Jaipur - Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Raj Mandir cinema and the thing about beggars
Jaipur Travel Blog› entry 4 of 26 › view all entries
Jaipur, âthe pink cityâ, city of 2.5 million souls, capital of Rajasthan and gateway to the state. For many short-time visitors to India, Jaipur is merely a stop on the âGolden Triangleâ. For me, it was an introduction into experiencing Indian city life, the first contact with palaces and forts and its typical architecture. Likewise, it was a first encounter with the social consciousness faced when in India and a meeting that was to define some of my perceptions of India and its people.
In the morning, I walk towards Mirza Ismail Road (MI Road) in search of a different hostel and find one at the Chameliwala Market, the Hotel Pink Sun, where I get a half-decent room for 250 Rs.
Around noon I take a cycle rickshaw to the Hawa Mahal, the âPalace of the Windsâ. It was built in 1799 by some chap called Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh who apparently had a big harem and therefore built this palace for his numerous ladies, so that they could look through one of the 953 casements down onto the street to watch processions without being seen. The word hawa means wind or cool air and sure enough, the many windows and small holes in the pink sandstone facade allow the air to rush through, providing a fresh and pleasant breeze.
The striking beauty of the Hawa Mahal is fully revealed from the street outside. From here it stands proud and - like a pyramidal shaped monument - rises to a height of 15 meters. Set against a perfectly blue sky, the sandstone coloured five-storied wall looks impressive from the opposite side of the street and delicate from close up with all its miniature windows, grills, finials and domes. It also brings to mind the honeycomb web of a beehive with small portholes. For the best views it is a good idea to accept âinvitationsâ from shop owners on the upper floors across the street.
A cow stands in the middle of the road, seemingly oblivious of the rush of traffic around it. ItÂ´s just standing there without moving despite the honking. It is chewing something with pleasure, its eyes half closed as if in meditation. Is an Indian cow the opposite of a tourist in India? A cow is mostly left alone and worshipped for religious reasons, a tourist is never left alone and worshipped for monetary reasons.
After the Hawa Mahal I walk to the near City Palace, which is set in the centre of Jaipur and surrounded by high walls. After paying the entrance fee and picking up the audio guide, I enter the complex through the main gate into a large courtyard with the Mubarak Mahal at the centre. Inside it are textiles and costumes of which the wedding outfits are especially interesting, some musical instruments and toys. In one corner of the courtyard is a small museum with loads of armoury but - unless youÂ´re really into pistols, swords, rifles and the like - itÂ´s rather boring. In the next courtyard, called Diwan-i-Khas, are two silver urns which are said to be the largest pieces of silver in the world. These two 309-kg heavy urns were used to carry Ganga water all the way to England when the âhumbleâ maharaja Sawai Madho Singh visited Queen Victoria.
After the City Palace, I decide to roam around the city for a bit, intentionally getting lost, past many shops protected from the sun by pink arcades. Fruit sellers display their goods on the street for sale: piles of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, chilis, etc. A guy approaches me, asking the usual stuff and recommending his jewelery shop to me but once he notices that IÂ´m not going to visit his shop, he stops his IÂ´m-trying-to-sell-you-stuff-kinda-talk and switches to a calm manner, smokes a cigarette with me and recommends things to do in Jaipur.
In the evening I decide to watch a movie at the Raj Mandir cinema, which is one of the best known cinemas in India. The movie showing tonight is âMy name is Khanâ with the famous actor Shah Rukh Khan in the lead role. The interior of the cinema is beautiful, with a large foyer that has chandeliers on the high ceiling. In the auditorium - which holds about 1 300 people (!) - seating is provided in stalls and balcony areas. Watching a movie in India is quite an experience because, unlike in other countries, the Indian audience cheers and howls and claps when they like a certain scene, which makes a great atmosphere.
âRizwan Khan, a Muslim from the Borivali section of Mumbai, suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism that complicates socialization.
After the movie IÂ´m starving, so I walk along MI Road to look for somewhere to eat and find a small place called Lassiwala, where I take a seat and, my hands shaking with hunger, I order three samosas, some potato dumplings and a mango lassi. ItÂ´s all very delicious and ridiculously cheap, like one samosa costs only 7 Rs (âŹ 0.
Outside of Lassiwala I see a woman with her child begging for money, which involuntarily makes me think about the poor and poverty in general. The question âDo you give to beggars?â is a very difficult one. There is a good forum about it here on travbuddy: www.travbuddy.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=18036&p=1
Personally, I would never give them money because I would never know if they will really use it for food or some dubious other purpose. Some of them wouldnÂ´t even accept food and want money instead. So how do you know and how do you judge who is a âgenuineâ beggar? How do you know if itÂ´s someone who begs because thatÂ´s his âjobâ and heÂ´s just too lazy to get his / her ass in gear or if itÂ´s someone who simply canÂ´t manage to escape his / her own misery? How do you know whether the begging is not part of some scam? And thereÂ´s this other thing thatÂ´s bothering me: If I give food to someone, then he or she will be happy cause they have something to eat, but what about the next day? They will just go back to begging in the hope that there will be other foreigners who give something.
I guess we can all agree that poverty is always a sad thing to deal with but we cannot really solve it, can we? Poverty is caused by many different things and we cannot solve every single problem. There are so many greedy people out there who knowingly exploit the poor. Sure, you can give a job to someone, but more often than not itÂ´s just about taking advantage of them. Is it a modern form of slavery? Likewise, often there are too many people willing to work but too little jobs to employ them. Sure, one could say that opportunities are all around and that itÂ´s just a matter of decision-making which determines whether or not the door will open and furthermore you could say that someone who doesnÂ´t have any opportunities has merely made bad decisions somewhere in the past.
âGive a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.â (Lao Tzu)