After an early morning 2 hour drive from Salasar ji to Jaipur, we head out as soon as we were checked in, my father’s goal is to ensure I see everything worth seeing by tonight as we fly out early tomorrow morning (groan). We drive through the chaotic, traffic rule annihilated wild wild west town a.k.a Jaipur to the older, grander and if possible more chaotic walled old city. Driving through one of the resplendent, motifed (and annointed with posters of political parties, toothpastes, chappals etc.) gates through Johari Bazaar, Badi and Chhoti Chaupars whizzing past Hawa Mahal and Jal Mahal, we make it physically unscathed but emotionally scarred to Amer Fort, our first destination.
Although it’s just the beginning of February and winter is still the muh-bola (so called) season, I get an inkling of the dry (bone cracking) heat which will settle over the city in the months to come. The Fort itself is bare, milling with ever lowered fee quoting pushy guides and lovers, (stuck inside every arrow slit on the Fort wall which would have greatly compromised the safety of the battlements) and compared to Delhi monuments, very expensive to enter (this belying the India tourism’s “open to all people” credo). However nothing really changes in India and there are Kurkure packets, orange peels, pee stains and other general traces of tourists everywhere you glance. The view albeit hazy with dry translucent smog(?) is spectacular and the old cannon perched atop one of the corners is huge! The interiors are sparse and not that well illustrated, I suspect to prompt tourists to hire the guides. But then who needs signs and boards when you have langurs and camels? ! The monkey is truly one of the most endearing of all animal species. Still wary of their teeth baring vicious sides, I venture as close to them as I dare to attempt some candid photographs. It is unnerving seeing their intelligent eyes sizing you up and that underlying threat of them being able to snatch something off of you (and/or biting your bum) at a moment’s notice. But me loves them!
The drive back to the city from the fort takes us by Kanak Brindavan straight to Jal Mahal where my father chats up young street hawkers with colourful wares and bright smiley eyes(“Do you go to school? Which class are you in?”) and has narial paani whilst I change lens, pretend to not notice the stench of the place and take pictures of the only angle of the palace on offer. I have been lamenting over the fact that we couldn’t get any closer but after the smell methinks we could be further away. Our driver Mr Rajesh of the two shiny oh-so-Rajasthani-male gold earrings informs us that the lake has recently been cleaned and the stench used to be unbearable earlier. Like my trip to Venice just before 2000 when the canals had been cleaned for the millennium festivities, this trip is also blessed it would seem in the water stench department.
Then it is onwards (despite mounting hunger pangs) to the City Palace. I haven’t taken as many pictures of Jaipur on the whole as much as I do of this spot. I even let my father take a picture of me standing before a bouquet arrangement of guns, I’m that smitten. At first glance it’s not so impressive but the more you look, the prettier it gets. It doesn’t have a lot of different things to look at but has immense character in spite of the wedding preparations of some gazillionaire’s progeny going on in the main courtyard. The lil museum showcasing the royal family’s heritage clothes is interesting and educative on styles and fashion, all of which has come back in such a big way but not quite with the same level of understated magnificence. The size of the royal chaugas alarms me no end and I conclude that Rajasthani fare must be quite tasty for the monarch to grow to that size (note to self: google HRH Madhosingh ji)! The armoury likewise is full of awesome weapons and the prettiest daggers (Jade, Ivory and Crystal handled) I have seen!
Unable to overlook the hunger situation anymore we go in search of a suitable non-pure vegetarian restaurant. Since most of the places here close their lunch kitchens by 3 p.m. (what! ?) we head over to the bar (club) below Copper Chimney (well known restaurant chain) and have a nice, much-required meal. Rejuvenated, we embark to the most strenuous part of any traveler’s holiday: shopping. 😐 After a couple of leheriya/bandhej duppattas and the odd multi-coloured bangle (cause I must), we head back to Johari Bazaar to browse (in my father’s shopper manual this is called heavy bargaining for things he doesn’t want to buy to embarrass eye-rolling daughter) and after sitting for hours at one jeweller’s interesting (read: shady) office in Gopal ji ka Rasta, (yes, that’s the name of the jewellery lane, ladies & gents) emit victorious after getting the one thing we decided to buy.
Yawn. Despite the copious cups of diabetes inducing halki meethi chais, I’m knackered beyond belief. Off to my green homeland tomorrow. Can’t wait 😀