Published: March 13th 2011March 13th 2011
Jaipur is an enormous city. I don't know why I had been expecting something smaller and peaceful but I was sorely mistaken. My first day I set out in the morning to find some food and decided to walk toward the mountain fort and old city in the hope of finding some grub. I don't know where I ended up going through but it was probably the roughest, most raw place I have been. Extremely dirty, crowded with filthy naked kids squatting in piles of trash, the gutters were overflowing, it took all my mental energy not to fall into an open sewer or get hit by a car. I walked most of the morning and finally got to the old city and passed through the large fort walls. Not much better inside, I had expected to see a nice area like Udaipur where I could get some food but there was nothing. Just masses of people and cars though the trash and sewage became a little less intense. There were zero other tourists, which seems nice in theory but in reality when in the midst of this chaotic nightmare and it's one pm and you haven't eaten yet that day
and it's stiflingly hot all I wanted was a decent clean place to get some food.
I also got attacked by a pack of demon children who surrounded me and kept reaching up and pulling on my beard and then stepping on the heel of my shoes to make them come off. One of the reasons I have a beard is so I look crazy and people hesitate to mess with me. At least that is what I tell myself. Having groups of squealing kids run up and fearlessly claw at my face was pretty disillusioning. Finally an old woman screamed at them and they ran off. I was so thankful until she started following me demanding money. When I refused I think she put a curse on me. I just wanted to run away.
Finally I found a rickshaw stand and asked to go somewhere to eat. There were four drivers and between them they might have known thirty or forty words in English. My request for Biryani or Chipatti or Thali or any decent food caused quite a conversation among the drivers who seemed perplexed as to where, in a city of four million Indians, a
person could get some Indian food. Finally I got in one of the rickshaws. Twice he tried to drop me off at street food stalls. Street food in India is awful. It comes in two varieties, breaded peppers which have been deep fried and then left out to be covered by flies, and sugar balls which have been deep fried and then left out to be covered by flies. Lots of food in India is wonderful, but none of it comes from these street vendors. Finally I got dropped off at a small restaurant. There were four tables with wooden stools, I sat down at the only one not occupied. To my left was a barefoot bearded man dressed head to toe in orange, I believe the people who dress this way are holy men devoted to some deity, but I haven't been able to find out the specifics. On the walls were pictures of Ganesh the elephant god and Lord Krishna the blue man. When I got my food I asked for some silverware. The man looked sort of confused by this and then went into a drawer and pulled out a spoon. After looking at it for a
second he wiped it off on his filthy apron.
While getting some dinner I met a young man who invited me to meet his family. I ended up spending the evening talking with his father and grandfather. They were both incredibly nice. They ran a small private English language school that I am going to work at next week, hopefully helping with reading and writing. It is such a relief to be able to do something productive, seeing the forts and temples and just wandering around is surprisingly exhausting. They had a home gym consisting of a barbell or two with a squat rack, bench station and pullup bar where the grandfather coached a group of boys in bodybuilding. I told him that while I had never had any interest in bodybuilding I had spent a lot of time power lifting. He was justifiably skeptical of this since at this point I look pretty scrawny. He asked if I would do a set of pullups and I foolishly agreed. I knew as soon as I got on the bar I should have kept my mouth shut. Months where the only exercise has been hundreds of miles of walking and
a diet consisting mainly of rice and vegetables has not been good for strength levels. After I got done embarrassing myself he looked at me awkwardly and said "well, at least you did more than one."
I decided to get out of Jaipur for the weekend and go to Pushkar, a small holy village that has one of the few Brahma temples. Very peaceful and enjoyable, it is nestled in the mountains about two hours away from Jaipur. Because it is a religious town they have forbidden alcohol. I was sitting at a restaurant and the waiter told me I could have a beer, but it would have to be "under the table." I agreed. When he brought it out I poured some of it into a ceramic mug and then set the bottle on the table. The waiter ran out and asked why I had put it there. I responded that I thought by under the table he was speaking metaphorically as in I shouldn't tell people that they were serving alcohol. He looked at me like I was an idiot, "No, under the table means under the table!"
I have been watching all the India World
Cup Cricket matches. During the match against Ireland a beautiful butterfly flew onto the field and perched itself on the ground in front of the Indian batter. They stopped the game and he walked out and gently tried to brush the butterfly away in a manner that wouldn't hurt it. After about ten seconds of this one of the Irish players walked over and stomped on it. Classic west verse east cultural exchange.
There are more photos below