As the aircraft descended through a haze of pollution, my first glimpses of Udaipur came into view. White stucco – like buildings dotted the landscape, and the lakes synonymous with the city, sparkled in the early morning light.
Purchasing a pre-paid taxi ticket inside the clean, modern airport, I exited to find drivers waiting to be called to take the fare: a site contrary to what I’d expected. In a very orderly manner, one fellow (who may have been the supervisor) took my ticket then gestured to one of the many drivers. My designated driver nodded respectfully, took my case and motioned for me to follow.
On the 40 minute drive to Animal Aid, the India I had expected presented itself. Horns blared, cows mooched and people jostled with cars, bikes and truck for the same piece of space on roads and paths. It was manic, yet not frightening or confronting. It was India.
After passing through the small city, winding roads that carved through small hills deposited us at the gates of Animal Aid, where a cacophony of animal voices alerted me to the fact we had indeed arrived.
Dogs, donkeys, goats and cows all milled about, some oblivious to my arrival, whilst others inquisitive: sniffing, smooching and seemingly quite interested in finding out just who I was.
A little later in the day, after being warmly welcomed by the family, I wandered around the shelter meeting the many animals whose lives have been transformed by Animal Aid.
Helping to feed a group of calves, I felt a gentle but firm nudge on my left thigh. Expecting to see one of the numerous donkeys who were milling about, I was surprised to find at my side Buff, a baby water buffalo. Roughly the same size as a small cow, Buff was determined to have my attention and let it be known by continually nudging my arm whenever I stopped scratching behind his ear.
Who would have thought after leaving Australia feeling excited and also a little sad at the thought of leaving my beloved family that 48 hours later I would be making friends with a water buffalo?
Afterward as we sat in the garden drinking chilled Pinot Grigio and dining on a delicious lentil curry at twilight serenaded by the sounds of animals, I felt content.
Similar to my departure, my arrival was bittersweet. I do feel content and happy, yet also wish I could share this contentment with my best friends: Stanley, Oscar, Simon & Eddie.
Yes, a bittersweet arrival indeed….