The trip is winding down, the travel days dwindling to less than a week. We have one last stop in India before the long flight home. Jodhpur is our final destination. The blue city, so called because of the rabbit warren of small streets and lanes of blue painted houses that spill down the hill just below the fort.
Brahmin blue is meant to connote vastness and is why many gods sport blue faces. Rhapsody in blue is how Jodhpur is often described.
High on a hill in the middle of the city sits the Mehrangarh fort, built in the 15th century by the king of the Rathores to defend the city against other Rajasthani clans, specifically the Mewars. It’s said to have also been built by angels and giants.
In addition to the fort there are palaces, temples, mosques, and havelis dotting the city, all remarkably beautiful and elaborated carved and decorated. I’m starting to sound like a stuck record (does anyone under the age of 60 even understand what that means?!) describing the architecture of these Indian cities.
As well, colourful textiles, iridescent saris, multi-colored turbans, bejewelled bangles add to the incredible visual feast.
A city of a million, Jodhpur bustles with scooter traffic, markets and throngs of people. Our hotel, the Pal Inn Haveli http://www.haveliinnpal.com, is just inside the old city gates, close to the Sardar Chowk, the main bazaar. It’s an oasis of calm, although we hear scooter horns beeping long into the night as our balcony faces the busy street and the sun rises straight into our window early in the morning. Hooray for ear plugs and eye masks!
In Jodhpur we say goodbye first to Sharon & Ray, then Bev & Larry and finally to Sunny. On our own for the last days we do our fair share of sightseeing and shopping, but also spend a lot of time on rooftops, sitting in restaurants, above the fray, where the air is cooler and sweeter, the views of the fort are arresting and the food is inexpensive and flavourful. Our hotel restaurant is a favourite, partly because they have cold sauvignon blanc. It’s “Sula”, made in India, but it’s all that’s on offer and is pretty quaffable. I buy a bottle and they keep it in the fridge for me. Divine!!
One morning we take a tuk-tuk to a small Hindu temple on the outskirts of the city. The temple itself is rather insignificant. It’s set in a courtyard surrounded by a bank of one story rooms. We hear the loud laughter and calls of children as we approach. Once inside the courtyard, they surround us, asking our names, our country and if we have pens.
Then the bell rings and they gather around a portly middle-aged man who instantly quiets them and begins issuing orders. The stamp their feet in response and then begin to answer his questions. He’s like a drill sergeant and the kids are mostly mesmerized, but for a few who can’t resist sneaking glances at us.
As was the case in Africa and South America, we are struck by the happiness, energy and enthusiasm evident in the children. Even those who appear to have very little materially seem to be making their way in life free from the bullying, anxiety, ADD, suicide, smart phone addiction and other problems plaguing many North American children.
As we leave the temple, they wave and say goodbye, much to the consternation of the drill sergeant, who shakes his head and gives us a little wave. I think he is happy to see us go.
Seventy percent of India is rural, still living in villages. The saying goes that you haven’t seen the real India until you’ve spent time in a village. So we hire a jeep, a driver and a guide and head out of Jodhpur for a few hours.
At the first stop an elderly farm couple tour us around their place. The 85 year old husband makes us a drink from the opium he grows and his 70 year old wife makes us tea. No, we don’t get high! But we feel no pain.
At the next village we visit a herder family, their newborn goats and a horde of unruly children who swarm us asking for pens and candy. Kamal, our driver, buys two ten rupee bags of sweets and makes them line up and behave before he hands them out.
The village trip is also a final opportunity to shop. The carry-on bag we purchased a few weeks ago is now officially full. Must be time to go home!
A walk through the old city is stressful and unpleasant. The once magnificent buildings are neglected and crumbling. I come close to being run over by aggressive scooter drivers one time too many. We see houses with hand prints that are the mark of suttee having been committed. Suttee is the now outlawed, but still done, practise of widows burning themselves on their dead husband’s funeral pyre.
After six weeks in India we’re feeling a bit tired of the sexism, heat, dust, grime, rubble, garbage, spitting, public urinating, animals, dung, flies, noise, chaos, and crowds. It’s just so intense in every way. The same can be said for the amazing sights, the friendly people, the delicious food, the colourful markets and saris, the music and immam calls to prayer, the vibrant life. Intense in every way. I’m not sure how those who live here tolerate it, but they seem to. I’ll be glad to return home. Bloom where you’re planted!