Jaipur : Practicing the art of patience in 'The Pink City'
Jaipur Travel Blog› entry 217 of 268 › view all entries
Help! I'm under attack! I'm being strafed by a citywide squadron of 'Indian Helicopters'. Another one swoops in, it's rapidly spinning rusty rotor-spokes kicking street dust up into the air as it comes into land, cutting in dangerously close to block my progress down the street. 'Rickshaw sir? Indian Helicopter. Air conditioned!' the chirpy cycle-rickshaw pedlar... sorry, pilot, chirrups. Indian Helicopters. Cute. Hadn't heard that one before Jaipur. Yes, I may be under attack, but it's okay I beat them back with my 'British Tanks'. The trusty soles of my feet!
Yes, there's no getting away from it.
And with my year long honed PRAT shields (Patience, Resilience And Tolerance) set to full capacity it all boils down to mostly harmless fun, an excuse to practice my terrible Hindi and a sore throat at the end of the day for one of as few words as I.
Besides I am already an adept at delivering that archetypal Indian shimmy of the head - neither a shake nor a nod, but a fusion of the two - that can be interpreted as meaning 'yes', 'no', 'maybe', 'I don't know', 'excellent', 'what?', 'thank you', 'no problem' and many other things depending on... depending on?... well, nothing at all really. Each party just takes their pick and carries on with what they were doing.
Jaipur is a city once contained within but now vastly expanded beyond the sporadic stretches of its famous salmon-pink coloured Old City walls. These and much of its similarly coloured interior architecture garnering it the title of 'The Pink City'. These walls no longer stretch the entire inner city circumference as one would imagine. As with almost all such Old/ New City scenarios the ramparts, in large part have long since been overrun and run down to partial non-existence by a city bursting the 18th Century seams originally stitched by Maharaja Jai Singh II, or just having given up to the naturally corrosive laws of time and age.
Jaipur is a city that teems with the life of the bazaar. It is one grand bazaar. Let alone the arterial rickshaw flood of the main Chandpol Bazaar and Tripolia Bazaar streets that bisect the length of 'The Pink City' West to East, there are Gangauri, Sredeon, Ramganj, Surajpol, Johari, Bapu, Nehru, Kishanpol, Moti Katra and Indra Bazaars to name but.
Make sure you walk 'The Pink City' at length and without plan. The lane of marble carvers; flurries of fine white dust billowing into Khajane Walon ka Rasta from half-finished busts of Ganesha, Hanuman, Nehru and other Gods ancient and new. The hammering and gleaming of the metal wares stores; the seductive smells and less seductive attendant fleets of flies around the stalls of brightly coloured, heavily sugared sweet stalls; stationary sellers (pens and little pads purchased to give out to the Kidz of India instead of the 'Das Rupees, Ten Rupees!' they perpetually pester for); the glitter and sparkle of the bejewelled resin/ plastic and glass bangle sellers; endless shops with their shrink-to-non-existence-the-first-time-you-wash-them T-shirts for tourists; hardware stores; software stalls; the usual plague of mobile phone boutiques (arguably the first piece of silicon-chip era technology to have truly straddled the purchase power gap between Rich and Poor although to what truly positive end for either I remain uncertain.
Big boiling blackened vats of dye bubbling on the pavement, their colours to seep deep into the saris that for me, in these early dust-dowsed days, colour India's face and soul. Dip to the right, off the main road as you head from the externally fascinating Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) towards Sanganeri Gate and you will come across many a covered side street populated by the ad-hoc boutiques piled floor to ceiling with glittering rainbows of folded sari materials just waiting to have their splendours unfurled for all the wonder of the world. The male owners of the shops kneel on the white cotton carpeting of their techni-coloured treasure troves whilst women and young girls (the latter often probably giddy with the prospect of attending or being the star player in a wedding) kneel, lie or sit cross legged, their eyes, smiles and hands fluttering and darting about, stretching out rainbows for their delight, dressed already so fabulously as to appear like a flock of butterflies settled upon a colourfully blooming buddleia tree.
Colour and dust. Already the bi-line that runs under my private movie title ‘Steve’s India Experience : Colour and Dust‘. And as the life of the bazaar spills out onto the roads it is near impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins; where it all blurs and blends. The colours and the dust. All communities and societies of course are living, interacting organisms. Eco-commercial systems. Bodies of humanity. Some reveal more at surface level than others. England is vacuum packed, wrapped in many layers of external garments and the true blood flows lie several fathoms deep if you ever penetrate that far through our relative social, public inhibitions.
The pavement is a part-time sewer is a gutter is a kitchen is a workshop is a chat-stop spot that becomes a street of occasional convenience for a moped before it crumbles to the road (we think) where stand the wooden-wheeled wagons of marigold and other pooja-paraphernalia sellers who stand above the tide wrack wash of ladies (their sari fabrics and colours commingling with the dust once more) and their boys 'n' girls crouched at dirt level, blankets outspread with dust-spattered, exhaust-saturated fruits, nuts and veg for sale, tiny bulbs of garlic being endlessly peeled as they all try not to lose their toes to the wheels of the cycle rickshaws that careen along the road with the autos, cars, cops, bicycles, motorbikes, cows and occasional camel.
As usual I notice I've focussed more on the details of 'the street' rather than say the sights of the city. Apologies. Appraisal of these can be found at the click of an alternative blog I'm sure. I visited a coupla non-descript temples, the intriguing Hawa Mahal, skipped the City Palace on Cost Vs Interest grounds (i.e. it's RS500 /£6 if you're packing a camera and I had little interest anyway) but did head out on the local bus (RS7 / approx 10p each way) to the impressive Amber Fort (RS200/ £2.50 or so) with the Great Wall of China reminiscent stretches of fortified walls snaking all about the hills around and with its small but beautiful interior Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors).
I have many other thoughts of India that start to germinate in my mind whilst in Jaipur but it's far too early a day to just throw them all out at ya and I've taken too much of your time as usual already. It's time to head back away from the madness, the chaos and pestering and importuning of the streets of Jaipur, skirting through a conversation and free chai with Pappu - a nice enough guy but connected to the gem trade by several confusing degrees of separation - to the sanctuary of the Hotel Sugandh Retreat and a cheesy Hindi movie ( Chori Chori Chupke Chupke ) with early era Rani Muckerji and that ubiquitous fake female Bollywood laughter once more the stars.
A chat with Niranjan, the hotel manager. Niranjan apparently relating to the great god Shiva. 'Niranjan Nirakar'. 'Nirakar' : an idea or a thing, he tells me, something unimaginably, inconceivably large. Like the pantheon of Hindu gods perhaps? Like the Universe. Like India maybe? He talks of faithful repeat customers who return to Jaipur and his hotel year after year after year. Obsessed with India. We talk of a 'love for India' and how I too have 'wanted to be here for such a long time!' 'Yes' he concurs 'if one has some interest in the country [ his country] then it is beautiful.
I recall to mind the countless 'India Trauma Victims' as I dubbed them when frequently met trekking in the mountains of Nepal. Virtual day trippers to New Delhi and Varanasi on a blitzkrieg route across to the border and into more sedate Nepal who claimed often literal hatred for the place they stamped I.N.D.I.A, an acronym for 'I'll Never Do India Again' or, for the more biologically unfortunate 'I Nearly Died In Agony.
Niranjan recovers my attention. 'If a country has some sweetness, then it is okay. It can be a good place. Like England too.' he politely states with the usual Indian obeisance to their former colonial 'master' nation. ( Continuing Indian love for Britain and all things British : The World's first recognised case of International Stockholm Syndrome? - Discuss students). I agree 'Yes you have to come to a place with at least some small sum of love in one's heart often or the journey may be lost too soon to negativity.'
My own journey here is yet young. Those who know me know I came here with more than a backpack full of love and interest for India so I'm sure I'll be just fine.
[ Warning : To re-emphasise what you're likely to have read in many of your guidebooks be especially aware of the prevalence of 'import/ export' scammers in Jaipur. Predominantly although not exclusively men claiming to be involved in the gem stone trade and in some way, shape or form in need of your assistance in running or establishing their business in your country... or just selling you hyper-priced cr*p. There will be any number of avenues into the conversation they really desire to have and the truth; the crux of it could be a long while coming.