(co-edited by the one in the blue scarf…aka my daughter)
The versatile pink scarf is acquiring some new purposes on this trip. On safari to the “jungle” (which just looked too dry and sparse to allow my brain to categorize it as “jungle”) it was a bug screen. We were out there looking for tigers but our guide sadly admitted later “tigers sleeping”. In our open-air jeep ride down the paved roads to get to the national park in the early hours, it helped keep little bugs from going where they shouldn’t. It’s been a sling for a shoulder that isn’t happy with the vagaries of travel (don’t worry Mom, I’m fine!). But mostly it’s just been plain comfort.
I was looking for one like it to complete the gift cycle of its life (give one to my friend)…and in the, rather aggressive, markets in the city of old Jaipur, it was very useful as each stall hawker called out for me to see what he had to offer. All I had to do was hold up my scarf to change him to my agenda and stop the onslaught of “Ma’am! Ma’am! Come see in my shop. You buy. You like some pashmina?” and if my gaze accidentally lingered on something for just one second longer than dismissal…. “Very good quality! (not)! Yes! You look! I have others!” “Come inside!” “Sit!” But one enterprising young man wanted to take my pink scarf off someplace to see if he could find one like it. No way! I’ll never see it again! I clutched it to my chest and refused to relinquish my beloved travelling companion. So he consoled himself with a photo of it and went off to find a worthy comparison… but it seems my scarf is unique. It doesn’t help that my tolerance for browsing quickly goes downhill, so I had to leave empty-handed.
I have enjoyed shopping in other places though. In one of my new favourite cities, Udaipur, we spent an hour with the CEO of an NGO called Sadhna, a collective of 700 rural women who do lovely handwork that is turned into clothing and household objects. The story she told was inspiring, It’s existed long enough to be positively impacting the third generation of these women’s families. The money earned by the grandmothers went into their own bank accounts (not into their husband’s hands). Many of them used that money to pay for their daughters to go beyond the publicly-funded grade 8 education for girls. Now those daughters are doing the same and more for their daughters, many off to university. One ran for political office (not successfully though), another opened a shop that she is going to pass down to her daughter-in-law (she says her son can go do what he wants, her daughter-in-law needs the business for her family).
But to return to Udaipur, we could have spent more time there than we did, which was a grand total of one day. It’s the kind of place I could live for at least a few months. It’s pretty…lush compared to the desert-like landscape of most of Rajasthan. The title “city of lakes” is well deserved. Udaipur has a vibrant local scene with a somewhat artsy/individualistic flavour. Lots of young people who are studying beyond high school. We did a cooking class in a home here. It was run by an enterprising family where the aunt is the talent, and her 20-something nephew is the marketing, English-speaking p.r. guy. Our class was in the evening and he had a business class exam the next morning, best of luck to him.
A hilly, narrow street neighborhood around an amazing Hindu temple attracted us for its variety of shops, little restaurants along the lake edge, and pretty bridges over the water…. even if I did have a scary moment on that cute bridge. I was taking a picture and turned around to see a bull with sharp-looking horns lowering his head, shaking it back and forth and advancing toward me. I speak enough “bull” to know that is not friendly and I that wouldn’t win in a horn altercation, but not enough “bull” to know what to do about it. The bridge railing was behind me and there was no place to hide. Could I wave my “Shiva” pink scarf at him, matador-style, and hope Shiva-the-destroyer would work his magic? I think not. Thankfully a passing man on a vespa grabbed the bull by its horns and physically yanked him away from me. That expression “grab the bull by the horns”…you know, the one that means “get on with it and take action”? Yah. That will forever more have a Udaipur meaning for me. Don’t stand in the road wondering what to do, with your hands starting to go up in the air…tell that bull who’s boss and get on with life! Phew.