Jodhpur, home of riding trousers
Trip Start Oct 10, 2007
78Trip End Jun 26, 2008
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I've just logged on to check some emails and I get news headlines as I'm doing so. Am intrigued by "Paris Hilton retracts elephant story", but sadly have no time to investigate further. The mind boggles though.
We arrived here from dusty Jaisalmer on Tuesday night, the train only being an hour late, and the lovely Mr Govind remembered us (well, Andy, doesn't know me from Adam as seems to be the way here) and put us in a much larger room. This has in reality meant more room for mosquitoes to attack but it was a nice thought and much appreciated as I was still feeling under the weather, all bunged up and flu-like. The décor of the hotel leaves a bit to be desired, someone has been watching Changing Room re-runs on a black and white television, and have then garnered all their colour-blind skills into producing a kaleidoscope of colours in each room, such that our bedroom is bright red, garish yellow and muted salmon pink all at once, whilst the bathroom is classic tiling circa 1972, with a sink precariously grouted into the corner with Wrigleys chewing gum
Yesterday was spent mainly recovering in the fan-assisted cool of the room, with occasional forays out for lemon tea and a bit of food. We also found a really good book store, I got William Dalrymple's 'City of Djinns' about his experience of a year in Delhi, which is a great read. Andy rather aqmbitiously purchased James Joyce's 'Ulysses', despite the rows of Sidney Sheldon in front of him, so that's him out of action for 6 months.
We were woken on that first morning by an almighty boom, followed by the sound of nearby shattering glass, then a calm which I interupted by sitting bolt upright in bed and yelling "My God!', gripping Andy's arm tightly. I rushed out of bed to the window, as he rolled over grumpily, moaning 'what? Whaaat?' A couple of buildings away over the rooftops I watched a large plume of smoke roll up into the dawn sky, and below that quite a fire blazed, so I thought I should get us up before the next bomb hit slightly further to the left (ie. on us) and we trotted up to the rooftop to survey the damage. We couldn't see much, it only being 5am and not quite light, but evidently we weren't under any immediate attack, so went back to bed. Later that morning, Andy got chatting to Mr Govind, who advised him that the exploded building was actually a gun factory
Today we have visited Jodhpur Fort, which is perched high up on the surrounding hillside looking out imposingly over the blue-washed old city below. We're not really the sightseeing kind, but it's the best example of its kind in Rajasthan and we were really impressed. For a start it wasn't swamped in shops selling tat, the Maharaja, in moving with the times and opening the place out to the public, has done so with integrity and style. The price of entry included a brilliant audio-tour, so we buzzed around from point to point in our headphones, listening intently to the story of the Fort unfold, and cooing over vicous-looking swords and rooms still adorned with jewels and gold (clearly the British couldn't be arsed to turn it into an Officers Mess!). The narrator was an Indian gent and very well-spoken, we learnt later that he was a cousin of the current Maharaja, who himself resides in a Palace across the valley
We have also tackled the postal system here for the first time. A birthday card today was scrutinized suspiciously at the counter, where I was grudgingly informed it was 24 rupees to post, so I purchased the necessary stamps. I was then advised to go to another counter to get the card weighed, so i duly waited in line and was finally informed it would cost 28 rupees to send, so was then dispatched back to the initial counter to purchase another 4 rupee stamp to add to the ones already purchased. Such is the way of things here; every time we check into a hotel there is a 20 minute rigmarole of form-filling and ledger-signing and counter-signing before we're allowed to our room; we have noticed that Indian people in general seem to have infinite reserves of patience, for instance the train delays here which stretch into hours if not days and have me a shouty, teary wreck at times are, to them, a nice excuse to plop back down on a blanket and enjoy another picnic and a nap.
Andy left me resting in the room yesterday (no Shah Ruk Khan spotting though, as the explosion in the gun factory has taken out the cable link, which, if an act of terrorism, is fiendishly cunning!), to post a simple package or two; i'll let him explain how this went!
Yep, the act of parcel sending here is something of an art involving lots of different people with different tasks
Once the parcels were all wrapped up I was sent to Counter 4 in the GPO for custom forms. Counter 4 was on his tea break; I was referred to Counter 11. Counter 11 was counting money so gestured me down to Counter 8. Counter 8 wasn't on forms so passed me down to Counter 7.
The packages complete, the forms were filled in then a boy sent over the road to obtain four copies of each form. More chai. Raj let me in on a secret - he'd taken a liking to me so was going to help me through the process; he would also make sure I was only charged surface mail prices however, with a bribe to his friend in the back office, the parcels would be "accidentally" popped into the wrong mailbag and be sent airmail. He would also take me straight to the back office skipping the massive queues in the main foyer.
Excessive paperwork, corruption and queue jumping - generally I hate all these things but Raj lent an air of mystery and excitement with repeated gestures' nose taps, head waggles, "schnic-shnuc" noises (to denote the bag-swapping) were all in abundance.
Once complete, Raj collected the bribe/admin fee and we had more chai. He let me in on another secret - he could obtain, here in Jodhpur, the finest Afghanistani charras known to man. Lovely fellow but dodgy as you like; I'm pretty sure had I taken him up on his generous offer I would've been relieved of a considerable number of rupees. I settled for a lump of his paan (tastes like incense and requires much spitting - great fun) and we parted company.
It was another great experience; the most mundane things can be transformed into acts of collusion and secrecy whereas ruins or landmarks centuries old are dismissed with a wave of the hand. The contradictor nature of things keeps you constantly intrigued.
Anyway, thanks for reading and keep the emails coming - sorry we don't send many personal replies but these blogs take up lots of time what with slow internet connections and such. Love to all,