M*********. That was the first word I heard when I stepped out of the Jaipur airport. Surprisingly, instead of cringing I smiled. Maybe it was because the insult was not directed at me. Or maybe it was because it reminded me of a certain North Indian friend who would often say that North Indians swore a lot more than South Indians.
Jaipur. How I had dreamt of visiting this city. From when I was three and a half, pink has been my favourite colour. Why three-and-a-half? The story behind that is too long and too silly to be printed here. Anyhow, I still remember the day I learnt about Jaipur being the pink city. First standard. GK class. And since then, I have wanted to visit this wondrous land of pink. So when I peered out of the window of the plane, I was disappointed with the colour scheme of the city. Where did all the pink disappear?
But once I got around to exploring the city, I only fell more and more in love with it. After much running around for a hotel (it was the season of the Jaipur Litt Fest and most hotels were full), we finally checked into one. There were two categories of rooms – one with dacoraason and one without dacoraason. What was this dacoraason we wondered and asked for the room without it. Out of curiosity, I asked the bellboy to show me the room with dacoraason. When I entered the room, the bellboy pointed out to the Rajasthani carvings and paintings on the bed stand and said, “Madam, woh dekho Rs 150 extra only.” I smiled and said, ok. After all, Rs 150 is a small price to pay for some authentic Rajasthani decoration eh. Oops! I meant dacoraason.
Then began the touristy things. But instead of doing what most tourists do (read going on guided tours where the guide rattles of the historical significance of the at the speed of a rattle snake), we decided to do things our way. After much poring over maps, googling, making lists, tearing up lists and tearing up t-shirts, we came up with THE LIST. Since we were on a not-so-tight budget, we decided to opt for an autorickshaw as our mode of transport. After a fairly longish screening process, we short-listed two autos. Both were charging us the same price so it was a tough choice to make. Finally, I picked the one that had more dacoraason. For me, that was what Jaipur was all about.
Finally, we set out on our Jaipur darshan. But not before making a few pit stops to satiate the rats growling in our tummies. Ok, the rats were growling only in my tummy. Anyhow, the rats were fed dal baati churma (a Rajasthani speciality and an acquired taste) and the journey was resumed.
First stop was the famed Hawa Mahal. I had envisioned a beautiful entrance to the palace lined with trees and maybe a few fountains thrown in as well. So when the rickshawallah stopped in the middle of a busy market place and asked us to get off, I was taken aback. But the surprise was not to last too long for once you enter the street leading to the palace, the sense of calm transports you to another world. And the palace, well, you have to see it to believe it. Beautiful would be an understatement.
It was at Hawa Mahal that I began to fall in love with the people of Jaipur. First was the old woman sitting under the sun on the verandah of the palace. Though I am not much of a shutterbug, she looked almost picture perfect. When I went up to show her the picture, she broke into an innocent smile. And then there was the man at the exit. While we were clicking photographs near the exquisitely carved door, he stood grumpily by the side, but the moment I asked him if he could take a picture of his, a smile broke out on his lips. After fussing over his turban for five minutes, he finally posed for the camera with a somber look on his face.
Jantar Mantar was next up on THE LIST. While my friend was excited, I wasn’t too keen on it. For one, I was a poor student of physics and despised any reminders to the fact that I had once flunked the subject in school. Also, the place was under renovation. But at my annoying friend’s insistence, we spent a good half-an-hour looking at the various sun dials on display. “Why do we need those when you have a watch?” I asked only to be rudely asked to shut up.
Now I was suitably tired after all the walking around so we changed the sequence of places-to-see on THE LIST and headed for Kanak Vrindavan garden. Within minutes, I was bored of lounging around in the garden and so I started counting the number of lovebirds doing the peek-a-boo. And the number? Let’s suffice to say I ran out of fingers and toes to count on.
Day 2 was spent largely at Jaigarh fort and City Palace. While the view from the Jaigarh Fort was spectacular, the stories that I heard in the City Palace were even better. Here’s what happened. There were a bunch of us tourists clicking away in a large verandah-like area in the City Palace when we heard strange noises of a woman having a good time (if you know what I mean). While some tourists opined that it was the spirit of a Queen who had many lovers, others were seen trying to trace the origin of the noise. In the end it turned to be a couple of naughty pigeons.
The next night, we decided to catch a movie in the famous Rajmandir theatre. A serpentine queues and several squabbles later, we thought ourselves lucky to get seats in row A. As it turned out, A was the row nearest to the screen. So not only did that idiotic (yes, I am making a miserable pun on 3 idiots) movie give me a headache but proved to be a pain in the neck as well (pardon the second pun).
But day 4 was the best. For a large part of the day, we lazed around, ate heavily, watched television and finally at night we went to Choki Dhani – a village resort. Though I suffered from pre-conceived notions that I would be killing the authentic experience by going to a “created Rajasthani village”, the man singing Kesariya Balama at the entrance put my fears to rest. The song was quite special to me. And his renidition, accompanied with the strings of the ektara, made me want to fall in love again. And I did. With Jaipur.