Miniature from the Indian Museum, Kolkata
Not the best practical idea in the world to take an Indian train with a big suitcase from Jaipur to Udaipur. I am the only one, with my old fashioned khaki textile suitcase for my 2 months passage through India, not to speak of my 10 kg camera equipment. But is has unmeasurable advantages and pleasures to be a Voyageur in the fast speed globalized tourist world.
As such, to have taken the silk sleeping bag sheets for those stays where no sheets at all are proposed or where the cotton sheets are too warm, to have my scented lemongrass verbena candle for pampering me in some short moments of fatigue (I have only one, and I burn it with moderation so it may last for two months), for my small JBL music box (in order to enjoy my Mozart Piano Sonatas played by Alfred Brendel in the morning under the shower), for my yoga mat (of course), for my khaki ultra resistant rain coat (it saved my camera during the heavy monsoon rain in Udaipur!), for my sleeping mask (in particular as there are always these green red or blue lights of the AC in your room, so never complete darkness) for my medicine (bad stomach due to old eggs, throat ache due to AC temperature shocks…), for my French green tea “Opéra Haute Couture” flavored with vanilla, red berries and flowers from Mariage & Frères (when I have an overdose of Chai, Darjeeling and Assam)
Jaisalmer, the inner court of a Haveli turned into my “office” with view to the street
Of course, in the meantime my Western clothes have been completely exchanged with Indian Kurtas, a Salwar Karmeez or similar (Indian clothes). I wear Indian (fashion) jewelry and my cosmetics come from Khadi or other Indian Ayurveda brands. For each acquisition, I leave the equivalent weight at the hotel. My Indian Rajasthani silk patchworks illuminate the more simple hotel rooms. My rectangular silk Sari left overs serve as towels or pareos in the desert heat. Indian often approach me with “You look like an Indian” or “What a nice Kurta”, “What a nice Jaipur bold stamp print on your tunica” or “Oh, you wear the red white bangles (bracelets) that married Bengali wear, are you married to a Bengali ?” Then a conversation starts and I get tips and tricks or services on various issues from food to places and events: a drop off for free by a motorbike to a temple (in a forgotten small city where global backpackers are rare like Phalodi); a Haveli (palace) museum entrance for free (as « I help India » with my photographic project); a nice home made masala chai with cardamom in the morning on the corner of a narrow road; or, I just get a warm dedication from an artist couple from whom I buy a miniature painting and they assure me (both Reiki practioniers) that I have good « energies ». People seem to feel my immersion, and after 4 weeks in India I hear more often « You know India well » and shop owners do not try to rip me off (which they do not succeed anyhow with a humble Voyageur like myself).
As far as the globalized backpacker or group tourists (hereinafter « global backpacker ») in India are concerned ( whether from the West, East or even India now and then), they look basically all the same (sorry guys ! ).
Same ugly appeared to be “ultra practical” sandals with thick rubber soles, as if all pavements would be covered in cow dung or similar thick dirt and your feet could catch exotic diseases (which is not the case). Same trousers, same t-shirts (sometimes in sweat resistant quick dry textiles in indescribable ugly flashing colors (how could a brain even invent such color?), same mostly black or said colors backpacks (whereby the smaller backpack is worn in the front, as a sign of backpacker paranoia that your bag could be cut open and you could be robbed with every step you make) By the way , backpacks, if appearing in a picture by incident, destroy any picture completely and irrevocably. Men, without exception in shorts, display their white (sometimes reddish sunburned) calves crowned by said sandals.
The beauty of Indian arts and crafts seems not to reach the global backpacker. They do not seem to want to honor any of these handmade wonderful artworks that make one of the fabulous heritages of India. The know-how, energy and soul of Indian artisans and artists is « perdu » for them while they carry on with their stingy bargaining as advised in low cost Indian travel guides, or as exchanged among them: « I know a very good guide for 200 INR for a whole day in Udaipur». Who the hell does need a guide in India where everybody speaks English? Better buy a nice art work! Finally, one should also not forget that global backpackers like to rate and make comments on what corresponds to their standard (the cheaper the better, and if cheap and excellent, jackpot!!!). Contrary thereto, a Voyageur accepts any situation like it is, and makes not a big fuss about price/service relation, heat, a leaking AC or similar. The Voyageur makes the best out of a situation, places and people, celebrating the immersion and encounters, and is grateful for the experience.
Remind me of my girls, Udaipur
One (unfortunately very ugly) acquisition is though very popular with backpacker women: the baggy female trousers (who look more to have been produced in China than in India). Worn with washed out t-shirts, these trousers duplicate the size of any bum and give the impression to wear diapers against incontinence … For the Voyageur, a tragedy. The Voyageur, or my humble me, does of course avoid without exception any contact with the global backpacker and prefers the Indians. I apologize for my arrogance, but I assume it fully! Never ever I will become a globalized backpacker and/or want to be associated with this species ! It is said that in 20 years the Voyageurs will be died out.
My French green tea, on a rainy Monsoon morning with view to the Lake palace, Udaipur