to fit a car. For those who love clicking pictures, Udaipur is a photographer’s delight. You can spend hours walking through the heritage portions of the city or the forts and palaces, absorbing all the history and clicking pictures.
I have very close friends who are from Rajasthan and come winters I book myself a time for my favourite Daal Baati that they make at home, and during the other times of the year, gatthey ki sabzi is my favourite. During my trip to Udaipur, I feasted on the lip-smacking Laal Maans in Udaipur and a delightful traditional Rajasthani thali at Chittorgarh. I even dug into piping hot kachoris and kadak chai from roadside stalls. For me, this has been a manna for a food lover like me.
Evenings were spent on the rooftop of the hotel, enjoying a hearty meal of laal maas and piping hot rotis. As I sat there watching the lights from the palace shining on the ripples of the lake, it made me wonder, how I miss these open spaces and a balance of nature and heritage in a city.
My heart sank as I drove back to the airport and waited to board my flight. Journeys are so beautiful, isn’t it? Sometimes, there’s a beauty in getting lost, because you find something so unique and beautiful when you’re least expecting it. Apart from the basic research, I try not delving too much into a destination, as I want to enjoy a place with childlike exuberance, which sometimes, too much knowledge can subdue it. Truly, Udaipur has been one of the most memorable trips of my life and I want to go back for some more.
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