How do we feel about a city when we are just about to reach there? What are our thoughts? How much does it resonate with the recent TripAdvisor advert that popped up on your screen which you couldn’t resist clicking? Or is it layered with your last search #udaipur in Instagram? Or is it the books you read, the characters, those lyrics from your favourite music that runs through you?
Beyond my banal excitements, I always travel making and breaking assumptions, keeping tabs on learning and unlearning about people and places. But Udaipur, the city was very confusing for me. I couldn’t follow its beats, or, does it have one at all? Or is it just that cities tell different stories to different people? Beyond question, the city has its own quaint charm. With beautiful lakeside palaces, English gardens and terracotta bridges, it is perfectly designed for your suite dreams, but fortunately or unfortunately I have never had one. Or it might even help if you go gaga over destination weddings and marbled splendours all around Lake Pichola. But, I felt so resistant to the romantic imagination of the city.
After an all wound up, twisting road journey through the hills of the Aravalli range from Mount Abu, I arrived at an amber-lit late afternoon in Udaipur. Trying to recall the numbers in a temperature display board that flashed wayside, I thought over whether to keep the sweater for rest of the evening; also because Rajasthan winter was yet to ring a bell for me!
The touristy life-line in Udaipur runs around the Lake Pichola. Watching Pichola’s tranquil waters shimmering with reflections of grand palaces and designer hotels, I was already curious about the other side of the oldest lake in Udaipur. As the sky turned into pale mauve and birdies flew over to their island retreat, I slipped away to my rustic thoughts making a pass at falling for the fancy boat-ride.
Udaipur has always been an elite city in my imagination. But then, that is a convenient assumption to make about any city! Howbeit, Udaipur was yet to roll out in its full-on mix and blend for me. It was just the second day in the city I got a glimpse of elite existence here and there, except for the flamboyance of lofty palaces and hotels on the east bank of Lake Pichola which are also the fast held fixtures to the royal legacy. Like always, they have made themselves comfortably exclusive to the city. Look at the Monsoon palace, atop a hill, away from all the everyday nuisances of the city, stands the royal seasonal hideout- beyond all the laymen outcries. If it was the monarchs then, it’s the monied now.
Undoubtedly Pichola Lake is an offbeat beauty to Udaipur, may be the only thing this city can flaunt about. After all, how hard it tries to transcend itself to royal and glitzy, the lake cannot hide away from drips of hardships and suffering haunting its banks, on the other side!
A stroll through the City Palace would show you the already one-sided history of cities like Udaipur and how the power dynamics which once existed is reconstructed and made a marvel for the public. Well, heritage spaces are emphatically valued, but why is it always the history of that particular ‘one’?
Indeed, this is a very pretty town, but I was neither shaken nor stirred of it.