On occasion one may sense a genuine sincerity from the multitudes of infinite jabber excreted from these Indians, and one must act accordingly when this is found. A simple three-minute gab is all one must endure before chai is posed, and the docile little shop boy shouts away towards some unknown fountain of infinite chai. But it is by this custom of habitual chai tea breaks, that one may witness the workspace and dwellings of India's working class.
A common stroll through Udaipur's tourist district (distinguishable by its English signs and lack of actual Indian patrons) affords one multitudes of 'friendly' encounters. One may simply edge a toe past the threshold and a man will tear through his methodized towers of merchandise, turning the hall of records into the rubble of Babylon, to afford a meager pittance. But while he gallivants through his petty abode you will already have received your chai and are well on your way to studying up the place.
These boutiques are multiform and considerably irregular in size, from no greater than a man’s closet, to a full-blown American retail outlet, although the latter exists only in the stateliest of bazaars. Strangely, they are the most formulated, methodically arranged spaces for their cause. No such space shall be unoccupied; floor to ceiling, nook to cranny, essentially every space is a superb location for merchandise. And if by chance there is an inch of wonderfully bare floor, let us call it a workshop and we shall perform our duties amidst it.
These shopkeepers no doubt are appalled by a commute, for every one I have the pleasure to acquaint could throw a stone through his bedroom window from the porch of his emporium. Most commonly located one street hither in any direction, their homes are modest to say the least, as no brass plaques shine the words "Naseer Kumar, owner of Taj Fine Textiles." Their homes are tightly fettered and sliced by narrow paths which they have the audacity to call streets.
While spelunking through these cavernous alleyways I came upon a familiar face from a shop I had just previously patronized. His expression was sincere and thus worthy of my attention, and the bromidic tea offering was commenced and I willingly accepted.
The "front room" was 10 x 12 x 8 with a table, sewing machine, and other common clutter sprung throughout. The concrete floor was denuded and squalid, while the walls were two scores short for their centennial patching and painting. He expressed to me that this space was hardly utilized, though I imagine he meant only by humans. The bedroom emulated the front room in scale and milieu, though lacked any resemblance of natural lighting. There were two beds occupying either side of the room, one for his father, one for himself, and a blanket on the floor between them marked the bed where his poor mother slept. There was, but one wardrobe with a padlock affixed to it where the families' treasures are kept. Both the bathroom and kitchen were accessible through a common stairwell to which I am coerced to believe is the only access to the units above.
The bathroom was dainty and direct in nature, and I have seen Winnabegos with more counter space than the closet he cooks in. A meager stove top and fridge were all that was warranted in this micro kitchen, and a new tank of propane is deposited on schedule or when the flame burns low. The power outlets throughout the house were all quite functional, though when one observes the means and methods by which it jaunts through this urban jungle, one can understand its irregularity.
We drank our tea in the bedroom, which was the only room with furniture proper enough for such an occasion. I asked him how many girlfriends he had, (a question I commonly receive from Indians) and he iterated his divine trust in his parents to choose a woman for him, who would eventually occupy this home as well.
The rent per month for his abode is 2,000 rupees or ~40 US dollars. I bought a shirt from his landlord.
The Micro Kitchen
Methodical madness in the tourist district
A Common Dwelling
The quaint abode of a shopkeeper
It is astounding there is power at all
An Indo Inquisition is a thirteen-week train expedition across India. The journey will document the influences of international modernism and British occupation, as well as compare the effects of wealth accumulation, culture, religion, and poverty with economic growth and their effect on the built environment.