Monday, March 7, 2011

March 2011: Our weekend in Udaipur at the markets

We spent the weekend exploring Udaipur, watched the sunset from the spectacular Monsoon Palace ruin atop a lofty peak and treated ourselves to custom-made shirts, miniature paintings depicting folk traditions and Pashmina Kashmir scarves.

Udaipur's narrow streets, built for horses and carts in the 1500's, like every town we have visited so far, is congested with motorcycles, jockeying for the fastest passage through the throngs of pedestrians, cows, dogs, vans, tuk-tuks and hand-pushed carts. Industry is mixed with retail, much of it confined to 2m by 6m stalls with sliding doors that can be secured at night. I look into one of the stalls and I see a man covered in soot, turning a hand blower directed beneath a glowing bed of coals on which is the bottom part of a grey, brass water jug, the type that can be easily carried on the top of a head; a very common sight in all parts of India, were people carry water back to their homes from public taps. The man deftly hammers the rim until it is wide enough to accept the upper portion, with the aid of the coals, he fluxes and brazes the two halves together. A second person turns a cooled pot over, mixes sand with water, then with bare hands, scours the surface of the pot, revealing brass with streaks of copper. The pot will then be polished to complete the work. Here is a samosa vendor, with shot of typical retail stalls behind.

There are stalls containing iron works, rugs, tailors, fast food deep fried in cauldrons, shoe manufacturing - India is quite literally, a blur of commerce where, lacking a social safety net, everyone must sell, make, clean, etc, in order to feed themselves and their family. A shop owner tells me that he sells his items on EBay and a hotel owner says a representative from the Timberland line of apparel has been securing manufacturing contracts for their overseas market.

With memories of Udaipur, we returned to the Raj Mahal Bhinder, some of us have stomach upsets and colds but we put in a valiant days work at the site. The wall is nearing completion, with the final rocks being mortared into place. We shifted our resources to prying rocks out of the ground and carrying them to the site of a second wall, used for slowing the monsoon torrent before it arrives at the main mortared wall. This secondary wall consists of large boulders in the base and flat angular pieces of shale-like rock placed around them. This wall will only be 2m high, but sufficient to do it's job. There will be another mortar wall built further down the gully after we leave.

The weather is steadily becoming warmer, in the 30C range, with bright sun in a smoky blue sky and light breeze.

Cam Grant

DW Team Leader

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