A day in Udvada

At a backlane in Udvada
Ever wanted to travel back in time?

You no longer have to wait for a mad scientist to work on a time machine. All you need to do is pack you bags, dump them in a car and drive about 200 odd KMs to this place called Udvada.

Once you reach there, you are sort of teleported to a different era where the buildings look as old as time itself. In fact the very concept of time seems to be a mirage as it moves so slow that you cant seem to notice the change.

Empty houses line up winding lanes that have more curves than they have on the mountains (except the lane in the pic on the left). Though the houses are replete with signs of life - the odd light bulb is hanging in the porch, the rooms beyond the porch are lit up, allowing light to escape through the tinted glass windows, the reclining chairs are placed strategically at an angle that allows you to gaze at the lane and yet keep you in shade and other such numerous things and yet, and yet you cant see a single person!

Except those two old Parsi uncles - an old man of about 70 and his father, who's may be 90 - that just gaze at other people pass by. Their gaze is as indifferent as if they were looking at a herd of goats clawing at patches of grass on the neighbors' land. May be we are all indeed goats in the larger scheme of things?

Anyhow, so, there is nothing much to do at Udvada except walk the lanes, click pictures, marvel at lavish houses, get astonished at the fact that such a peaceful, rustic, quaint place could house the holiest site for an influential religion. Because all other religious places tend to be a loud celebration of the religion, melee of confusion, dotted by scroungers hoping to find patrons and fat priests, hungrier than the beggars.

Oh I had to talk about this sooner. So, Udvada houses the Atash Behram (the holy fire temple for the Parsis) and is one of just eight such places in the whole of world. Apparently the fire's been burning since 1742 and is the oldest continuously burning fire in the world. The lore goes that the fire is a gathering of 16 types of fires and the Parsis go great lengths to preserve the sanctity of the fire. If you are not a Parsi, you can NOT go in. Tip: No, you cant bribe the guard. And no no no. You can NOT pose as a Parsi and go in to satiate your curiosity.

I am no expert on organized religion but its fascinating to see the extent people push themselves to be able to attach meaning to things that even the modern science has been unable to explain (for example, life and meaning of things).

At Udvada, apart from the holy fire, there is a rocky beach lined with dark soil that is not really inviting. Could be skipped, unless you love sunsets. Or sunrises. Or the number of likes that the photos you click get on Facebook and Twitter. Then there is this huge cricket ground and a football ground that could very well be among the most postcard-picture perfect grounds in the country. Tip: Click a nice one of the ground and you will get more than average likes!

There are a few restaurants that serve authentic Parsi food, which is a delight even to a vegetarian egg-etarian like me (in fact, I am told a Parsi takes his eggs very seriously and an egg is an important part of his cuisine). So do try to have at least one meal at either the Globe or the Ashishwang - we did not go to either - they did not really invite us in.

Not just the restaurants, I got stared down by a lot of other people while I was there. It could be my fault to have intruded in their private place or it could have been my looks. I am not sure but they definitely were not welcoming - which is not a great thing. I was initially confused about uncalled for, unprovoked unfriendly stares but once I got over the confusion and realized that most non-Parsis are greeted similarly, I was ok with it. I have been in more hostile situations and I've been trained to get over the nagging feeling. Tip: Do not enter a who-blinks-first. If however you do, please tell me of the outcome.
To defend the trip as a food-laden experience, we did stop at Atithi and at Ahura en route to Udvada and Mumbai respectively. Both the places have been recommend by Rocky and Mayur of HOMP fame. The egg-cutlet with Salli (potato sticks, grated fine and deep fried) was amazing and I'd never had anything like that ever. VG ate some dishes made with chicken and other animals and the dishes were apparently so delicious that we got them packed for our onward journey. I would've gone back to Atithi and Ahura if I were a foodie. Since these restaurants are commercial establishments, the waiters were nice to us and made the dining experience great, reinforcing my belief that economics is what moves the world! Tip, Google search for Atithi and Ahura before you set off. They are not too tough to miss while you are driving down the well-maintained highway.

To summarise, before I went to Udvada I had my doubts but thanks to VG, I went and I loved it. While I loved to walk through the town and soak in the scenes and smells and sounds and all that, I am not sure if I would want to live there. But I do wish I could go back there with a genuine, authentic Parsi some day and enjoy it like the insiders!

In terms of Experience, the trip was a 4 on 5.

In terms of Accessibility, I'd say 4 on 5. Once you cross the Thane Toll Naka, you are on a national highway (NH 8) and thus is a pretty smooth ride. You have to take a left from a certain point and then the road becomes a State Highway and starts reminding you of Goa. Trees line up the road and sunlight plays hide and seek with you as you drive down the narrow and yet well-laden road.

The Cost has to be a 3 on 5. Affordable. In all, we would've spent about 2000 bucks on fuel, 2000 bucks on eating and a 3000 rupee-a-night resort. Expensive but then, what else do you expect from two old men trying to escape discover life?

Signing off!
Saurabh Garg
31 Jan 2016

P.S.: I went to Udvada on the 23rd of this month with VG. Took me a few days to find time to be able to write this but I am glad I did. Also, I am trying my hands at serious travel writing. Do tell me how to improve. I know I need to add more photos - which I will, next trip on. What else can I improve?

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