I fucking hate cooking. It stresses me out. I can’t time things to cook together which results in having to eat a meal in sections and yes, this includes beans on toast. On more than one occasion I’ve accidentally grilled something instead of turning on the oven, and one of these times I’d just finished relating the story of how I shouldn’t be allowed near the cooker on account of that time I grilled pizza as the pies I’d just put in, you guessed it, quickly grilled to a blackened, charred mess. Sometimes you just have to accept that cooking isn’t your thing and that Just Eat is the only thing standing between you and starvation when the mrs is away for the weekend.
So I had no interest in any manner of Indian cooking class on account of the fact the various restaurants around Brighton can do it way better than I ever could but there’s a women who lives near Zostel who accosts backpackers as they walk past her house and asks them if they’d like to learn “four or five dishes, very easy, no expensive.” For ₹250 she’ll show you how to cook something quick and simple and you get to eat it. Sage was keen. To be fair it’s not much more than you’d pay for a decent lunch anyway. Why the fuck not ay? By “four or five dishes” she actually means an aloo gobi type thing, masala paste, rice, puri bread and some manner of thing made from curd. But again, it was cheap. It’s more of a case of she cooks and tells you what she’s doing whilst you watch and take notes but guys… it’s so fucking simple I reckon even I could do it without burning the kitchen down and killing us all. Apart from the bread and the rice. Oh and the curd thing which held no interest for me anyway.
But this potato and cauliflower and the masala paste. This is what I can’t fucking wait to try! The paste is basically made from ginger, chillis and garlic. She probably pounds the shit out of it with a pestle and mortar but Tarrant owns enough blenders to make enough soup for Wales so I’m gonna rock that. She put some oil in this wok type thing, chucked in the paste and told us that she always uses three spices; Red chilli powder for heat, tumeric powder for colour and coriander powder for flavour. She chucked a bit of those in, stirred it around then in went the pre-boiled potato and cauliflower. I reckon you could put anything in there, including dead stuff. Dude, my chops are watering just thinking about it. The only thing she did differently with the rice was throw some peppercorns in there (helpful hint: watch out for these fuckers whilst you’re eating!) and some ghee. The bread, well, I’m pretty sure Morrison’s do a naan, I did attempt to roll a puri out which resulted in a less than circular yet still somehow edible effort. And that was it. Tasty food in less than an hour. It’s kinda made me want to sign up for a more hands-on cooking class somewhere, y’know, where I get to chop stuff and actually make it myself. Must check if my insurance covers me for kitchen mishaps…
Other things to do in Udaipur that don’t need a full risk assessment and a team of firefighters on standby would be art classes. Me and Sage had wanted to do this after we’d read about it in the Lonely Planet so we rocked up to Ashoka Arts to ask them about this miniature painting class they offered and got ourselves a bit of an education in the process. And here’s the thing, the “miniature” part doesn’t refer to the size of the painting, indeed you can get anything from the size of a playing card to the size of a wall, it refers to the detail within the painting and some of it is ridiculous. The level of detail is fantastic, they must use a magnifying glass to see what they’re doing. Brushes are made from squirrel hair and I swear, they must use a single hair for some of this art. What you pay also depends on the detail so a smaller piece could cost more or the same as a larger piece because there’s more to it, it would have taken longer. Sometimes you can’t stop seeing little things they’ve added like cows grazing in the background, or fish swimming in a river. They paint the leaves on the trees and the hair in a dude’s beard. Some of the murals you see around the state, like at the palace in Bundi, you could examine it for an hour and still keep finding new things.
Some of them are on paper, some silk and some, the bloke told us, were on a synthetic resin which some unscrupulous dealers try to pass off as camel bone. “But camel bone doesn’t exist!” he said. “There is no such thing. And I will tell you why…” Imagine, he told us, all of these paintings on all of this bone. There simply aren’t enough dead camels in India to support it. Sage asked him if genuine camel bone had ever been used. “No!” he beamed at us. “There is no such thing as camel bone!” Soooo I’ve no idea what’s holding the camels up but you heard it here first, kids. Camels don’t, it seems, have bones. Well they failed to tell us that in Jaisalmer.
A reoccurring theme also seemed to be horses representing strength, because they carry stuff and are generally double hard bastards. Elephants representing luck for all manner of reasons, mainly because of the fact no rating has yet been created to measure just how fucking awesome they are. And camels representing, of course, love. Wait, what?!
“Because,” he told us with a grin, “you know how camels stink a bit?” I could confirm that yes, camels stink worse than my arse after I’ve been living off baked beans and broccoli for a week because I spent all of my money on wine again. “Well, if you can love a camel you can love anything!” Ah, who says romance is dead then ay?
Anyway, there ended up being seven of us having a crack at this. We had to choose something to copy and thank fuck nothing had stupid amounts of detail, these were clearly thrown together with tourists in mind. Then, under the instruction of a fella who tutored us with a smaller version of what we were attempting next to our masterpieces, we all produced variations of the animals we’d chosen. I painted a happy camel. It wasn’t meant to be happy, it was meant to be a grumpy fuck because that’s more true to life. Then again, camels generally aren’t fucking blue either so I think the “true to life” effort went out of the window as soon as I chose the colour. It also turns out you don’t know how shaky your hands are until you try to draw straight lines with a tiny paintbrush. But this was probably one of my favourite things I’ve done so far, it was heaps of fun. Maybe it’s just because I do kinda like doing art. I used to be ok at it back in the day but I’m certainly not any manner of artistic these days. You only have to look at my camel; his front right leg is a little gimpy and I think his head is a bit too big but all in all, I’m pretty chuffed with my slightly mutant, inappropriately coloured camel.
Once you’ve completed your hard day of learning to do shit, you should totes check out the traditional Rajasthani dancing and puppet show at Bangore ki Haveli museum. It involves a small band, a compère who rocks it in both Hindi and English then women adorned in colourful dress will perform various dances. One dance involved three women doing all manner of twirls with fire balanced on their heads. Oh hello, death hazard! I mentally worked out a route including who in the audience would be easier to trample should we need to make a quick escape in the case of accidental inferno. It’d only take one of them to trip, stack it into the crowd and set the small children at the front on fire and boom. Front page of the India Herald. I’m pretty sure kids are quite flammable. Like kindling. Anyway. There were other dances that made me less nervous with a puppet show in the middle. Ok, so, you see these puppets for sale all over Rajasthan and let’s face it, puppets are creepy. Puppets, dolls, ventriloquist dummies. The way they stare at you with their cold, dead eyes, they look like they’d come alive at night and slaughter you in your sleep. There are movies about this, guys. Actual movies! But in the hands of a skilled puppet master they come alive in a totally awesome, non murderous way. I really enjoyed it, it’s really quite impressive and I’m gutted I didn’t see more before I was due to leave the state. I’m still not having one in my house, though. Y’know, just in case. I’ve seen Chuckie.
After some more dancing the finale came in the form of a women with pots on her head because, the compère told us, in the old days, sometimes village women had to walk for miles to the well to collect water so they developed ways to entertain themselves. I genuinely doubt what ensued was what the village women used to do whilst on the way to the well. She started with a couple of pots and to be fair, I find the mere act of balancing shit on your head impressive on account of the fact I can’t do it. She wandered around the stage to music whilst waving her arms around like a bad drag queen before receiving some more pots on her head. Ok cool. Good balancing act, lady. You get my applause. But it doesn’t fucking stop. By the time she has six pots on her head they put some what appeared to be broken glass on the floor and she minced around on that for a bit, and you’d think that’d be it. Six pots is a fair amount, especially when it comes to balancing shit on your bonce. But nope, they kept on coming until she finished with eleven fucking pots and let’s face it, there’s not much else you can do with eleven anything on your head apart from walk around in tiny circles and try not to fall over. This is well worth it I reckon. It’s pretty cheap too. It starts at 7pm but you really need to get down there at 6.30pm if you want any chance of getting a view that doesn’t involve a large, concrete post and the back of heads of about about fifty tourists. Seriously, this shit is popular and hey, it deserves to be.
And in other news, seriously, egg bhurji, where the actual fuck have you been my whole life? I was first introduced to this wonder conjured from unfertilised chook spawn and magic when I got egg envy watching Sage eat his breakfast at Mt Abu. I’d looked down at my bog standard omelette, over at his scrambled concoction of amazingness and joy and contemplated the logistics of stabbing him in the hand with my fork before making off with his grub and sitting in the corner, growling at anyone who got too close. I eventually figured I could just have it the next day and oh em gee, it’s as good as it looks. Not in the photograph, the photo makes it look like something you’d find by a bus stop in Brighton on a Saturday morning. So yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ll be living off in Udaipur, then.
Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Staying at: Zostel Udaipur