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It can only be India – a shopping trip in a million


I had met up with four women staying at the same hotel in Udaipur and we were told that on Wednesdays there is a local market. Such an opportunity is not to be missed so with their local guide Krishna, whose help was invaluable in getting good Indian prices, we set off down the hill to shop.

We hadn't gone far when we spotted outside a beautifully ornate temple, a young man dressed handsomely in green and gold sitting atop a fine white horse, surrounded by a group of happy laughing people. A Wedding! As the wedding party entered the temple we were invited to join them and entered a circular room with a domed ceiling encrusted with a mosaic of mirrors which dazzlingly reflected the amazing brightly-coloured and sequinned saris the women wore and when they danced, looking up into the dome was like looking into one of those old kaleidoscopes I had as a child.

“looking up into the dome was like looking into one of those old kaleidoscopes I had as a child.”

We were drawn into the dancing and after about half an hour, six or so matrons sat in a corner and seemingly from nowhere produced plastic bags of powdered red dye, water, flowers, strings and pots. They tied the string around the pots placed inside one or two of them garlands of flowers, dipped their fingers in the dye and decorated other pots, then as if by an invisible sign they rose, placed the pots on their heads and proceeded out of the temple followed by the groom and other guests and went on their way.

The lovely ladies at the wedding celebrations
The lovely ladies at the wedding celebrations

On we went to the market and on either side of the narrow road were tiny shops selling everything from shoes to cooking pots and even car spare parts. Krishna stopped to buy dresses for his wife and daughter with a great deal of input from us.

“Can you imagine five women keeping quiet and not having an opinion on which colour he should choose?”

The parade cheerfully on their way
The parade cheerfully on their way

Then off we set again and almost immediately came to a halt as a very large elephant with a very old man on top came lumbering by leading a parade of Camels, numerous brass bands, brightly decorated vans playing far from melodious music, men sporting vivid saffron turbans, garlanded tractors and a young lad representing the monkey God Hanuman. The parade took a good half hour to wend its way past us up the hill and so several hours after we had set out, the market was reached.

“As the Heavens opened I caught a rickshaw back up the hill having had a shopping trip in a million.”

Villagers from miles around had come with their goods to sell. Mouth-wateringly fresh fruit and vegetables, bangles, saris, henna, one family had carried in from their village long lengths of cane and were skilfully making baskets to their customers' specifications. Having missed lunch it was a joy to find a man cooking potato crisps in a large pan of boiling oil, scooping them out, tossing in a little salt and a newspaper-bag-full cost just a few rupees and were delicious and as the Heavens opened I caught a rickshaw back up the hill having had a shopping trip in a million.

I have returned to India many times and it never fails to amaze me.  Every day is an adventure.