Day 6: Jaisalmer – Pushkar – Jaipur
We set out immediately, after breakfast, to Jaipur. The cab was organized by our hotel and unlike our earlier cabbie, the driver wasn’t injured. The car was in great shape, the clouds floated in the blue sky and peacocks cried in the distance. We were happy as we thought, it’s going to be a great ride to Jaipur. But somewhere at Jodhpur, we had to change cars. Apparently the fine car (with the fine driver) had some technical issues. We were demoted to a car which was a level lower than the earlier one and the driver was just about OK. We did protest, but there’s little you can do in this ever-manipulating network of tourist-scamming industry. So we chugged along with our silent driver. We stopped for lunch in a place which seemed like a hill station. It was surprising, considering we were in Rajasthan. Our next stop was Pushkar. Pushkar has a sense of spirituality, religious fervor, and hippie magnetism. There was a general sense of chaos with cattle, people, and tourists. There seemed a co-existence of religious beliefs as along with temples there was a mosque as well. The main market area is inundated with signs, certifying hotels and restaurants of being “lonely planet” / “rough guide” recommended. As we head to to ‘Brahma Kund” or “Brahma’s Pond” the atmosphere changes drastically. At the first point of entry, we were hounded to perform a puja/religious ceremony. I had my apprehensions about it but went along. While Tantricana was taken separately, Basil and I attended it together as husband as wife. And all went well, until the part where are lineage was asked. It’s at that point, the priest realized we weren’t of the same faith. So he continued, but asked us for about 1000 INR as an offering for our ancestors and parents. On meeting Tantricana, we realized she had donated hundred Rupees. Later, I read on a popular online forum that charging exorbitant fees is part of the spiritual tourism industry here. We circled the pond and made our way through the markets and back to the car. Sunlight was receding and we had a good part of the journey remaining to Jaipur. Our driver more than made up for it by driving at break-neck speed. At the expressway, I had to ask him to slow down on many occasions, but he wasn’t really interested in doing so. We reached our hotel in one piece. But the jinx wasn’t broken yet. Our driver suddenly wanted an additional amount than what was decided. Tantricana and I, being the city bred women that we are, didn’t keep quite. It’s then that we were told that women should go inside and let the men handle the matter. We didn’t budge. It’s not something I suggest anyone do in a patriarchal state, but we stayed put. The driver went away and we called it a night.
Day 7 – 9: Jaipur City Sightseeing
It’s always a problem exploring a city when there’s a thriving tourist industry. We were hounded by taxi drivers to explore the city. By this time we were tired and it was almost 10 days since we were travelling. We opted for a rick and went to the City Palace. Fatigue had set in, so we kind of just looked around and tried to soak in the different sights of grandeur, royalty and bravery. In one of the halls a wedding was in progress. Our next stop was the Jantar Mantar. We didn’t take a guide here. While some of the instruments didn’t make much sense, the main sundial was perfect to calculate the time even in this day. We then shopped for some ethnic materials and went to the main market near Hawa Mahal to shop for souvenirs. On our way back, we applied mehndi (henna) by a local artisan. On seeing my thread, she inquired if we went to Pushkar. I nodded my head and she empathized and asked how much did we get fleeced by. She wasn’t surprised by the amount and said that it was a rather rampant practice. Ironically, while she applied mehndi at 50 INR for us, she charged expats 300 INR . The striking feature of Jaipur would have to be its terracotta painted buildings. It wasn’t surprising to see most of the city covered in the same color. In Rajasthan, each city has a predsignated colour. White for Udaipur, blue for Jodhpur, Yellow for Jaisalmer and terracotta for Jaipur. In the evening we went to a coffee shop for an early supper. The next day, we shopped for sweets and a bag to carry the excessive shopping that we had done. In the night we went for dinner at the hotel opposite ours. We almost kicked ourselves for not booking us in that hotel. Dinner was sumptuous! With that we called it a night, as the next day we had to head back home.