“This is India, Madam” my driver keeps reminding me, as I cover my face with my hands again as we face off yet another cargo truck on a rocky mountain road.
“Are there no rules?!” I squeal as we swerve back over to the left (the correct) side of the road, my stomach churning.
My driver chuckles “yes madam, but nobody follow- me and my car we are complete, no accidents” he attempts to assure me.
Driving in India is like one big game of chicken, who will hold out the longest before swerving back to their side of the road. And I thought driving in New York was crazy. But New York doesn’t have to battle with 330km of unfinished road or those worn away to form giant potholes from the recent monsoon. Indian taxis and cars share the road with cows, sheep, wild pigs, camels pulling carts piled high with grains and passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, tuk tuks and whole unhelmeted families on single motorbikes, the mother sitting side saddle in a beautiful sari clutching her baby! Jeeps are packed so full with people that you could never accurately guess how many there are- personal space issues are not something that Indian people and I have in common. I might add that these are main roads connecting the major cities of Rajastan.
In the opening pages of my Rough Guide to India it says “…an incomprehensible and bewildering continent. But for all its jarring juxtaposition, intractable paradoxes and frustrtions, India remains an utterly compelling destination.” How better can I describe India that that?
My sister and I have been spending a lot of time in the car on this trip to India and whilst it has reduced me to endless bouts of car sickness, I am yet to be sick of what you can witness on the drives themselves. It is the only way to see the small Indian villages and though you will be stared and waved at, it’s worth it. I only wish that I somehow blended in and could watch the people carrying out their village life all day- sadly my white skin and Birkenstocks seem to give me away. Though it is a blessing that we have been spared the words ‘TOURIST’ across our car, like many others.
In order to survive the roads in Rajastan, it is imperative to have a flexible thumb to honk your horn with. If you want somebody out of your way- honk. If you want to overtake somebody- honk. When you are facing off oncoming traffic- honk like your life depends on it, because it does. I am certain that in later life, our driver will suffer from repetitive strain syndrome with honking as the cause. What surprises me more that the driving itself though, is the fact that despite the cow dodging and games of chicken, we have not witnessed one accident. The driving seems reason alone to get to temple.
Despite the road chaos- India has become for me ‘utterly compelling.’
“We are here, Madam” my driver says. “Time to get fresh and we see sights. yes.”
We stayed in a guesthouse called Devra in Udaipur, which I could not recommend enough to future travellers. With only four rooms, and being set back from the hustle and bustle of the town, it makes for a magnificent retreat from the days tiring activities. Here Joti, gave me a Rajistani heritage cooking lesson- her recipes handed down from her mother and very special. This recipe is only a guess at the ingredient quantities, she did not have real meaurements- just a spoonful of this and two spoonfuls of that. All of her recipes use the four spices chilli, turmeric, coriander and salt.
500g stewing lamb
1/2 cup full fat yogurt (curd)
2 Tbsp crushed garlic
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tsp ground coriander
salt to taste
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup fresh cream
Mix together all of the ingredients and let marinate for an hour or over night. Place in a pressure cooker for ten minutes (or sit in on a low heat for about an hour- add a splash of water if necessary, but this is meant to be rather a dry curry).