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Published: November 27th 2009
I haven't yet processed my feelings about the little part of India (outside of Mcleod Ganj) that I have seen so far... we've got such a short time and we're only able to see a tiny little drop of the whole country so it’s impossible to gain an overall impression or to really even form opinions about India as a whole. Still, the glimpse I have so far gives me a lot to work through - it's so harsh and I can't quite process my thoughts and feelings about what I am seeing. At this stage I don't love India like I have loved other places, but it is interesting and confronting/uncomfortable and I think very valuable and important to see. Definitely depressing and makes me feel heavy... I think I need to think about it a lot more, and perhaps I will only really work it all out once I have left!
Jodhpur felt a little like the India that I had been told about by others: a sometimes overwhelming fusion of contradictory impressions and activity besieging the senses and competing for attention. Uncomfortable and confronting. Impossible to make sense of. Irreconcilable with personal concepts of ethics and justice. Dilapidated, dusty, dirty and a little dodgy, with a dash of crumbling beauty thrown in for good measure. Not sure why there are so many “d” words in the last sentence, but there you go.
The best thing about the place we stayed was its rooftop terrace, as it had a commanding view of Meherangargh Fort, to which we were quite close, and also of the surrounding area. After seeing this amazing view we were quite keen to walk up to the fort to explore (got hot for the first time this trip - such a change in temperature from the mountains!). Walking through the fort and its contained palaces and courtyards was made especially interesting with the commentary of the accompanying audio guide. As well as information about the fort, its history, and the various rooms within it, we were of course informed of how wonderful and philanthropic the current Maharaja is. A little hard to swallow when there’s a city plagued by poverty couched in between the opulence of his fort and palace. Still, I suppose it is easy for your perspective to be clouded by the position you are in.
The views from up at the fort do unveil an alternative, much more picturesque, view of the city that belies the harsher realities that are evident when you are in the throng of it at ground level. From up high the city, studded with its various-sized pockets of blue walls, stretches on into the distant ‘mist,’ the housing interrupted here and there with rocky outcrops on which temples stand proudly. The horizon is shaped by the beautiful outline of the Maharaja’s residence (a part of which has been converted into a hotel for uber rich tourists), Umaid Bhawan Palace, which holds dominion over the city from its haughty distance.
Close by is the Jaswant Thada, a memorial to a previous Maharaja that is built of white marble. It was such a lovely haven of cool and peace, with an area of grass and trees on which we lay for a while, savouring the quiet that was in such contrast to the noise and activity of the market area around the town Clock Tower that we had been walking in earlier. The memorial also offered quite amazing views of the city and fort so in all, it was a very enjoyable visit.
It was really hard to find good food in Jodhpur, though we did go searching! The food at our guesthouse wasn’t fantastic, and it was really hard to find a decent dhaba to eat at. Lonely Planet told us a good bet was the streets adjoining the railway station, so we set off in that direction. Unfortunately, the place we chose seemed to serve everything either super spicy or ridiculously hot, so although Deb and Hero could manage it, I was a little less fortunate. Sadly, it was the same with the street food we had bought earlier, but at least the guys there were really friendly, and were keen to show me the process of making the food. They also wouldn’t let me leave without taking several photos of them all - every time I tried to walk away they would call me back, having grabbed one more person to join in the fun On our final night we ended up, quite unintentionally, dining in super extravagant surrounds. Rickshawed out to a Lonely Planet recommendation, only to be dropped off at the restaurant of a super lush 5* hotel complex, and ate dinner attended by multiple uniformed wait staff, in front of a performance of Rajastani musicians and dancers. Lonely Planet had failed to mention the swanky location of the restaurant, so we felt way out of place amongst the rich hotel guests, but enjoyed the meal nonetheless!!!
Getting used to being watched constantly… Not just for a couple of seconds as we walk by, or as people walk by us, but ongoing. At the fort I had a guy following me around with his mobile phone camera, for about ten minutes, following me as I walked through rooms. This morning we stopped at a dhaba (a kind of street cafe) for breakfast and were watched for the whole meal by two guys at a table opposite. You mostly just tune out to it, and other times it is just funny - like when random people come up to us and ask if they can take a photo of us with them (reverse tourism?!). But sometimes it can be frustrating, disconcerting or uncomfortable; usually when it’s been particularly full on or when I am feeling challenged in other ways or have low patience.
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