Monday, 7 November 2011

Freewheelin’ in India - Day 19: Octopussy’s Pineapple Palace

I awoke to the warmth of warm skin pressed together with mine, my weak and weary body writhing in-sync with that of my woman, and the walls dripped with our combined love until the final burst of my illness left my body with a shake and a conclusive kiss.

We showered together to wash away our sins whilst sinning some more, and sat on the roof of our hotel to look across at the Lake Pichola and the two islands that lie in between. The first, Jag Mandir, comprised of a beautiful palace and courtyard, and played home to Shah Jahan whilst he was revolting against his father, Jahangir who is the emperor that built Fatepur Sikr, the abandoned city that we had visited a week or so prior. The second was known as the Lake Palace, which was
originally built in 1746 as a royal summer palace but is now a five-star hotel, costing an army of arms and long length of legs for a night’s stay in this majestic marble manor. We only had eight arms and legs between us and we need them to climb all over each other, so we decided to just view it from afar whilst eating scrambled eggs and drinking orange juice which tasted even eggy-er. I tried to make the waiter take a sip, but he just knocked it off the bill.

The James Bond film ‘Octopussy‘ was filmed in Udaipur and we were quick to find out, every hotel we walked past seemed to advertise nightly showings of it, a unique selling point so common that it may as well just be a given that wherever you are, at whatever time you need that fix, somebody somewhere within screaming distance will be able to play you a worn out VHS of that 007 classic. We didn’t bother watching it, there was plenty more to do.

We walked through the relatively peaceful streets, very few vehicles or pushy proprietors of shitty souvenir shops to put us off of looking, and a lot of interesting art and crafts to indulge our eyes as we made our way to the City Palace. Sarah stopped to get her sandals sewn and resoled by a street shoe-smith whilst I fought my way through another sea of men who didn’t wish to wait patiently for passes, literally throwing money through the worker’s glass window, expecting paper aero plane tickets in return. We made our way past a couple thousand guides who were lined up like tour whores, thrusting ample facts in our faces, dripping with seductive secrets, and trying to lure us in with promises of guaranteed satisfaction which we weren’t in the market for. We just wanted to hold hands and see things for ourselves, and did just that, reading all the historic stories and admiring the artifacts and architecture. There was a room with paintings that were made as 2D reliefs that made you feel stoned just by looking at them, the topsy turvy, swervy, curvy surfaces sending you in a slight spin so that all you can remark is ‘I’ve gotta get me one of these’.

After a few hours we left the palace, collected Cinderella’s slippers, bought a whole sliced up pineapple for a little street luncheon and made our way to the spot where the city’s cable car can take you up to a mountain top. We bought a couple of tickets and our change of 2 rupees was given to us in the form of two boiled sweets, which I found amusing until I put it in my mouth and realised that it was in no way worth any money at all, coughing it straight out of my mouth and onto the floor as Sarah reacted similarly. I questioned the safety of using a cable car in India for a few seconds as it took off, hanging a couple hundred feet above an awaiting jungle below, but then I reminded myself that we’re all dying anyway and to just enjoy it instead. You could see the whole of Udaipur from all angles at the top of the mountain, and we climbed over a barrier and onto a further ledge to sit and have a chat and smoke whilst watching the sun lower itself in a rather rapid fashion as I waved and wished him goodnight. Sitting opposite a young Indian couple on our return cable car ride, I thought I would make use of our leftover pineapple to amuse myself, so I took a piece from the bag and laid in wait for the other cable car to approach on the left. At the perfect moment, I frisbee’d the soggy slice straight at it through our window, and scored a direct hit, celebrating as it bounced off the front plastic screen. Sarah and the stunned couple all cracked up, and the young girl even gave me a high-five.

Back at the rooftop restaurant, I sniffed my glass for scent of fowl play before filling it with orange Mirinda and ordered two Thali’s, which came on a huge platter with four little curries, some yoghurt, four chapattis, a popadom and a mountain of rice for £1.50. It was an epic battle, Sarah was slain early on, but after an almighty belch space enough to feed my greed saw me succeed. We waddled to a café so we could contact home to let them know we were still living like loved-up lords, then had a pot of tea and a wrestle of wits in a place called ‘Cool Restaurant’ which lived up to its somewhat humorous name with loads of cushions as seating on the floor and lasers flashing across the ceiling which made me feel like a redneck cowboy in the desert, staring skywards, awaiting imminent abduction by a U.F.O.

Back in our white walled room at bedtime, we rolled a bed present then sat smoking on the balcony with Janis Joplin, who was singing about Bobby McGee and Summertime. Suitably soothed and smoothly stoned I sat hunched uncomfortably over a keyboard for hours, playing back past days in my head whilst writing, until the matchsticks between my eyelids snapped, and I snoozed.

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