The city of Jodhpur; a sprawling Indian urban center parked in the center of desert packed Rajastan. A towering 15th century fort perched atop an extraordinarily steep rock hill looms over an array of twisting medieval city streets. Hailing from an era of Brahmin priest caste settlement, most of the buildings are painted varied shades of blue. A few sparse pastel red and lemon hues thrown into the assortment of block-like structures help bring the whole scene together similar to a bizarre geometric painting.
I arrive early in the morning and work my way through the winding alleyways, along the open-sewers and past the excessive compliment of cow droppings. After checking into a cheap hotel and dropping off my pack, I pick a random direction and set off to explore. Several hours of wandering at whim discovers tons of hidden treasure; unlimited buildings bathed in pallid colors, friendly locals going about their day, persistent children following for blocks and a few adrenaline pumping encounters with vicious street dogs. The walk is completely charming, but otherwise unremarkable; just another first day in a new city. I don’t exactly feel jaded and it is nice to be back out in the unknown again, but I’m really craving some adventure or purpose that isn’t satisfied with mere familiarization.
Desperate to satisfy the urge drawing me to the massive landmark in the center of town, I take an uphill hike to Mehrangahr Fort. After a breathless climb to the 1st of seven colossal iron gates, I am already enchanted with the magical stronghold of old Maharajas. For at least few hours, a constant surge of tourists overtake my slow progression through the fully stocked armory, several large courtyards, royal bedrooms and entertaining courts of the palace. The fort is extremely well maintained, as well as it is also well explained by a portable audio guide. The visually pleasing architecture and odd collection of fascinating artifacts are complimented with a basic education in the history and culture of Rajasthan.
But eventually I escape the crowds and find some solitude sitting on the edge of the old battlements. My other companions are the historic collection of cannons won in past wars, their long idle barrels point out over the 125m cliff. I follow their aim to see the desert horizon encompassing the small stretch of cerulean Jodhpur. Even from this bird’s-eye perspective the city seems to have no plan other than paint the buildings blue and make the streets twist and writhe in any direction they please.
From the walls of the castle and to the streets of the city I can see a few similarities and simple comparisons to the smaller historical European ones that I’ve visited. Walking street level, enclosed by looming low-story buildings feels like an analogous experience. There are many street markets and hole in the wall businesses operating alongside street vendors and their varied interesting patrons. Everyone is walks or rides 2-wheelers to navigate the narrow cobbled roads, but there is the occasionally camel and it is definitely a lot more colorful!
There are enough obvious distinctions between Indian and Western cultures, but seeing the uniform threads that tie human development and existence together becomes easier in each passing city I visit. Stretching back into history, relatively isolated societies seem to have developed in a remarkably parallel progression. Over the last few months here, I still have a few distinct lines drawn in my own cultural heritage but feel more akin to than Indian people than I could have imagined when I originally dreamed of this ‘exotic’ land. It seems as if being alien to the nature of human race comes only from the minds of madmen or hidden in the stars.
Tags: - Photography, - Reflection, Asia, Fort, India, India: Rajasthan, Jodhpur, Rajasthan