“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
― Ellen Bass
I think this poem sums up my time in Jaipur pretty well. I was not overly impressed with the capital of Rajasan. Maybe it was because I was forted out, maybe it was that Pushkar had left a sour taste in my mouth. Whatever the reason was, I had made my way there because I had thought that it would be a good place to end Rajasthan off with. In reality though, I am learning that not every place needs to be visited just for the sake of being seen and it is ok to miss out on some cities.
Jaipur ended up being a little deranged (I am grateful for my ability to laugh at myself, but at the time it was not funny). My day started off nice and early, with a necessary trip to the train station to book my ticket for that evening. The train was full, and I was issued a ‘waiting list’ ticket of 10th in the queue. It never struck me that Jaipur was quite a central point for trains and that I might not make it onto the train.
With ticket in hand, I made my way to the Monkey Temple (aka Galta & Surya Mandir). Rajastan is full of spectacular forts and palaces, each full of its own history, each magnificent, but after having taken the time to go through 3 cities worth of forts, I really was out forted.
My first memory of Monkey Temple is being bombarded by little boys, all wanting to be my tour guide or sell me something (learnt from a young age). One kid ran up to me with a basket, which when opened revealed a cobra coiled up inside. “Madam, madam… Photo? Photo?” as though repeating it would make it more appealing. I must have jumped 10 foot away in one single leap, and him realising that I would not be taking a picture of it, brought the cobra to his neck in an affectionate hug and walked away sulking. Is anything wild in this country?
I was struck by the lack of preservation of what used to be a magnificent temple. The art work is incredible and hundreds of years old, yet as the years go by, weathered by human negligence and the harsh Indian weather, the actual buildings are slowly falling into a sad level of decay.
Having said that, the setting is superb, with the temple nestled in a beautiful and lush valley. It seemed to be a joyous locals meeting point. From the temple I could hear children laughing and splashing each other from the water tanks / communal bathing area. It was a nice change from the busy street noise of Jaipur city centre.
At this point you must be thinking – this day seems a far cry from the poem above. You see my train was scheduled to departed Jaipur at 23h15. At 20h00, my position had only moved to 4th in the queue, I started worrying that I would not get onto the train. My suspicions were confirmed and the conductor in broken English and hurried and rushed Hindi told me to go to platform 10 at 23h00 to find out what was to become of my trip. The only problem was that the last platform was number 7. Trying to make my way to enquiries I was bombarded by hungry taxi drivers, all wanting to take me to ‘their brothers guest house’. It was near midnight, and I certainly was not going to get into a taxi or rickshaw alone with the blood hound gang – I might be blond but I’m not stupid.
An officer finally told me (again in broken English/Hindi mix) to go get a room in the Railway Station Retiring Rooms (basically over night room in the station). This seemed like a blessing, so I made my way over to the Retiring Rooms counter only to be told that all rooms were occupied. “But my friend will take you to my brothers guest house just up the road, nice, cheap, cheap”. Having smelt a rat I decided to sit in the reception area and plan my course of action. Being after 1AM and me pretty tired – my brain wasn’t really firing off all cylinders – until the receptionist came and sat next to me on the couch (more like right on top of me). He was so in my space, but the real move came when he tried to touch (grope) my thigh. That was that, no more miss nice Raine!! In fact the next Indian tout to talk to me is likely to have his head removed with my nails.
I spent the night on a metal bench in the ‘Ladies Only’ First Class Waiting room. I haven’t spent a night on a bench since my gap year in 2003, but there was not a chance in hell that I was going to get into a taxi with a man, or even talk to anyone until day light.
Day light… And BLISS! With a new take-no-prisoners attitude I spent a glorious day in the pink city, which really is very pink.
I took myself off to Lassiwala for their infamous creamy lassis. A lassi is a popular and traditional yogurt-based drink. Although this was a sweet lassi, the banana lassi’s are out of this world.
there is a street full of fake ‘Lassiwala’s so look out for the original
This was then followed by some awesome coffee and a traditional breakies (masala dosa – a curry filled rice pancake) at ‘The Indain Coffee House’ – another institution which has kept its quaint Indian-ness and serves cheap but amazing food.
When ever I think of the name Jaipur, that Bollywood song pops into my head from ‘Slum dog millionaire’ ‘Jaipur… Jaipur’… That really should have been the sign not to go the city. But in hindsight I got to ride in an Indian Helicopter (where the name came from I have NO IDEA, but it is basically a bicycle taxi), dance like a crazy lady in an Indian railway station waiting room (as an attempt to keep awake and then just for the pure fun of it) and discover my limits.
All in all, it was just pure madness.