Udaipur: In Search of an ATM.

I am walking through the tranquil streets of Ambamata and Malla Talai, looking around and taking in the ambience of the environment as I search for an ATM. I’d like to withdraw some money.

The air here in Udaipur is humid. More humid than in Lagos. Strange. For some reason I thought Lagos (or Nigeria) was as humid as it could get anywhere. Strange. I stepped out of the airport and was surprised at how dense the air was to breathe in.

That’s one of the ways I realize I’m in a more humid place. I step out of the airport (sometimes the plane) and I have to consciously adjust my breathing.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be playing pool with a friendly Indian guy I’ll meet in the common room of Zostel– an Indian network of backpacker hostels.

He’ll tell me that Udaipur is in some sort of a climate bubble- and that in spite of how humid it is right now, it’s surrounded by a desert just outside the mountain range that encircles the city.

Hm. Interesting.

He’ll be teaching me the basics of playing the game of pool, remarking humorously that he should probably have spent more time studying in college and less time playing pool. That his life would be considerably different if he had.

Hahaha.

Life and decisions and questions, and that tendency to wonder how different your life would be if you had made some decisions differently in the past. Especially when some people are of the opinion that maybe you didn’t make the best decisions. Even if you disagree with them, their concerns still make you ask questions sometimes.

Honestly I feel like that’s everyone’s situation – to some extent at least.

At the back of my mind, I’ll be marvelling at this subtle jesting awareness of the fact that I have somehow become of the pool-playing age.

I have generally always thought of pool as a game played by older people – by full grown men whose idea of fun was walking around a green table and having full grown men conversations, because they felt too mature to dance and let their hair down.

Yet there I was, being effortlessly inducted into the rituals of pool playing.

I’m definitely in the pool-playing age range now. Haha.


I’m still walking around Malla Talai.

I’m yet to find an ATM. Google Maps says there should be a number around here. I’m just yet to find them.

A tall Indian man is walking in my direction. He has a necklace of bright yellow marigold flowers around his neck. I’ll see marigold flowers like everywhere I go here in India. They are so abundantly prevalent.

The tall Indian man has a red bindi on his forehead.

Hm, hopefully he can let me know where a nearby ATM is.

“Hello? Hello Sir?”

He stops to look at me.

I ask where I can find an ATM nearby.

He says I need to return to the main road. And then branch right. That there are a number of ATMs along that route.

He says there are no ATMs along this road. That I’m in a temple.

Wait what? Temple?

I had no idea. I recall that when I branched into this path, I noticed a number of people dressed in bright red yellow and orange colours, with strings of marigolds around their bodies. There is also the sound of singing and musical instruments coming from further down the road.

I had no idea all of that meant I was in a temple. The sign was in Hindi so I could’t read it.

I thank the tall Indian man, and turn around.

Hah. Look at me. Searching for an ATM in a temple. Haha.


I am at a Bank of Baroda ATM. The logo is bright yellow/orange, almost like the colour of the orange marigolds that seem to be everywhere in this place.

I bring my debit cards out of my wallet.

I have a good feeling about this one.

I’ve tried to withdraw at about three different ATMs along this road, with no success. So far, they’ve all just been giving me ambiguous errors.

It is my first time in India. I have no prior experience with the banks here. Given that, the expectations I have for my experience with an ATM machine is based on the most random things:

Oh I like the colour of their logo. Hm. This one should work.

Hahahaha.

I try the first ATM card.

Random error.

Ah. Bank of Baroda. With the bright orange logo. Why you fucking me up like this.

I try it again.

Different random error.

I try the second card.

Random error.

I try another machine. I try to withdraw a different amount.

Random error.

Okay now I’m beginning to get actually concerned.

How do I withdraw money in this place if my debit cards do not work at the ATMs?


It’s getting dark. I should get back to the hotel.

If it gets completely dark, I doubt I’ll be able to find my way back without becoming even more frustrated than I already am.

And I do not have any cash for public transportation.

Okay. I should get back.

Thanks to the conference organisers, I have one more expense-paid night at Radisson Blu. I haven’t begun to need money yet.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’ll figure this out.


Image: Somewhere in Udaipur.

Rainy Night in Rajasthan.

I don’t understand your relationship. I do not understand you guys at all.

Like, at all.

It’s like 1 AM. Or 1:30 AM. Thereabouts.

We’re sitting at a table in a dimly-lit restaurant.

It’s this strange open-air restaurant that looks like someone set up chairs, tables and a kitchen in a roadside space intended for a fire station.

Is it still raining? I’m not sure. We’re sitting next to a concrete wall on one end, so I don’t hear anything to my right. Around me to my left, there are voices of people chattering in Hindi. Or maybe Rajasthani, I’m not sure.

There are Indian voices here and there. Someone exchanging pleasantries with the cashier at the entrance. Groups of Indian guys discussing in a local language. A waiter yelling details of an order at the guy making food in the kitchen.

I’m low-key wondering why this otherwise normal-seeming restaurant is open and is this active at 1:30 AM, but right now that’s just one of the things that feel strange.


I’m munching on my bowl of Pulav.

I think the bowl is weird. It seems like stainless steel, but the thickness feels strange to me. It feels like it was made out of the exact same sheet of metal as a bunch of stainless steel spoons. I’m not sure how exactly to explain it. The metal just feels the way a steel spoon or a fork does in your hand.

It’s strange. I feel like I’m eating from a bowl that really should be a number of spoons.

Very strange.

He responds to my comment on his relationship.

“Yeah- when it comes to money, that’s a different matter. We think of things differently when money is involved.”

I’m still pretty perplexed.


About an hour ago we were at their lodging in Old City – in more central Udaipur.

He was telling me about how his Kenyan girlfriend could get pretty possessive of him. Not wanting him to get too close to Indian girls. Apparently he was still sneaking around though – he said someone still gave him her number earlier in the evening. An Indian girl. That he had to save it under a male-looking name, or something like that. To throw off suspicion.

About thirty minutes later we were standing outside Glanza– a nightclub/bar on the outskirts of Udaipur. We were both very drenched from riding on his moped through the unexpected rain – giddy from jumping up in the air when we hit speed-bumps on the highway. Speed-bumps we could barely see coming through the blinding army of stinging raindrops that assaulted us.

We were standing in a more enclosed area, drying ourselves out and getting some respite from the downpour. He was telling me about some drug-dealing trouble he got in, back in Jaipur.

He said people did different things to earn money. He said there are a good number of married Indian women who aren’t sexually satisfied in their marriages. And so they pay younger men to have sex with them. He said he did that every now and then, and that it paid well. That they really liked black guys. He said there was even an app for it.

In my head I was like Okay, don’t even bother telling me the name of the app pls. That’s enough info right there, thank you very much hah.

I personally prefer more fulfilling and inspiring ways of earning money.

It just seemed strange to me that his possessive girlfriend who always tried to keep him away from Indian girls, was fine with him having sex with older Indian women for money.

“Yeah, she knows about it. She’s okay with it.”

Hm.

I heard what he said, but it did not make sense to me.


He was on a call about five minutes ago. We were sipping on beers, waiting for our food to be ready.

I was in a conversation with someone a few days ago who mentioned something I found very interesting. He said a good number of Indians enrolled in PhD programs in public Indian universities, just for the accommodation. He said tuition in government universities was so subsidized, that people enrolled in Doctorate programs just so they would have a place to stay while they worked on something else – possibly studying for International exams so they could travel out of the country. They wouldn’t attend class, nothing. Just make use of the school lodging. And he said it was normal. That even some of the lecturers had done that.

I thought that was really interesting, and I brought it up while we waited for the food. He just completed his Master’s degree at a private university here in India. He came from Nigeria for school. I was curious if people also did that stuff at private universities, or if there was some other variant of it there.

We were discussing that, when the call came in.

He answered his phone. It was his girlfriend.

When we headed out for food and beers about an hour ago, she said she was going to a nightclub.

She was now calling him from the club.

Oh. He’s asking for that? Tell him he’s going to have to pay extra for that.

Hm. I’m not sure what “he” is asking for. I’m not sure what “that” is.

But I have an idea.

Someone at the nightclub is requesting for paid sexual activity with her. She’s calling her boyfriend for negotiation advice.

They discuss on the phone a bit more, and then the call ends when they come to some sort of an agreement on what to do.

Our food is here now.

I’m munching on my Pulav, scooping up interesting spoons of rice and vegetables from the strange steel bowl that should be spoons.

He’s sitting across the table from me, munching on some unrecognisable Indian dish. Hearing my perspective on their relationship.

I do not understand you guys at all.

Like, at all.


Image: Somewhere in Udaipur.