The day I paid an elephant

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The day I paid an elephant

Hotel Shambhu Villas, Udaipur.

I awoke around eleven and decided that there was no way I was going to check out by midday. So I relaxed a little and got ready for a day of sight-seeing and post-office hunting, which as vaguely indicated on my map.

After an omelette at the roof garden restaurant around the corner I headed for the City Palace Museum.

The City Palace is vast. It houses a five star hotel, two museums and a Royal Residence. Quite impressive. I wandered through the museum admiring the artwork, the marble architecture, the narrow passageways, the winding stairs, the beautiful works of glass (including peacocks made from over 5000 shards) and the views over the city, mountains and lakes.  In the centre of the Palace was an oasis, a marble courtyard with pool and trees, with a spectacular view over the lake. In a section called the Queens Palace I discovered a room which had photographs of all the British dignitaries of the region, from the time of the Raj, Queen Victoria and mainly military chiefs.

I was thrown out of the museum, along with everyone else, at closing time and headed off in search of the Post Office.

The GPO in the Rough Guide was indicated by an envelope symbol, which covered about three streets in reality, so it wasn’t easy to find. I asked directions about six times before actually finding it.

On the way, I saw my first tame elephant – so quickly took a photo. “You take photo. Ten Rupees” said the man aside its back. I obliged and stretched up to hand the man the money. “Not me, him!” he said indicating his mount.  The snout of the elephant’s trunk unfolded before me like the palm of a hand into which I gleefully pressed the note.  He (the elephant) passed the note to his master-on-high and they both went on their way.  I grinned inanely for the next twenty minutes.

I returned to Anna’s where they were playing The English Patient and waited for David. I didn’t particularly want to eat there after last night’s episode. I got chatting with a couple sitting behind me, they were on their last leg of a two-year international jaunt. They were going back to live in Ruislip of all places. They had been all around south-east Asia and Australia.

David arrived, he had been to see some local villages most interesting apparently; I told him I had ‘done’ the Palace.

The owner hassled me to order which I did reluctantly. What little I ate I didn’t enjoy. It tasted okay but yesterday I had gotten a glimpse of the kitchen upstairs on my way to the toilet. The toilet was something to behold (avoid) – a porcelain bowl embedded into the floor and home to hundreds and thousands of crawling things!

A large group of Lobsters came in. The same group as had entered the night before. They were all glowing a bright pink colour having spent a day by the pool, without sunblock. I found it hard not to laugh. Why spend a day as though this were Ibiza? In India it didn’t make sense.

It seemed that this bunch did everything together; they were like sheep. One suggested that they sat upstairs instead, so they all got up and went upstairs, but to the bleating of “Why?”, “What’s wrong with down here?”, “I don’t like this restaurant.”

“Be a shepherd, not a sheep.” I said to an English girl as she followed the flock. “I know, I know, I’ve tried though.” she whimpered.

A girl sitting opposite us rudely pointed out loudly, and repeatedly, that I hadn’t eaten half of what I had ordered and she wanted to know why. So on the way out I was stopped by the manager who was concerned I was giving his establishment a bad name.  “Oo it was lovely but I’m so full” I lied and made my escape.  I could have told him I thought that his restaurant was about as hygienic as a cockroach’s armpit, but thought it best not to start a fight so close to bedtime.

David and I agree to meet elsewhere the following night. I suggested the roof garden and he said he would try to find it.

I bumped into the Art School boys on the way home and agreed to meet with them tomorrow at 3pm for a chai. Not all of them were going to Bombay after all.

Eating at Anna’s a second time was asking for trouble – I had a terrible spate of diarrhoea throughout the night, and I was kept awake by the presence of a rather loud resident cricket and by two friendly neighbourhood lizards in my room.

“trrrrr, groo … groo trrzz …thhfffttt … (flush)”  Welcome to India.

By | 2017-01-06T11:17:10+00:00 June 19th, 1997|India|0 Comments

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