Panning for gold from a city sewer
These two chaps have dammed the open sewer in a quiet street just around the corner from the gold district and are panning for valuable metals. Extraordinary sight in the middle of an old city and they weren't too happy to be photographed as it is probably illegal. Anyway they were happy to show me the gold grains shining in their pans and bits of wire that were black but probably silver - what a sordid way to make a living.
I saw it! I saw and photographed it too – THE CROCODILE! For hours I have sat morning and evening with an eye on his island home. This morning I spent two hours reading and waiting for him to get going but he'd obviously been out on the tiles and hadn't returned home to sleep. This afternoon he was basking in some water hyacinth leaves in the neighbouring lake – unfortunately at the limit of my zoom, but I can tell it's him...he's at least 10 feet long, maybe more.
Yusuf collected me at 9 to take me home for breakfast and to start the preparations for making a fruit cake. Boiled tea leaves and soaked some of the fruits in tea ready for tomorrow. Afterwards I again strolled round the old city finding so many things being manufactured in weeny little workshops. In a 'hole' under a small shrine there was a man making and selling tea so I had a glass of his marsala chai. Then I saw some wooden snakes on a balcony 5 stories up and just had to ask the scooter mechanic down below what they were. He led me into his one room on each floor house and introduced me to his father who sat cross legged on his bed on the third floor with dark glasses on even though the room was dark. He is diabetic and had just had a lens transplant but he told me that on the top floor was his wood collection of 40 years. So we climbed on up to find not only were there snakes but every other imaginable animal, bird and fish too - all 'drift wood' found in the forests and hills around landlocked Udaipur. Then I spent an hour with an old friend having another chai in his photographic shop. I used to see him most days when I lived just round the corner years ago and would give him a rupee for luck in the morning if he hadn't had any business. This he would put to his forehead and then his lips to bless before placing it in his drawer. Today I couldn't leave without giving him rupees too – 800 (just over £8) – for a lightweight tripod (my first so I hope it improves my photos of birds particularly).
Then at 4p.m. Yusuf collected me to go and see some birds just outside the city limits in farmland. His brother had just phoned and said the crocodile was in the next lake so there we sped. We joined up with two other men on their motorbike and zoomed off together to watch hornbills, cuckoos, yellow footed green pigeons (actually their breasts were bright yellow and their feet orange), mynah birds, black hummingbirds, drongos, bee eaters, sunbirds, fantails, Daphne birds, tweeters, bullbulls, you name it who were in a large bodhi tree eating the little red fruits. Both the other men were hunters (only for food to eat) and I couldn't understand why they shot the rare yellow pigeon when their house and roof was alive with common pigeons which would be just as tasty and easier to shoot. But today his eye wasn't in and he missed. On the roof was a dear little pregnant striped squirrel who had found the cloth tail of a kite and was desperately trying to stuff her mouth with some of it for bedding. However it was still tied to the kite and she had to drag that along till it got caught in some wood and the tail snapped off and she could leap away with her treasure.
The day finished with me taking the family out to eat in a rather huge posh diner near the station. We climbed to the very busy 'pure veg' restaurant on the first floor and found a large table with huge metal dish containing a napkin, large tea spoon and 7 little dishes at each place setting. As we sat down 6 waiters advanced on us, 3 had 4 dishes hanging on a center handle and they ladled out their contents into our bowls and around our plate. The other 3 had dishes of chapattis, sauces and chutneys. Other waiters took their place and gave us a beaker of water and another of delicious buttermilk so that the feast could begin. As we ate all the dishes were offered again and again – we had 16 or 17 different things on our plate and just before we finished a steaming bowl of rice appeared which was too late to try. As the last one licked their fingers a waiter snatched the trays away, a wide mop was passed under the table through our feet, the table was wiped clean and as we slid out of our chairs 6 others slid into them. A fascinating experience, so noisy conversation was impossible and not expected either and strangely throughout all I could hear was music from Cats being played. We all ate copious amounts and the total for 5 was just under £10! Will sleep well tonight.