Monday 8 October 2007


Wala strongly felt that her shawl was on properly and took her time to ensure that she got it right. However, as had happened on numerous occasions before, standing in front of the mirror and shifting it from side to side didn't really produce any changes in its appearance, which in my humble opinion was stunning anyway.

This morning I felt that we shouldn't be wasting time on this ritual, since we were running late for breakfast and for our appointment with our rickshaw driver, who would take us on a tour of Valivade and Kolhapur.

The tour lasted a good four and a half hours, and gave us an excellent opportunity to see the most remote and intimate corners of the two settlements.

Visits to the locations that belong to the Valivade village, in particular, were hidden away and very hard to reach. On several occasions, I thought that the rickshawwould topple over or break in half or get stuck, so steep, rough, and narrow were the paths (they definitely did not qualify as roads) we were travellling on.

The first stop in Valivade was the Christian cemetery, reached by taking a very narrow and busy path, sandwiched between numerous little huts and shops, fillied with people sitting or walking along.

When we got off the rickshaw, our appearance stirred a lot of attention and suddenly a million eyes were on us. The cemetery looked like an unremarkable spot of grassy land, but from the grass a solitary cross emerged.

After much staring and wading through the thick vegetation, we spotted three more crosses and tombs, and snapped a few photoes to prove we were there.

After returning on the rickshaw, we noticed that our film roll was finished, so I proceded to rewind it.When I opened the camera to take the old roll out and load new fim, hell brokeloose.

The film had not been completely rolled back into the roll, which caused much anger and worry about whether all the photoes taken so far had been lost.

Whether all photoes or just the first few in the roll were lost is pure speculation at this point, we will discover the truth when we get the film developed.

However, we couldn't risk not having photoes of the cemetery, so we asked our driver to take us back there. Our second arrival there raised even more attention, and many young boys gathered around us and let us know that they would have liked to be in a picture, so we did.

Next, a bit of misunderstanding between the driver and us meant that we found ourselves back in Kolhapur, where we visited the sites and did some traditional Kolhapuri sandals shopping (with our driver bargaining the price down for us).

Among the sites we visited, of particular notice were:
The temple
the palace with the museum and the stuffed animals
river, people working and washing their clothes, clothes and textile drying on the ground, driver saying that we were americans?

Valivade train station, film roll change, people waiting for train or just sitting on platform, photoes, photo with train zooming past

parking incident, mad shouting between driver and muslim guy trying to charge us for parking there, shouting last a good five minutes, lots of (unintentional) spitting between the two, all over a five rupie charge.

truck pulling out of path in reverse, unloading stuff

satisfied, happy to return to hotel, tipped driver, told reception that he had been great

lunch, Paneer Katai

Next the obligatory "pennichella", or after lunch nap, to recoup some of the energy lost in the emotional and exploratory morning.

Then, we took it to the streets once again on a mission to return to the gardens to get photographic evidence that a Polish memorial monument, adorned by the Polish eagle on top, still stood proud.

We fetched another rickshaw to take us into the heart of town, where we began to wonder more or less aimlessly looking for the perfect souvenir, which we eventually found to be a letter H keyring carved out of wood, a handmade bag depicting elephants, and some incense bearing the effiges of none less than Ganesh and his big elephant head.

We negotiated a ride back to the hotel with a unusually not skinny rickshaw driver, and rested our tired and dusty selves for a couple of hours before enjoying our dinner in the restaurant.

I opted for Chicken Chatpati and Jeera Rice, whereas Wala decided to test the cook's westerner cooking skill by ordering a chicken kiev and fries. The chicken kiev came a bit undone, so after much discussion Wala decided to timidly request that the chicken were cooked a bit longer. The waiter did not grasp the request, and turned to the restaurant manager for help. In the end, by the time the chicken came back well done, Wala had munched on all the fries and was done, but had some of the chicken as to not disappoint.

It had been a mostly revealing day, thanks to the exploration of places of great significance to Wala and her family and thanks to the interaction we had with our hotel hosts, our rickshaw driver, and the people we met in our visits to the sights.