Udaipur Travel Blog› entry 46 of 47 › view all entries
I have a strange tale to unfold. The events and sentiments very mixed up. I would have liked your company and your council at some points.
A cop out, I know. I needed the break tho, from the heat especially, and this, the Lake Pichola Hotel, looked good. The sunset and the daylight playing on the beautiful facades of the adobe and marble clad buildings across the way. It’s worth the splurge.
My second in less than a week.
But there’s a catch to this urban pastoralism (isn’t there always?), and that catch is snagging at these sentences.
Let’s try chronology:
Anyway it turns out Ahmed (Ligat Ahmed Shiekh) is from
Fast forward to 4 days ago. I’m on an all night train from
Off track. De-railed.
Anyway. When I stepped down onto the hot platform of
But now (May 28th)
I am not in the hotel anymore: I’m at Ahmed’s, and Jeff, I’m not sure what kind of “guest” I am supposed to be…. Yesterday he took me to Eklingi and Nagda. I gazed around at ancient Jain temples, made small talk, took pictures, played cards.
At night we went on a paddle boat across the lake.
He has used his “influence” around town so we can queue jump (he even tried to get me a job at the university here, without having to produce a CV--though, his buddy, the chancellor drew the line and for one “influence” didn’t open a door at his beck and call).
I suppose he feels this privilege game will impress me somehow.
“I am king” he tells me of his conversation with one traveler who commented on his dealings in town. “Not like a King.” (
Actually Ahmed is a lawyer with the past claim to being a big university jock. Now he’s tainted with what looks to me like minor mafia shadows…. Irony aside, he has been very solicitous: heaping my plate with more and more of his mother’s home cooking (dhal and okra and chapattis) despite my saying no. I guess he knows what I want and need.
“It’s our culture,” he explains when I complain that he doesn’t listen to me.
He’s adjusting the air cooler in my room--a little to the left up a little.
“There, now it blows at you good!”
He’s finding tapes for the stereo. Turning it on and playing with the volume and its controls, “You like bass?”
“You want to see a Jew?” he asks today. We are on his motorcycle. He means “zoo” it turns out, but we struggle to reach understanding through his accent. He’s a bit quieter today. I was ill this morning and so bowed out of the trip he’d planned for us to
Now I think he’s offended. And I am sad. Last night I teasingly chastised him for his Indian corruption and queue jumping when we butt in front of 60 odd Indian couples and families to get a paddle boat first. Today I didn’t eat, no matter how hard he pushed (you know how the thought of food makes me ill when I’ve been sick). It’s not fair, though--the distance I am errecting--he’s done nothing to “take advantage.” But I don’t know what’s expected of me here, and it makes me uneasy: my guest/non-guest status, the gender and culture gaps being what they are.
The Godfather image fills my head like an old cliché...it turns out Ahmed’s father made all his money as an arms dealer. He had a munitions and small arms manufacturing business, until his son decided that the business was pretty dangerous, what with them being Muslim and the tensions ratcheting up as the BJP is gaining political power, and the
I’ve maybe been a little risky here, myself. The Indians in general, and Muslims even more so, are not known for their liberal views of male/female contact, let alone friendships. (Tho Ahmed’s religious philosophy is well thought out and sensitive, to do him credit). We have had many lengthy conversations. I’m being paranoid I think, but God! it’s awkward, and there are times when I truly wish that I were born a man so that I could stop the stares, the assumptions, and these games.
I am here for two more days, and I’ll admit that I am missing you, Jeff, big time.
I miss the way you treat me as a human being, recognizing my sovereignty over my own affairs. I wonder how these women live like this.
Know you are wanted, always… smile… you are a wanted man. You have made your way into my independent psyche if simply by the way your respectful distance paradoxically brings you closer to my heart. I await your real presence in
...especially when I find myself in the doubly sticky heat of a sticky situation in the middle of the Indian oven of May.