Tuesday, January 08, 2008

henry james visits me in india. henry! over here. we're going thisaway!

i knew almost nothing about india before i arrived. i had no idea where to go, what to see, or how to travel. luckily, almost every single conversation during my first few weeks revolved around the questions, 'where have you been?' and 'where are you going?' almost everyone named udaipur as a place i must absolutely go, and two trusted sources named it their favorite place in india.

what excellent recommendations! surely, i must go, i thought.

the way everyone raved about it, i expected to be punched in the face by impossible freshness, stunning beauty, and a saturated sense of satisfaction when i arrived. i poked my head out from the airplane exit and looked around. this looks like every other random indian airport, i grumbled as i walked down the airstairs.

perhaps the 30 minute ride into town will be more enthralling, i comforted myself.

as we bumped our way along the dirt roads, i searched for it. freshness, beauty, satisfaction. instead, i saw tiny alleys and average looking hostels. i was generally unimpressed.

the next day, i ventured around town. i chatted with people, boated around lake pichola, browsed local wares, soaked in oil during an ayurvedic massage, watched the locals doing their laundry along the banks, roamed around the city palace, indulged in rich foods, and haggled for gold sandals. all lovely, but not the enlightening experience i was expecting. where is the excitement? the overt fabulousness? the indisputable superiority?

i went to sleep that night annoyed.

the next day, i decided to stop trying. i woke up, sat upright, and yawned loudly. then i went back to sleep. a few hours later, i rolled out of bed and directly into a rooftop restaurant for lunch. here are the views from my lofted, cushioned seat.


to my right:

to my far right. trying to get this picture to focus made my shoulder ache a little bit.

you can see the people doing their laundry on the steps there.

i ordered a bottle of wine and some salty snacks and reclined in my little alcove. aaaahhh, i thought. this is so lovely.

then it occurred to me. this is why this city is so enjoyable: sunny and pleasant weather, calm lake waters, generous rooftop views, charming local shops, and narrow streets made for sauntering. now i understand. i adjusted myself so that my face was in the sun, and drank my wine in little periodic sips.

why have i pretentiously used henry james' name in the title of this post? he wrote a story called 'beast in the jungle' about a man who has this feeling that something amazing is going to happen to him, and goes through his entire life waiting for this spectacular and magnanimous event. he doesn't do much of anything except wait for it, and lives his entire life in anticipation. in the end, of course, he dies without having done anything particular interesting with his life, and he finally realizes that life has passed him by.

so when i spotted henry across the restaurant, i waved him over. we got a second wine glass, and lounged in the alcove together.


Post a Comment

<< Home