After many shameful days when the wifi in my hostel decided to selectively error my blog into nonexistence, today jumped at me with some time to spare.
This post comes after a year and that clearly tells me I’m a traveler who travels far and wide, but whose boundaries reside within the mind. That’s perhaps a cooler sounding way to say I’m merely a wannabe traveler. I plan to travel more in the real world through this year though. I intend to exploit my time in Delhi and take all it can give me. The weekend at Jaipur was one such exploit.
We were thirteen of us. which is a lot of people to travel together; it becomes a logistical nightmare to consolidate interests and plans and keep everyone happy. We struggled the first day, but managed it well the two days that followed. We stayed at the Zostel – a new traveler hostel chain. The Zostel, after the test it puts you to by hiding itself in quiet, unassuming streets that reveal nothing, does surprise you when you find it. You walk in and it feels like a hug. The young paintings on the wall turned me into a five year old with a new themed room. This little house gave me back all the energy the slow bus ride had sucked out of me. The idea and possibility of meeting new people from far away gave me a kick. The place gives you a comfortable corner to feel safe in after a long day outside.
Jaipur is a pretty city. It has rows of tiny little shops overflowing with happy colors, bright beads and glimmering mirrors – perhaps its way to let you drape yourself in the city’s vibrancy and be a part of it. I like how the lines of stores were unfailingly punctuated with golgappa vendors and lassiwalas. You don’t often see cities that understand the wants of a determined shopper’s tummy.
Our first evening was mostly a stroll along one of the markets which was almost asleep; its owners, I imagined, were at home with their families, consciously inhaling the forgotten air of independence. And we, meanwhile, were letting the street’s scents decide where we walked. Despite being in Jaipur, I decided I needed therapeutic rasam to refurbish my spirits and when Jaipur did manage to succeed, it made me wanna cry and fall in love, a little bit.
We started the next day in a way that soothed my superstitious insides: we visited the Birla temple. I had, thanks to my treacherous memory, forgotten I had been there before. I often remember feelings better than I remember facts or events; for you can forget that which is beautiful, but how do you forget the way it weighed you down and caused something on the inside of your body to tingle? Beauty here, for me, wasn’t the white serene outside, it was something about the inside that calmed me down, gave me peace – something I could not dismiss as unfamiliar. The last time I had visited this temple was in 2006 when I was on a school trip. I remember that day very distinctly, I had had what I now see as a trivial skirmish with a girl friend and I remember sorting it out as we walked out the temple. I even remember how the two of us were dressed that day, she in an ankle length white skirt and I in a bright floral shirt and hideously loose pants. I have a way of tucking away little memories from long ago days, to revisit a later day and smile by myself, secretly.
We visited the City Palace after this. The City Palace is the royal residence of the Raja of Jaipur. A huge part of the complex is now a museum and the residential area continues to be inhabited by the royal family. For me, it was the section of the museum that displayed apparel that captured my attention the most. The outfits were so definitely those that only a King would wear. They were so intricately detailed and evidently regal, they would put everything we wear to shame. I even managed to click a picture of the Raja’s darbar when the guard wasn’t looking. We then walked across the road to the Jantar Mantar, which owing to my stubborn ignorance of science, did not enthrall me too much. As the day slowly tucked itself into bed, it left us in a house full of stories and beautiful people. We had the perfect evening at Dhruv’s house with his lovely family and his majestic but restless peacocks. As darkness set in, we cosied under the night’s sky with soft music, warm conversations and delicious food. Is there anything in this world that’s more precious than nice people?
That night, Zostel eased me into a long, comfortable nap, before I even asked for one. The next morning arrived too early.
The wind that wouldn’t stop hitting me caused me to want to sing; Bhushan, Chaarvi, the auto-driver and I sang and hummed all the way to Jaigarh fort. I loved how I could see the Jal Mahal from a little window on top of the fort. The fort housed one of the biggest cannons of the world. I dismissed its coolness and stared into the surrounding vastness from the points of altitude.
Amber fort was like a pretty world in itself. One cannot pass it without stopping to look another time. Every bit of it was art standing proud and tall, causing me to wonder if such fineness can be recreated today.
We spent the rest of the day heaping up bags of happy things from the stores in Johri bazaar and other markets teeming with eager people. I, after a point, just strolled on the lit up streets, dancing with the lights that stood out in the evening’s dim and watching people hurry home after the long day.
I went back to Zostel and let my blanket hug me into a whole night’s sleep. Jaipur was truly beautiful.