Weddings, Safaris and an Impressive Fort
Another city and another early morning arrival, thankfully our hostel owners Mum woke everyone up by shouting 'Imram, Imram' until her son finally emerged looking as exhausted as us. He let us into our room and we went straight back to sleep. We would have slept right through until mid-morning if it wasn't for a brass band, drums and a raucous crowd who woke us from our slumber. I went to the rooftop, with a bloody good view of the fort, and peered over the balcony. To my delight I saw a group of brightly dressed women in beautiful sari's followed by the band in a procession of smartly matched purple and white outfits and a young man looking very handsome in his traditional marriage attire riding to his wedding on an equally impressive horse. It is wedding season in Rajasthan and since being in Jodhpur we have already seen three wedding processions. The second one was a few days later and I think was after the ceremony, there was a lot of loud music blaring from a hi-fi and the amazing signature Bollywood, bump and grind moves innocently performed by a group of excitable Indian men.
After the rude awakening we went out to explore some of the 'Blue City'. Jodhpur is known as the 'Blue City' and after walking around you can see why. Blue is the chosen colour of the Brahmin caste, the top caste in the Hindu religion and if you were a member of this caste you painted your house blue. Nowadays, thanks to the relaxed attitude to the caste 'regime' anyone can paint their house blue and it has given the buildings and the city a gorgeous appearance. We went to the Clock Tower in the centre where the hub of touts and a make shift market is set up around the shops. Our hostel owner showed us a shop as I wanted to buy myself a Salwar Kameez-a style of traditional Indian dress. I tried on a few options and we ended up leaving the shop with a gorgeous embroidered tapestry but no salwar! I did return and now have a lovely pashmina which is much more useful as I will wear it at home.
The city's skyline is dominated by the Merangarh Fort which impressively rises above the buildings on top of a hill and is a wonderful piece of architecture. On the second day we walked up to the fort and took the very informative audio tour inside the palace and along the fortress walls.
The views across Jodhpur were as good as the fort and the palace/hotel we could see in the distance intrigued as so much that on our return stop from Jaisalmer to Udaipur we took a tuk tuk to marvel at the grandiose that is the Umaid Palace. The palace was brilliant and James especially liked the Majaraja's personal vintage car collection, which housed, among other things, two Rolls Royce's and a Mercedes very similar to James' first car! The only down side to our visit was a guy who wanted to have a photo with us. This is a common occurrence in India and James and I are happy to comply but he started getting a bit over friendly and kept pulling me in for a hug, I was getting very uncomfortable and had to get strict with him when he asked for 'one more photo' and grabbed my hand, instead he had an awkward photo with James, just them shaking hands, while he subtly passed James his entry ticket. This all took place in front of a grotesque pair of stuffed leopards!
We spent a few hours just chilling on the hostel roof as it has a great view of the fort and I made a friend with a young girl called Muskar who lived in the building across the narrow street. Our friendship began as I was peering over the balcony looking at one of the wedding processions. She was doing the same thing across the lane and we engaged in eye contact and smiled. When the procession had made its way further away and the music wasn't so loud she looked up at me again and asked 'pen, chocolate?' I said no, so she asked 'five rupees?' I thought, bloomin' cheeky kid and so I turned it around on her 'pen, pen, pen' I shouted, through a smile. She struck a finger that said just a minute and disappeared into the tiny flat. She arrived a few seconds later with a pen in her hand and motioned that she was going to throw it from her roof, across the lane and onto the roof just below where I was standing. I couldn't believe it; she was giving me one of her pens after I had said no to her. She was so sweet and lovely and we had as much conversation as you can when you don't speak each other's language; just used smiles and hand gestures a lot. In the end, after a lot of throwing back and forth, the total count came to: Me=two of her pens Muskar= one pen, some sweets and British nail stickers I had left over from Kirsty's envelope from the Queens jubilee!
James was having trouble seeing thanks to his long flowing locks. He bit the bullet and decided he would have a haircut. Our hostel owner seemed to have a decent haircut so we asked him for a recommendation. Conveniently the hairdresser was right next door to the Haveli so armed with a photo of his hair just after his previous cut, we entered. Most hairdressers in India are not as glamorous as English ones. This particular hairdresser had a space in the wall, like a cubicle with two chairs, a mirror and a TV showing the cricket. The cricket was a huge distraction and made James and I a bit more nervous as he could only just peel his eyes away from the TV long enough to cut James's hair! The scissors and comb have probably never been disinfected in their lifetime and from the first few cuts I thought I could have done a better job. The final cut has surprised both of us and looks alright; the only minor complaint is one side is massively shorter than the other! All in all a good 'experience' for the total price of 50p!
Bishnoi Village Tour
We had seen most of jodhpurs old city so decided to take a day trip to the countryside. The Bishnoi village safari is not exactly a safari but it was good fun and interesting. We saw two herds of Chinkara gazelles, including the beautiful males with their amazing spiralling horns and black and white patterned bodies. Then the strange looking black buck, we thought it looks like a cross breed of a cow and a giant horse! Our guide, Sambu, mocked me, and all womankind, suggesting that males are always better looking! He was a nice guide with pretty good British banter, for an Indian! One of the other points of interest was a tree covered in red ribbons, the tree itself isn't that impressive but the story of the tree is. In 1730 the Maharaja of Jodhpur sent woodcutters into Bishnoi villages to cut down the khejri trees. A woman clung to the tree we were shown and refused to be removed, crying: 'A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree.' The axe men cut her head off. One by one the villagers followed her lead until 363 people lay dead. The maharaja, hearing of the carnage, declared a conservation zone around the villages (Lonely Planet). Now that is some serious environmental protesting!
After driving through the countryside seeing the beautiful women in their exquisite sari's and the men with their awesome turbans and moustaches that any man would be proud of we stopped to look at some pottery. James had a quick lesson and created a vase, of some description! We saw how they made handmade printed sheets and traditional dress and although it would have been nice to buy we didn't get anything and for once there was no pressure to buy, at all.
Our next stop was a visit to a head villager or panchayat. He didn't speak English but I liked him immediately. He had gigantic hands that were worn and calloused from his hard life toiling the land, a lovely smile and of course a great moustache. He showed us how to make a turban and then we drank opium! No need to reread that sentence, you read it correctly. Beer is hard to come by in Rajasthan so we've moved onto the real hard stuff! When we left we gave him 100 rupees or £1 and he was over the moon as he hobbled off to sit back down and enjoy some more opium!
Lastly on our countryside outing we visited Sambu's home. We met his brother, mother, sister-in-law, niece and two nephews. We were shown how they make their living weaving rugs and then we ate some delicious yoghurt curry, potato mix and chapati, made by his lovely sister-in-law.
On our way out of his house, without a word to his family his 2 year old nephew got into the jeep with us. I presumed we would drive around the block and drop him back off but he came all the way back to Jodhpur with us, a two hour round trip! He was so sweet an obviously loved riding the jeep with his Uncleji. I loved sitting and holding him so much that I asked Sambu if we could take him to England! Sambu said 'you are a guest to this country, if you want him I cannot refuse, you must take him!' Don't worry he was joking... I think!
It was an interesting day, not exactly all that we had expected but nice to see a rural part of Rajasthan.