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Life in Udvada has always revolved around the Iranshah atash-bahram. Today, Udvada is still populated by the priests from the original nine families who have the hereditary right to tend the sacred fire, and hotel owners who cater to the pilgrims from Bombay. Mostly everybody here is old. The young have deserted its dusty streets and gone to Bombay.

Ratanshah Katila, my grandfathers' cousin, was born, lived and died here. Though he was a priest, and orthodox in his religious beliefs (he lived without electricity all his life), he was also widely and well-read and had once traveled all around Europe and America. He also, to his dying day, refused to believe that the Americans could ever have gone to the moon.

As children when we visited Udvada, one of the highlights of our trip was sitting with Ratanshah on his swing and winding him up to tell us what he thought of the moon landing feat...

Ratanshah Katila on his porch

Ratanshah Katila on his porch. Udvada, Gujarat 1984.

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Chapter 5: The Village
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