Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan and sits on a dry lake bed surrounded by barren hills at the top of which you can see fort-like edifices and the surrounding fort walls. The all day city tour bus with no A/C left from the railroad station and proceeded to take us to what seemed like every historical building possible in Jaipur!
The entry fees and camera fees for foreigners were many times over the fees for the locals and the soft drinks were four times the normal price which needless to say really pissed off Bob (he just wants to pay the fair and going price) which was ok with me because I am more interested in people than old empty buildings. (The two young college students on the tour from Bangladash were cheating by posing as Indians). An expensive elephant ride around a small courtyard was being utilized only by a few Japanese tourists. You had to pay an entrance fee to see the recently built white marble Hindu temple. Then you had to pay an offering inside the temple to see the inner temple. If you entered with a camera there was additional charge–quadruple for a video cam. Then you had to pay 5 rupees to go to the bathroom afterwards. You get nickel and dimed to death. Very frustrating.
For the remainder of the tour we stayed behind the rest when they toured the buildings and lingered in the streets to watch the kalaidoscope of passing shapes and colors…multi colored tribal women on the sidewalk selling soft green grass to passersby so they could gain graces by feeding the many cows that occupied the parking lot…15 little boys laughing and wanting to shake hands…one woman squatting in front of a wall to pee on a sidewalk…have a look in my shop…no charge for looking…barber shaving a patron in his pavement shop…men in white dhobis (like a sari that is pulled up between the legs) pushing handcarts and traditionally dressed Rajput men in bright colored turbans and handlebar moustaches. The newest and nicest building we saw in Jaipur is a three year old government building!
The tour guide makes his presentations in both Hindi and English (all the riders are Indian and Hindi-speaking except us) but only now and then do we catch a word and realize he is now speaking English! The two boys from Bangladash ask why we do not enter some of the palaces/temples. When I explain that we feel like human ATM machines, they sympathetically suggest that maybe the high prices for foreigners can be adjusted. I tell them we are more interested in the people anyway and they smile. The boys have completed two years of university study in Bangladash and have applied to study in the US. Moving to America seems to be every young Asian person’s dream but getting a visa these days, they say, is very difficult.
On the way to another ancient empty building we follow a rocking camel pulling a handcart piled high with 25 foot long metal pipe…the camel has only one speed and one direction…on this street we see many pavement dwellers-babies, naked toddlers, mothers…those not at home have their few belongings covered over with burlap or plastic..the driver lets us off several blocks from our hotel but instead of taking an auto-rickshaw or taxi we walk back to the hotel in the middle of the street along with the rest of the pedestrians thereby avoiding the urine soaked sidewalk…funny how quickly you can get used to this life if instead you are paying attention to the people…women beautiful with long shiny black oiled hair in colorful flowing saris that provide a foil to the grey dirty surroundings looking to see what is in their eyes… Never again, however, will I complain about the transportation taxes or the garbage, sewer and water bills at home unless at some future time I decide I like sewer water and garbage in my streets and a man carrying my new dishwasher up the hill on his back.
We drive through the famous “Pink City” which is the 250 year old part of the town. Doesn’t look pink to me…looks like a dirty rust color much like the mud huts in Africa or red clay kasbahs in Morocco…and don’t think it was repainted since the first time 250 years ago.
The bus transfers us into four wheel drives and up a winding road we go to the Amber Fort to view yet another palace and have lunch. I sit on a concrete wall alone for a few minutes to write in my journal and wait for the others to gather when I am quickly approached by about six laughing men in their 30′s or 40′s who shake my hand and want to know where I am from…then they traced a swooping convex shape in the air with their hands and arms and asked if I did this…what does that mean, I ask, and they all laugh and move away…not interested anymore. I tell Bob that I think I was just propositioned…