Cesca left me snoozing in our room and went out to the roof top café/restaurant to take some photos of the city.
The city is blue, blue of the Brahmin caste we were told, but I can’t help wondering if there is another reason for its popular -nay ubiquitous-shade. I heard one rumour that it was due to the blue paint putting off the mosquitos. However, I am more inclined to believe it is to challenge the other brightly-coloured-city it is most often confused with (Jaipur, which is bright pink!) I leaned back on the bed and spied out of the window at the huge cliff-wall behind the hotel, and then up, up and eventually to the turrets of the Mehrangarh Fort high above.
It towered over the entire city of a million people, ever watching like a sleeping dragon turned to stone by some mighty magic, frozen with one eye open and brooding over its faded dominance.
The city’s name? Where else but Jodhpur: the blue city of India set amongst the stark landscape of the Thar Desert.
Actually, as nice as post cuddle snoozes are, I could have murdered a beer and so I dressed and headed out to sit with her. I found her sitting on the roof with the owner and a clearly English woman of about our age. They greeted me and I joined them. The owner waved me up a beer from a passing staff member and continued telling us about the city.
“The city is known as the “Sun City” because of the fine weather,” he said, “It was the capital of the Marwar Kingdom founded by Rao Jodha. The wall goes all the way around.”
I remembered our arrival a few hours before, Jodhpur is indeed a walled city with a tight maze of very narrow streets full of wandering cows and tiny stores of all descriptions.
Travelling through it in a tuk tuk, one cannot help but feel that westerners stand out a little too much amongst the backdrop of a city whose sheer cramped size and ancient structure is hugely resistant to modernisation. Not that this is stopping the tuk tuk driver attempting to break the speed of light.
I turned to Cesca, the wind buffeting her hair, “If we travel any faster, we will go back in time!”
She grinned a response.
Eventually we made it to the large haveli or converted palace that you will find all over Rajasthan. It had enormous doors in a giant wall upon which we knocked mightily and were greeted by a staff member who directed us to the young owner. He was the same man holding court with us now and part of the family that had converted the old edifice of residence into the magnificent guesthouse before us.
Suddenly I realised that the reason he was paying us all such attention was that he fancied the English girl speaking with Cesca. At least I hoped it was she and not my baby as this was a very high roof from which to be flung…
Anyway, we espied the city and he told us of the sights to be had in its investigation. He then offered us himself as a guide. We agreed and he took us through the streets and temples showing us the sights. It was all quite excellent really.
That night we stayed up quite late, eating the great food prepared at a moment’s notice by our host, and chatting to the English girl. She was a Doctor by trade, on her travels and heading further into Rajasthan until reaching the desert city of Jaisilmere. We very quickly hit it off and decided we should all go together. Indeed, like all the incredible people we met, it was my darling wife they immediately took too – she just has a very impressive skill of putting people at their ease, which is formed of her intense innocence and classy way.
The next day we walked up to the castle-like Mehrangarh Fort and took a long look around.
Like the palace in Udaipur this was very impressively preserved and indeed still in use by the ruling family. We enjoyed another exquisite audio tour and visits to armouries, ballrooms and private antechamber of the Princes found in this part of India.
It never failed to impress. Outside I filmed the city and animals living on the walls and Cesca, dressed in her traditional and bright orange Indian clothing (bought way back in Mumbai), made friends with locals who were soon chatting to her in excited and animated conversation.
Later we realised that we wanted to stay a few more days here and so we made to find a cash machine. This required a long walk through the city until coming across only two working international choices. The first was out of money, which worried us mightily. Rushing to the other, we found that it was not working properly and took 20 minutes to count our money, but it eventually spat out enough funds to cover our adventures for the next few days.
Now we could go shopping!
The Handicrafts industry has in recent years eclipsed all other industries in the city. By some estimates, the furniture export segment is a $200 million industry, directly or indirectly employing as many as 200,000 people. Other items manufactured include textiles, metal utensils, bicycles, ink and sporting goods. A flourishing cottage industry exists for the manufacture of such items as glass bangles, cutlery, carpets and marble products.
We asked around for where to buy fine silks in the city (something that it is famous for) and were directed to a slightly tattered looking shop with enormous piles of silks of every conceivable type. There we spent the best part of half a day ordering up bed coverings as presents for our families.
This was an experience that was at one moment highly pleasurable; full of “ohh’s and ahh’s as they laid out the wares for us and claimed everyone from London boutiques to Richard Gere himself bought from this store; and the next moment was sheer pain; as we were pressured to make decisions (something Cesca hates doing) and agree a price. Eventually we bargained down to a fair price, but as always you know that you are being fleeced somewhere and somehow. Still the silks are lovely.
“How can I decide which goes to which person?” Cesca asked me.
“You can’t really baby, people will always like a different one than the one you picked out for them. Just let them do the fighting.”
Therefore, I paid the (massive) bill and the company posted the entire lot home. I remember at the time wondering if it would actually arrive back in the UK, but it did and quickly.
Then we went tea hunting. Jodhpur is also justly famous for its spices and high quality teas. We had a fantastic couple of hours trying all sorts of brews and listening to the happy proprietor explain their many health benefits.
We bought some spices (which I only got half way through after a year) and teas (which Cesca has never opened!).
This bounty, plus a few other gifts we posted back to the UK through the torturous Indian postal system, which requires you to wrap all you items in cloth and seal them with wax. Or rather it requires someone to do this, just not you. No, in another gouge, you must have someone trained in the required technique do it or your package will go missing.
It’s not the cost that prickles, but the time wasted trying to find a suitable merchant to do this for you.
After another fun night talking to Wendy, we decided to move onto the next town together. We found a suitable bus and headed out into the long road into the desert and the sand mountain that is Jaislemere.