Shortly after leaving the Dera Lake View Resort, we passed groups of people reading the morning newspaper which had just been delivered by a man on a motorcycle with a good throwing arm. We take this sight as a hopeful sign that literacy is spreading in India, even to very rural areas like Kalakho.
Jaipur, the pink city, was planned in the 1700s. The old city is laid out in a 3x3 grid with smaller streets inside the grids, and major intersections where the grids meet. All buildings facing the main streets must be painted a terracotta pink by decree dating waaaay back (TMI during that lecture!). The old city is delightfully congested with traffic of all kinds - cars, trucks, buses, tuk-tuks, horse carts, camel carts, bicycles and bicycle carts - vying for their place on the road. Drivers constantly honk and weave in and out but I get no sense that they are being aggressive. They are just trying to go where they need to go and want to let other drivers know where they are.
Shagzil and our new licensed guide, Gopal Singh Gupta, took us across a main street - not once but twice! You can get some idea of the enormity (or perhaps foolhardiness) of this decision if you watch the traffic video. Shagzil told us we had to cross this street to really understand India. :)
Markets line the main street - vegetable, fabric, tailoring, toys, saris, pharmacies - I could go on forever. I saw two shops selling Singer sewing machines that looked like the one my mother used to use. Some vendors are quite assertive, trying to hawk their wares, but most wait for us to approach. We can take their photos if we ask first and then show them the resulting image.
We experienced the "real urban India" this afternoon, going to see Don 2
, a Bollywood version of a James Bond-type film. Actually we only stayed for the first half; we left at intermission 1.5 hours in. There were bits of English spread throughout the movie, but mostly it was in Hindi (no subtitles). Shagzil explained that the story took off from Don 1
, and is essentially a Robin Hood story. Our hero does amazing things including getting arrested and sent to jail so he can concoct a scheme to break his sidekick out before traveling to Berlin and Zurich to bring down two major European bankers who were planning to flood the currency market with counterfeit money. He jumped off 37-story buildings, blew things up, and when we left he was in a tension-filled relationship with a beautiful female police officer who wants to put him away. Popcorn was 50 rupees - $1.00.
Our hotel is across from the Lake Palace. The Palace is being renovated by the government and will eventually open as a hotel and rooftop restaurant so we couldn't visit it. Our hotel is also a five-star luxury hotel. After our two cold nights and mornings in our simple Dera Lake View Resort cabins with their very basic mod cons and unreliable hot water, we all feel we have landed in a little bit of heaven!
Today we travelled from Kalakho to Jaipur, a city of just over 3 million people - not large by Indian standards as Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai have populations around 15 million. But still more than twice the size of greater Vancouver!