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Posts Tagged ‘cows’

“Excuse me sir… sir… SIR!”

The car swerved out of the way, just narrowly missing a group of cows lying casually in the middle of the highway. The driver looked back at me in his rearview mirror as though I was completely insane for being perturbed at his proximity to the animals. This was just everyday life here – cows lie with abandon and drivers go around them at the last moment possible. This was Udaipur, Rajasthan.

Daniel had suggested we do something to get out of Bombay and relax while it was still the low season throughout India. He had found a great monsoon deal at the Lake Palace, which is one of the most famous and unique hotels in India- he had rightfully convinced me that despite still having a bit of jetlag, it would be worth the trip.

India for me had only been Maharastra (the state where Mumbai is located). It was Mumbai and a bit of its environs. I was curious to see my new adopted country in a different light (For a sense of the streets of Udaipur, I’ve attached this video of my ride in a rickshaw, below).


And Rajasthan brings to light the classic India that many imagine. The cow element was something I had come to believe was a myth – while Mumbai has cows tethered to the side of the road I had certainly never experienced the famed cows wandering through the streets. Here it is inescapable – on the side of the road, in the road, crossing paths with trucks and motorbikes, cows just stare at the people who regard them with such awe and piety.

Lake Palace entrance (from a boat)

But beyond that curious Indian stereotype, Udaipur itself is a dream. It is said to be one of the most romantic cities in the world and it’s easy to see why. It’s as though Venice and India from the Raj times collided to create a city on water surrounded by hills and beautiful architecture.

And the Lake Palace is the epicenter – built in the early 18th century for Rajasthan’s King (the Maharana), it is only accessible by boat and once inside it is breathtakingly beautiful. Ceilings and columns with glass mosaics lead down to marble floors. A lily pond and views of the lake come at you from every direction. It is a true testament to the beauty of Indian design and skill.

We spent today wandering the city and its sights. The most notable is the Maharana’s other home – The City Palace. In present times the Royal Family rents out the Lake Palace to the Taj Hotel Chain and they have turned the majority of their City Palace into a museum. They still live in one (very, very large) section of the palace. They have also turned another lake structure, Jagmandir, into a place for dinners and weddings. It must be good to be Rajasthani royalty.

Jagmandir lit up at night

In the City Palace

The City Palace is also incredible – Indian marble columns are intricately carved and walls are inlaid with Venetian glass mosaics or Chinese tiles, all from the 18th century. The Palace is so large it was completed over 400 years, beginning in the 16th century and only completed in the 20th century. Elephant fights used to take place in the courtyards, and this practice was only discontinued in the 1950’s.

Lake Palace courtyard

Being in Udaipur is like getting to experience another world in another time. Unlike Mumbai, which is struggling to keep pace and prove its modernity, Udaipur seems to be happily frozen in its glory days (and profiting handsomely from them). It is romantic and tranquil and calming, as though each moment we’ve sat on the boat coming out to our hotel on a lake is something you can capture in time.

This feeling, of course, is a far cry from the moment of terror where we almost hit the cow. It’s almost incongruous. But maybe it all fits – while we were rushing to enter the city perhaps the cow was laying there thinking, “slow down, relax, take in the sights. No one will hit you. Just enjoy Udaipur.”
And we will take that advice – after all, we’re not leaving ‘till Tuesday!

Daniel and Ali with the Lake Palace behind

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Crow-cophony

I know this is going to make me sound like a crazy bird lady, but the crows outside my windows drive me nuts.

Mumbai has all sorts of creatures roaming around (I would like to be politically correct and say this is mostly due to the tropical climate, but in all honesty the plethora of animals may also stick around because of the trash layer that permeates a majority of the city). There are lizards of every shape and size crawling outside our walls and occasionally inside. We saw a rat the size of Phoebe on our porch the other night. Cows live on the streets. On our block alone at least ten street dogs have claimed the territory.

My new favorite toy AKA the mosquito racket

And the mosquitoes are so ubiquitous that we had to buy ‘mosquito rackets’ — electric tennis rackets that kill bugs on impact (When I say ‘we had to buy’ I really mean ‘I thought it would be fun’).

I don’t mind most of these things. Nisha is scared to death of lizards, but Daniel and I are ok with just sweeping them away. The rat so far seems to be a one-time thing that only came out due to heavy monsooning. The dogs leave you alone and the cows are normally tied up. And the mosquitoes now offer a chance to watch uncoordinated people try to chase a fast-moving insect around an apartment with a racket (i.e., me).

But the crows are inescapable. They’re inescapable and — dare I say it — a little bit psycho? When I first got here I thought they were like bigger and more tropical looking pigeons. But I was wrong.

Crows are everywhere

The insanity starts every morning as the sun comes up. They fly around, sit on telephone wires and chatter about their mornings. As the day continues they migrate to the rails of my porch. They sit, molt, do their business and look at me as though thinking, “What are you going to do about it?”

But recently, the crazy crows got even weirder. When the monsoon is imminent it would seem normal for animals to act a bit off. But for these crazy birds, ‘off’ is an understatement. The other day heavy rain was on the horizon. So the birds decided to have an angry convention on my terrace. They flew in droves in circles above my head. They didn’t stop – they just circled and circled with a madcap intensity. Dozens gathered to sway on the telephone wires and watch the circling. And the noise was deafening. You would have thought the end of the world was coming (If you need evidence, I’ve embedded a video to give you an idea). I have no idea what started it, but only the torrential downpour of the monsoon could (literally) drown them out.

But it never stops for long. Even as I sit here writing, the birds are crowing. They’re saying goodnight as the sun goes down. I usually get a bit of peace and quiet until morning. Yet even as I write about how obtrusive they are I can’t help smiling – they’re insane and impossible, but even when I want to complain about them they’ve become such a part of my surroundings that I can’t help but feel a bit protective. They’re lunatics, but they’re the lunatics who reside on my porch.

Only a crazy bird lady would say that.

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