Ahmedabad and train to Udiapur

Tuesday, April 23, 1929, also Wednesday and Thursday, April 24 and 25, 1929

Spent the whole day till time to leave in the mountains fooling around. This time we all came down to the lake for a swim—which we undoubtedly needed as well as the clothes we washed. The bus took us down the mountain to Abu Road. Threw a few clothes and some junk away before the train left at 10PM. For some reason or other the bench felt particularly hard, so I didn’t get to sleep for a long time. Pulled in Ahmedabad after five. Mort woke up, but was too sleepy to give a darn whether we went on or not, so tried to sleep again. But the train stayed, so we all piled out finally and washed at the station “water trough.”

Ahmedabad is an ancient capital, the stronghold of Northern Jains. It covers an area of 2 square miles and has a population of 275,000! [5.2 million in 2010!!!] Some English police we met there said there were 900,000 blacks in the city and 112 Europeans [doesn’t really add up…] Thus it is little spoiled by modern influences. It stands on the bank of the Sabarmati River and is surrounded by the remains of an old wall with 12 gates in it. This city was once the greatest city in Western India, and is said to have been from 1573 to 1600 the “handsomest town in Hindustan, perhaps in the world.” It is surely not that now. There are 74 mills here, probably cotton or cloth mills. Its architecture is a striking example of a combination of Hindu and Mohammedan forms. The houses and buildings are extremely picturesque, ornamented with carvings, often painted. The detail of these wood carvings is surprising.

There are a number of things to be seen in Ahmedabad, the main attraction of which is the Jama Masjid or principal mosque, standing on the Manik Chank or main drag. Though not remarkable for its size, “it is one of the most beautiful mosques in the East.” It is entered by a flight of steps from the street to a cloister encircling the courtyard. The mosque proper is at the west end and is supported by 260 columns. In the center of the enclosure is the pool.

We left town on a one o’clock train and arrived at Baroda [now Vadodara] about five. It is 248 miles from Bombay and is the capital of the very important Mahratta State of Gaekwar. The city has a population of 95,000 [1.6 million in 2005] and is much strung out. We walked from the station along a wide thoroughfare to the main part of town where is the market, palaces, and a fine gate, all by a large artificial lake. The road leading to here was lined with large public buildings, hospitals, a pool just full of mammoth turtles, probably sacred. The marketplace was a busy native babble. Refreshment stands brightly lighted, vendors with their wares spread out on blankets on the ground, sweet stands, and multitudes of people thronged the large open square by the Naza Pagh Palace. We bought some rolls and native hot stuff (and it’s all plenty hot), went down by the lake, and fell to. A few minutes later a full moon rose grandly from behind a small tower on one corner of the palace and almost over this huge triple gate, so typically Indian. It sure looked like India.

The three-mile walk back to the station sure wore us down. We flopped on benches and slept till after midnight when the train came in. It was jammed, but they hooked on another car and the platform official saw to it that we got a little compartment where we each had a nice wooden bench to stretch out upon. How we ever manage to connect with trains is more than I can figure. We are usually so sleepy we don’t give a darn one way or the other. However, I woke up a few minutes before we reached Rutland where it was again necessary to change trains. Again the new train was full, but they put on a car for Udaipur in which we got a nice place. A wash-up at the pump and a cup of tea made us feel better.

The character of the country was much changed, too. The chain of mountains and semi-fertile valley of the Abu District had given way to a perfectly flat plain more or less cultivated near Ahmedabad and Baroda. But from Rutland to Chitrogarh, it was a broad, slightly rolling plain, somewhat grassy in places and fairly well cultivated with wheat and corn, though very dry. We read French and slept during the trip to Chitrogarh, wooden benches featured.

At noon the walls of the world’s strongest fort loomed up on a high hill and a few minutes later we rolled into the little station. Our train for Udaipur didn’t leave for over two hours, 3:40 PM. We all bought melons for 4¢ each and some bananas and found a little shade that was some protection to about 135° heat.

These stations are always interesting places for you see all types and classes of people here. The Hindus have many nice things in their religion and one is the Hindu water shed at each station, no matter how small. Here a Hindu of high caste pours out cool water to all Hindus who wish some, those of lower caste squatting down before him. The water is always poured into their hands or little brass jars. A Hindu never drinks from a glass but pours the water into his mouth. He is very careful that no non-Hindu touch his food. In fact, when they hand you food, they drop it into your hands so they won’t touch your hand and become contaminated. One of the higher caste even called a little girl of lower caste to hand Mort some food he had bought. It sometimes goes against the grain for it makes you feel as though they regard you as low-down and dirty—which they undoubtedly do. Still, where food is not concerned, they are very friendly. They take care of animals of all sorts and have hospitals for cows, etc. in most cities. In ponds and lakes are hundreds of sacred turtles and fish which the people feed. The sacred cows enjoy the best of food often—as well as the paper and trash they eat from the streets. Scores of beautiful peacocks roam unmolested through gardens and woods because they are sacred. The Jains have erected some striking bird-feeding houses in Ahmedabad. They are large, tall, and very much carved. Monkeys and parrots are also fed there every Saturday.

The Indians are always washing. At every station the water place is full of native washing. The Indians, with the exception of some of the lower classes, are said to be among the cleanest people on Earth.

At last our train pulled out of the station on the 69 miles that was to take till 7PM, 3½ hours. I fell asleep and woke some time later to find us parked in a small country station waiting for another engine to help us over a hill. Mort got out the gramophone and the people were interested but not “taken.”  We all were roasting, so tried a bench on the platform. Some native bread-cakes helped to fill up empty stomachs, and when it began to get dark, I lay down on some iron rails stacked nearby and went to sleep. When I came to it was dark and the train was still there. Going to the car I found Mort and Frank stretched on the benches, so I pulled out the suitcases and slept on them on the floor. Sure was hot. Our hang-over here was about five hours and I was asleep before we left. I woke up at the next station when a mob tried to climb all over me.

We really did arrive at Udaipur, but at 12:30. When I came to the train was all empty. We tumbled out and bargained for a tonga to take us two miles to the Udaipur Hotel for one rupee. All sure felt like wrecks after over 35 almost continuous hours on trains and two and a half nights spent on those hard wooden benches, etc. I am certain I have worn all the skin and fat away just where I need it most to enjoy wood benches. A tonga rides like an ox cart, in fact is a first cousin of one, having two wheels, a covering over the top, and a seat back running perpendicular to the cart making two seats in front and two in back. The weight of our luggage and Frank and I in back nearly raised the horses off the ground, at least made them very light-footed. We bounced along in the moonlight over the Arh River (which we failed to see) and on its banks the old ruined town of the same name. Nearby are the royal cenotaphs. We saw these and they looked strangely mysterious among the foliage of big shadowy trees by the roadside.

We got two dandy large rooms in the hotel, each room being on the ground floor, opening to the verandah to the front and having a small private porch in the back, a sort of dressing room, and a bathroom. The only drawback is the price of 4 rupees a day. However we managed to get a reduction to 6 rupees for the room, breakfast, tea, and dinner—which still breaks us ($2.22) especially when people start lining up for tips.

Udaipur is 2,034 feet above sea level and is marvelously picturesque. It is the capital of the State of Mewar, has 35,000 people [550,000 in 2001], and is enclosed by a bastioned wall which, toward the south, encloses several large gardens. On the west is the beautiful Pichola Lake, and to the south the fortified hill of Eklinggarh, rising steep and rugged.

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