The beauty of my experience heightened while helping locals in the raw Indian countryside outside of Udaipur, Rajahstan, as magic hour paints the cream landscape to a burnt orange like that of a perfect crème brulee…
The more I get to know these warm-hearted village people, the more I come to realise they’re happy with their simple way of life. It’s not a matter of starvation or lack of education – common problems for many less fortunate. The locals of Peepliya somewhat get by with farm produce, while children attend a nearby school taught by casual teachers. Clothes are also donated in stacks. But limited wealth means an unhealthy lifestyle and little to no medical resources. When they fall sick, it’s much harder to recover.
According to Jitu, it costs 3,500 Rupees to hire a doctor to visit the village once a month to provide basic check-ups and obtain required medication, which isn’t much at all. Although he expects nothing of guests at family-run Pleasure Guesthouse, you can make contributions however small or creative you like. The explorers before me – a New Zealander nurse and two Germans who frequently help on the move – created a scrapbook to show future visitors photos of their tear-jerking experience (you’ll find my signature in it too). There’s also a donation box set up for travellers to leave behind no longer needed practical items that can be sent off.
A radiant 60-year-old woman presented me tea in traditional Indian manner – too sweet, but I must accept. It was the sugar hit I needed to trek through a small farm past more dingy huts up towards a mountain peak.
“Why are some of these empty?” I asked.
“Sometimes children run away.”
“To be together. A boy and girl from the same village can not because they are seen like brother and sister. You must marry from a different village.”
We reached a roofless, run down community temple and I was taken away. Taking a long deep breath of soft warm wind, I felt ever so grateful of my 360 degree view – a different perspective of Udaipur, from the outside in.
“Why all of this, Jitu?”
“I was always unhappy and so lost in life. Business was not good for many, many years. I never make the effort. But I woke up one morning and decided to be a happy person. Then suddenly, my guests are happy too. Then people around the world started to be so good to me at Pleasure Guesthouse – they helped me set up online booking! Then I thought oh man, good people good to me, so I must be good to others too.”
In India, Jitu is one in a million billions.
Enjoy Part 2 of my photo diary, and if you haven’t already check out Part 1.
Details on how you can partake on this authentic India experience and lend a helping hand while travelling to Udaipur, as well as must-read tips and what to expect, is at the bottom of the page.
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These full day (up to 7 hours) unofficial tours to Peepliya cost anywhere between 600-1400 Rupees per person, depending on whether you jump on Jitu’s motorcycle, have your own motorcycle to follow him or travel in a tuk tuk with a group. This includes purchasing biscuits to gift the children, lunch, a small donation to the family and transportation. Negotiate the price before leaving.
I call this an “unofficial tour” because this isn’t a formally registered tour. See this as a day out with a mate – Jitu – and becoming acquainted with new friends – the locals! The itinerary and cost of these “tours” can be negotiated. On previous occasions, Jitu has even organised group sleepovers due to guests’ request as they adored spending time with the village people so much. It’s up to you whether you’d like to experience it solo like myself or perhaps enjoy the ride with your fellow travellers from the guesthouse.
Pleasure Guesthouse is a basic family-run accommodation in central Udaipur, a minute walk from Jagdish Temple, 500m from the City Palance and a 10-minute walk from a beautiful sunset on a mountain peak. Expect budget, no-frills facilities (squat toilet) but a colourful courtyard and rooftop overlooking the city skyline to meet people. The main point of difference is the eccentric man Jitu himself, a keen bean in ensuring you’re having a good time.
The road less travelled to Peepliya, no more than 1 hour from Udaipur.
HOW TO BOOK
- When staying at Pleasure Guesthouse, agree the price before receiving services and partaking in activities such as these tours, cooking classes, laundry, food and drinks. Remember to check your final bill in detail. I had zero issues but when speaking to other guests, although we all had a great time, some were disappointed about little transparency in costs. Please don’t take this to heart – Jitu and his family are lovely, just avoid problems by making sure you know what you’re getting yourself into (you’ll learn how to better deal with this sort of stuff the more you travel in India).
- Think how else you can help contribute to the village. You can bring children’s toys, books or stationery. Or perhaps you can come up with a new way for future guests to contribute. We can’t save the world individually, but collectively we can make a difference.
- Don’t give a large cash donation to the families. The goal of this journey is to not have travellers give the poor free money. We don’t want them becoming used to it, but rather search for different ways to enrich their lives – in this instance, their health.
WHAT TO EXPECT
- A rewarding heart-warming experience with locals. These village people are incredibly friendly and Jitu will do his best to help translate conversations for you. Open up and play with the children, ask questions, learn about their culture. Discover a different meaning to life fulfilment.
- Unforgettable landscapes… and sights that might be shocking. If seeing a man get a little high on a pipe or a few unclothed children running about isn’t your thing, then maybe have a think about joining. But I assure you this is a respectful community that will welcome you with open arms. Hey, an authentic experience awaits.
- D&Ms with one of the most interesting characters you’ll ever meet. Some of my most memorable conversations to date were with Jitu on his rooftop.