July 23, 2010

Up Dark Streets in Udaipur

I haven’t written for a while. I haven’t quite known what to write, even though India has been on my mind almost constantly. I was telling this story to one of my friends the other day. It is one of my favorites so I thought I would share it:

It was one of the last days we were in India. Our team was in Udaipur, Rajastan for a week of debriefing before heading back to the states. This night we were all going out to dinner together at this really nice restaurant that had a rooftop that overlooked Lake Pichola and the Lake Palace. We had all gotten dressed up and were all very excited. This was going to be one of the few indulgent things we did.

So the 12 of us got into 4 autorickshaws and Katie and Amy told the drivers where to go, and we were all off…well sort of. I was in an auto with Jenny and Rebecca. At first our driver seemed to know English pretty well, but we still couldn’t really understand him. All we could tell is that he was talking us to “Lal Ghat,” which we assumed was the restaurant we were going to (Katie and Amy had been keeping the restaurant’s name a surprise to make things more fun, and boy did it make things more exciting). After a little while we realize that our driver might be drunk and then all of a sudden our driver pulls over on a pretty busy street, and gets out. He told us something (again we couldn’t make out his English, not to mention his Hindi), and then went to a shop to go buy something. I thought maybe he is getting more to drink, or hopefully he is getting something to sober himself up. None of us girls moved we were all a little freaked out. He got back in and pulled forward a few feet, and then turned around and somehow communicated that he would not be going any further and that we needed to pay him and get out. We paid him more than he deserved just to make sure he didn’t come try to harass us for more money. We got out and found ourselves in what seemed like an old part of the city which had the most narrow and dark streets we had seen in out whole time in India. They were lined with many tiny shops and bustled with foot traffic, autorickshaws, and animals.

Every Indian has a cell phone: lepers, people in the slums, rickshaw drivers…everyone. We had the cell numbers for Katie, Amy, and Wilson so we tried to find an India who will let us use his phone. Because we are not in Delhi and all three of the leader’s numbers are Delhi ones, no one would let us make an out-of-area call. Finally we found an India who was in business clothes and spoke good English. We told him we needed to somehow to get to “Lal Ghat.” He asked “the hotel or restaurant?” Good sign! We told him we needed to find the restaurant and asked him if it was close enough to walk to. We could have tried and catch an other rickshaw, but we gave the last guy our allotted team money and we would have had to dip into our dwindling personal money, plus I think the three of us were ready for some adventure.

We got this Indian guy to give us directions to “Lal Ghat” restaurant. They went something like: go right, turn left, at the clock tower turn right (but for some reason be careful here to stay on the right side of the road), go up until you get to the Buddhist temple and then ask the police officers where to go. Simple enough right? They ended up being pretty easy directions to follow, but remember we were three American girls on the dark narrow streets, Indian men gawking all around, not having been out after dark without a male present for three months. I think we were all a little scared, but in the back of our heads thinking that we were going to have a great story to tell.

Finally we got to the Buddhist temple, the largest one I had ever seen, with stairs that climbed higher and higher. Crazy enough at the foot of these stairs we found two police officers. We asked them where to go next. They pointed for us to go up the street to the right and then said, “go up.” We were not quite sure what “go up” exactly meant until we started walking and came to this street that went almost straight up. We figured this is what they meant and trekked up. All along the way we had been asking people ever so often if we were going the right way by pointing and saying “Lal Ghat?” hoping for a positive answer and finally we found “Lal Ghat” restaurant. We started to go in but the doorman stopped us, and then proceeded to ask us if we were looking for our friends. We immediately said “yes”, and he told us to keep going up the street. We were really confused but we knew we had to be the only large group of white people around so we continued up. We turned a corner and with a ton of relief saw Paru, the Indian lady we were living with (she and her husband, Wilson, joined us for our time in Udaipur). She was out looking for us along with Wilson, Katie and Amy.

Our restaurant was tucked away almost in a corner, up the street even more. Once we got there we climbed all the way to the rooftop to have an amazing dinner with the rest of our team. The view and the food were great and the adventure was definitely worth it. 

 Above is the view from our table

Below is another persons video in daylight of the streets we walked in darkness

See Video