Hannah and I had booked this particular train to Jodphur specifically not to arrive at nighttime. India dictated that it would be better if we did, but we were put at ease by how relaxed the Indian passengers were about the train being 2 hours late (none more so than the nice man who’d boarded the wrong train by accident and would spend the next 6 hours going in the wrong direction).
As luck would have it, we had booked our trip to India over the Holi festival of colour. The festival in Jodphur kicked off with many neighbourhood bonfires and Hindu prayers, and the following day the city was awash with colours as locals threw and scrubbed it into their and our faces alike. We were warned about the safety of this festival, and as the men drunk more, their wandering hands made us both feel uncomfortable. We spent the rest of our time in the Blue City seeing the fort, Jaswanth Thada and the famous stepwell.
With the pavements still stained with Holi paint, we got to the transient ‘city of lakes’, Udaipur. It came highly recommended by our friends and the palaces (both overlooking and on the lake) lived up to expectations. A folklore puppet show brought us up to date with the city’s culture and we were spoilt for choice with sunset spots – choosing to hike up past the cable car to sit on some concreted scaffolding on the first day; and enjoy a lakeside meal at Ambrai on the next. To finish our time in this relaxing city, we headed to Ashoka for an art class to paint traditional elephants, ready to decorate our flat in London.
Further south in Mumbai, we stuffed ourselves with street food in the warm, sticky heat. With only three days in a city that you could spend a lifetime in, we chose to base ourselves in Bandra and explore the Coloba area. The Gateway to India was stifled by Indian families stopping us for photos (I do wonder where these photos end up) and we recovered over drinks in the prestigious Taj Palace Hotel. We felt conflicted over our tour around Dharavi slum (it was a pleasant surprise to see how the different industries were thriving; although we still felt like affluent white people coming to look at poverty) but we enjoyed ambling through the Colaba roads I was reading about in Shantaram.
In Gregory Roberts’ novel, most of his characters had settled in Mumbai after extending their travels, and in Horn OK Please hostel we met many travellers who had fallen in love with the city and done just that. I certainly could have too; but with only a month in India, we had to push on to Hampi.
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