I look down at my hand and the train ticket flapping in the wind. Just a ticket, no seat. I look up at the platform and the swarms of people standing or striding up and down it. I look down the track and see the approaching train. The sardine cans chug past, people hanging out the doors in 10s and 20s.
Time to board.
People push off, people push on. We are part of the scrum, but we’re not winning! Sweat beads down our faces, down our backs… Heave. Heave. A glance to our right, an open door, an empty door. Before the Indians surrounding us see it we dart off and through the door. We are in the carriage. We can see a space. Not a seat, they have all been long taken and the residents won’t be shifted. No, it’s the luggage racks for us.
One bag up. Quickly, quickly, everyone is coming. Second bag up. Now us. Cliff up. Joyce up. Welcome to the next 6.5 hours. Welcome to the luggage rack (come seats)!
We were heading to Udaipur. Known throughout India, and beyond, as one of its most romantic cities… Yet we were not arriving in a romantic fashion, crushed against bags with cramping muscles.
The city of 5 lakes. Everywhere you turn water laps gently against stone and concrete. The blue waters turn amber in the evening sun, as if a thousand golden shawls are shimmering across to the palace on the shores.
Yet, at the same time this is still India. Cows still stroll the streets. People still bark in your ear. Rubbish and effluence still plague the paths. It is this juxtaposition, this daily bewilderment that makes India, India. Its a love, hate thing. And I love it!
As with so much of Rajasthan Udaipur is rich in history and architecture. It’s the same history and so it’s all forts and temples, but they are stunning and worth the Rajasthani fort/temple fatigue that had definitely started to settle in our bones by this point.
First came Kumbalgarh fort. Out in the barren hills far from Udaipir, and any other civilization, sits a magnificence of old maharajahs. The wall, the second longest in history, after the Great Wall of China, obviously. Basically, a long f**king wall.
It is another of India’s bewildering sights. Most forts we have seen stand proud in the middle of city: Agra, Delhi, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur; forts towering over a modern day city, an ode to a majestic past. But Kumbalgarh is quiet and far removed. In equal measure it is easier and yet harder to cast your mind back to relive the history.
Then there is Ranakpur. Not just another Jain temple, but ’The’ Jain temple. Built eons past purely from marble, each centimetre of the expansive, maze like structure intricately carved.
Pillars block your path as you try to find a Chink in the armour and make your way around this elegant visualisation of faith. Light radiates and fades all at once as white marble directs the lordly light.
It is a magical place and one that has to be experienced to understand the beauty of the structure, each step revealing more of the dedication of those that built it. It celebrates white. It dispels black. It inspires faith in the faithless. It is Ranakpur.
Yet these monuments sit far from the lakes of Udaipur, which need time in their own right to be appreciated.
From a simple setting sun…
… To the unparalleled water palace…
Udaipur scintillates with beauty and the old power of maharajahs. It is a place where time should start to lose meaning; where days stretch out like ripples from a lake. Where you forget, ’where next?’ and fall into the rapture of watery reflections.