CW proposed “Ra Ra Rajasthan” for the title of this blog and I laughed… though we did, indeed, enjoy our two weeks exploring!
I’m eager to share so much of our journey but the details, surprises, small awakenings, commonplace beauty and poverty are almost overwhelming for the nature of a blog – so instead of well-constructed prose, here are transcribed thoughts from the difficult to read notes I’ve kept in a tiny and now well-mangled spiral-bound notebook; a stream of conscious remembrance as we’ve now arrived in the southern state of Karnataka, through its gateway city, Bangalore and events are overtaking the northern part of the trip.
Jaipur to Jodphur: “across from stepwell is 700 year old temple destroyed by muslim (musselman) invaders, later the tumbled blocks are piled up on each other to recreate the original Hindu temple…broken bits so beautiful, flowers, animals, gods carved with precise detail. Then Raj (our driver) says “Madam Madam come come” with great urgency. He’d seen a cobra nestled in one of the broken bits…and I missed it!”
“had lassi at very rustic stall – served in clay cups that are thrown away after one use…appalled me but the clay at least dissolves back into the earth, unlike the plastic cups that are more often used these days…”
Jodphur “early morning start at Amer Fort with elephant ride – quite touristic, long line, but how could we not! A rolling ride up to the height of the fort and astounding views over Great Wall-like wall built around Jodphur eons ago.”
“Visit to Jantar Matar observatory so much more than expected – it looks like a combination mad scientist, skateboard park, sculpture garden and was built to plot the stars, time and horoscopes in about 1730.”
“Another visit to lassi-wallah. Thick yogurt/cream like, made in a large iron wok-like pan, heated, skin is skimmed off. A sweet “butter” (really cream) is spooned onto the top of the cup after the lassi poured in…thick, sweet, creamy, excellent! Spoiled now forever….” Note: food and drinks are a recurring theme!
“another superfast road where the vehicle sounds are amusing and constant. Traffic ballet, keep moving ahead but gracefully – horns are blown and drivers shout, but with an air of tolerance rather than anger – lots of swerving back and forth and a “let’s get on with it, together” spirit.” Note: this does not mean to imply that it’s not sometimes simply FRIGHTENING to be a passenger.
“walked in Jodphur’s Clock Tower Square, discovered M.V. Spice Company. Run by 5 sisters, and were subject of british documentary in 2013 – The Spice Sisters of India. Must look for it!
Jodphur to Jaisalmer:
“increasing desert on the drive through sandstone quarries (13,000 of them!), past resting herd of 100+ camels and increasing military presence due to proximity to Pakistan.”
“Walked into Jaisalmer Fort – a living fort with over 3000 residents – tiny winding lanes, lovely 15-16th century homes…some crumbling apart. Incredible yellow sandstone that glows in the sunset and looks like amber where polished by ages of feet passing over the stone.”
“We spent two days enjoying Jaisalmer, including the complete surprise of seeing the start of the camel festival…early morning arrival at fort gates to see 50-60 teenage girls dressed in their finest sarees carrying urns, very posh border camel guard of the military in dashing white uniforms, splendid moustaches…”
“Manwar Desert Resort and Camp – arrived in time for lunch which was buffet style and had good spinach soup. then took open jeep to the desert camp. Lovely setting in the sand with rolling hills with some vegetation, including sangri (desert bean) trees.”
From Manwar we drove to Udaipur, where I was down for a day with a fever and painful cough – the jeep ride in the desert complicated the cold by introducing sand dust into my chest, and I’ve been coughing for days since then. So I missed a bit of Udaipur, though it was lovely anyway. Dinner at a rooftop restaurant let me enjoy the view over Lake Pichola as the sun set.
I’m almost finished with “India in Mind,” a collection of essays about India written over the past 100 years. They’re all wonderful writers – so here’s a brief quote from an essay by Jan Morris:
“Of all the world’s countries, India is the most truly prodigious, and this quality of astonishment displays itself afresh every day as the sun comes up…the colossal corpus of India, invests, sprawls around, infuses, elevates, inspires and very nearly overwhelms….” From “Mrs. Gupta Never Rang”, Jan Morris.
Next, the South!