Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Journal

Distant Jaipur

March 12, 2010 by Richard Wright in Journal, Life

It’s been two weeks (sorry, bad blogger), but Jaipur seems a very long time ago.  It’s the first city in India we’ve really ventured to, New Delhi aside, and it kept us marvellously entertained for the three days we were there.  Jaipur and Delhi, despite both being bustling, crowded cities, feel like chalk and cheese.  As New Delhi loses its sense of identity in the rush to become a sprawling western city-clone, Jaipur has maintained an essential and indefinable Indianess.  When you imagine a modern Indian city, where development sits side-by-side with the old places, and cows and monkeys wander the streets beneath clear skies and a blazing sun, you’re probably thinking of Jaipur whether you know it or not.

We set off from Delhi early in the morning, and were reminded while navigating the train station that when an Indian tries to be helpful, even when they don’t actually want anything in return, they’re just making things more complicated.  Although we knew which platform we were going to and had tickets in hand, we still managed to get misdirected and sidelined, and got on the actual train with seconds to spare before it left.  We travelled coach class, which is one down from first, and it’s a pretty comfortable way to go.  Tea is served several times, and breakfast is presented en route.  It’s more like airline service than a train, and makes the miles pass pretty quickly.

Four and a half hours later, we were in Jaipur.  The air was clear, and the temperature was in the mid-thirties.  With an afternoon to kill, we took a car down to the Pink City, the old centre of Jaipur, which should more properly be called the Terracotta Salmon City, but was very pretty nevertheless.  Our wanderings took us into the City Palace, a massive sprawl that takes up a seventh of the old city.  There was an illegal snake charmer with a proper cobra, veiled dancing men pretending to be veiled dancing women, and regally attired palace guards who encouraged us to have pictures taken with them, and then demanded a tip for the privilege.  Got to love India.

Day two took us to the desert town of Amer, and a massive desert fort that looked like this:

: but moreso.  It took a long time to get round, and eventually you have to conclude that once you’ve seen one dusty corridor that wouldn’t be out of place in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you’ve probably seen them all.  Spectacular viewing though, and being so high, gave us some stunning views.

Our last day in Jaipur was Holi, the festival of colour.  We were strongly advised to stay off the streets.  At Holi, Indian’s get drunk, and cover each other with paint.  If you’re on the street, you’re assumed to be game.  Initially, we did stick to the hotel, but boredom, and my wife’s peculiar urge to buy a hand stitched bedcover featuring elephants, eventually saw us hail a tuk-tuk (who has, he was delighted to tell us, set up his own website at www.supersalim.com, and actually does introduce himself as ‘Super Salim’).  We got out in the city centre.  Before the tuk-tuk had even pulled away, we were surrounded by slightly sozzled Indians determined to make us multicolured, in deference to the end of the winter and the start opf spring.  We all got covered (the paint is powdered, and fortunately seems to wash off, if you’re persistent), and lasted about twenty minutes (and one over priced bed spread), before having to hail a taxi and escape to the hotel.  Great fun, nevertheless, and without a six year old, we might well have stayed out longer.

A great weekend.  If you’re ever in the area, give it a whirl.

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