The next town on our itinerary was Jodhpur, the Blue City, where all the buildings are painted blue, apparently because the colour blue absorbs very little of the sun’s heat and this keeps the houses cool (you’ve got to wonder why only Jodhpur seems to be in on this secret). On the way to Jodhpur, we had a near miss with a crazy cyclist who attempted to cross traffic in front of us while we were doing about 80 km/h. Sanjay demonstrated his proficiency as a driver by managing to swerve around the wobbling bike while simultaneously avoiding a head-on collision with an oncoming truck. I will never forget the wide-eyed terror in the eyes of the cyclist as he passed within inches of my window. As soon as he regained control, Sanjay slammed on the brakes and looked over at Claude. “May I teach him a lesson, sir?” he asked.
“By all means,” replied Claude and Sanjay rolled up his sleeves and jumped out of the car to confront the cyclist whose life he had just saved. The cyclist, however, seeing the fury in Sanjay’s eyes, wisely gave him a wide berth and quickly pedaled away without an apology.
In Jodhpur we went straight to the Mehrangarh Fort, a fabulous museum where we discovered the wonder of the audio tour. The kids absolutely loved running around finding the numbers on the map and listening to the explanation of the exhibits. They refused to leave until they had listened to each and every entry in its entirety and spent days spouting useless bits of trivia about Jodhpur’s history. At least it shows they were listening. Next to the Taj Mahal, it was probably the most fascinating tourist site we visited in India.
I felt emotion well up within me as we looked at the vermillion handprints of the queens who had committed “sati” by immolating themselves on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands who had been defeated in battle. The tradition of sati was abolished in 1829 but continued in secret until time of Gandhi and my heart ached as I imagined of the solemn procession of courageous women making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of virtue and honour.
After the fort, we took a break from history as Sanjay took us to a tiny café in Jodhpur’s central market which is famous for its wonderful lassi, a creamy yogurt drink that is popular in Asia. It was definitely a hot spot with the locals and I noticed that we were the only Westerners as we jostled to find a spot in the busy little café. Despite my instinct that consuming a yogurt drink in 45 degree weather in India wasn’t the smartest thing to do, Sanjay assured us that the shop-owner prided himself on his high standards and that we had no worries about getting sick. We decided to take a chance and we weren’t disappointed – the lassies were delectable and creamy, unlike anything we’d tried before and our GI tracts survived without so much as a rumble.
We were disappointed, however, by our guesthouse which installed us on the top floor under the blazing sun as the mercury topped 46 degrees Celsius. They gave us the choice of two rooms, a tiny one with a questionable air-conditioner and a bathroom that reeked of urine or a large beautiful room with a clean bathroom and an “air-cooler.” We couldn’t tolerate the urine smell and had doubts about the A/C so we chose the larger room. The “air-cooler” turned out to be a big humidifier that blew hot ambient air through a screen soaked with water, dropping the air temperature by a few degrees. The end result was like a kind of sauna and that night we all slept in our underwear directly in front of the fan to keep from dying from the heat and humidity.
The next morning we couldn’t wait to leave, but made a quick stop to see the Umaid Bhavan Palace and hotel which is the summer home of the Maharaja as well as a popular getaway for rich Bollywood stars. Needless to say, we didn’t make it past the doorman.
So it was on to Pushkar!
Tags: India, Jodhpur, Travel