Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blue City

Jodhpur Express left Bangalore City Junction at ten to ten in the night of 27th. It would take about 43 hours to reach Bhagat Ki Kothi (which is to Jodhpur Junction what Yeshwantpur railway station is to SBC.)

When I woke up in the morning, we were near Hubli. And when I woke up again, we were still near Hubli. That's when I decided Karnataka was too large and went back to sleep.

The men were playing a card game called 'Mongoose' which is just another name for 'Donkey'. The way they distributed the cards was different though. Instead of dealing cards one by one to each person, there was an open deal in which each person pulled out a card to their hand in turns. If the card is one higher than the topmost card of any other player's hand, it could be placed on that other player's hand instead of our own. Thus distribution of cards itself became a game.

We bought two decks of card that night and played mongoose, bluff, and even that card trick about "387 years ago there lived A Queen who was 64 years old and had 2 children - Jack and King who were 10+9 and 5 years old respectively".

We had home food packaged and ready to eat, everywhere. So all we had to buy from outside was local specialties. Aloo samosa and Bhaji from Gujarat and Rabdi.

Rabdi was from Abu Road railway station (which is where you get down to go to Mount Abu). Rabdi is a sweet which you get by concentrating all the goodness of a Litre of milk into an ounce.

We reached Mumbai a couple of hours before midnight. And the widely popular Mumbai local trains were plying along ours with a hundred people hanging from its doors.

Rajasthan was as green as any other state. Acres of farms on either side of the rail line. Crops which I have no idea as to what they are.

The train went at 95 km per hour for around 3 hours straight going into Jodhpur. And we reached just in time for baraat.

Before going to baraat, one has to wear the pagadi which is a colorful turban. If untied and unfurled the pagadi will be perhaps as long as a sari and as difficult to tie back into shape (which I realized when I removed it posing for a photo later in the night and had to wear it like a shawl ever after).

Dressed up, the groom and his party leave for the bride's place. The groom on a horse with a sword by his belt while everyone else dancing in front, between the music and lights walking around. The actual marriage was in the wee hours of the next day which we slept through at the hotel so we could explore the city in the morning.

Umaid Bhawan Palace. That's where the auto drivers took us first. Umaid Singh had this palace inaugurated by 1944. Speaking of Umaid Singh, he was the chief scout of Marwar state, King of the same, and also died of appendicitis shortly after independence. He built the rail lines to Jodhpur to bring marbles and other materials for the palace and that's how Jodhpur got its train lines. He built the airport in Jodhpur because he was an aviation enthusiast.
Neat place to live in, huh?

And he also made me wonder whether development can come in a democracy, whether autocratic rulers are a necessary evil to get things done. Maybe back when machines weren't as plenty as today and all construction had to be done by human labor (along with animal labor), Kings, dictators and their unjust rules would make sure some work gets done, but today machines can replace human effort and therefore it must be possible even in an egalitarian society to build huge structures.

The palace is now divided into three. The museum open to public which we visited, the Taj hotel (which contains the swimming pool) and that part where the royal family resides. The museum too is closed to public when the royal family celebrates birthday. North India hits your head with the fact that birth privilege based hierarchical society is not a distant past.

Inside the palace museum is the architecture, paintings, wood work, etc. There are photographs showing various political moments in the history, Jodhpur Polo team and their trophies, and so many details of the history. Then there is a dining room where many high profile people dined and where the menu was exotic. Also is a room full of clocks (time pieces) embedded on small scale replicas of all sorts of things - ships, submarines, guns, buildings.

Outside there is a garden which we can't walk over and this collection of old luxury cars. So many Rolls Royce cars that the Mercedes Benz car at the end felt like market car. Most of these cars look long and large with their wheels very far apart towards the ends of the body unlike in today's cars.

We had kesar kulfi and koffee on the way out. Funny it was served by the same person who was guiding us in the palace with nobody asking him to. In fact, when we had told him that we didn't need a guide he said in Hindi, "If you are happy at the end, give me some money, otherwise I'm just happily helping you here for free", a refrain we heard throughout Rajasthan.

Then the waiting autos took us to Mehrangarh Fort. This was one of the many forts we would visit in the next few days. There was a lot of intricate designs in phool ki mahal, sheesh ki mahal, and moti ki mahal (palace of flowers, mirrors, and pearls, respectively) but not very memorable. In between, near the palace of the Queen, we found a large closed door with some steps leading to it where we sat and took some pictures.

On the way back from the fort, there was this small lake and marble temple where the King was worshiped. And in the courtyard a man in typical Rajasthani costume was playing the Ravanahatha which is a stringed instrument (violin, cello, etc having been inspired from this) that now fills all the forts with an ambient music.
Hungry, we had to go to Gypsy restaurant which was the first recommendation by at least two people. But it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner and so we went to another place the rickshaw drivers suggested and had chola bhattura, golgoppa, etc.

The Jodhpur market was on the same road. Clothes, spices, and other things to buy that reminded me of DD Urss road back at Mysore. Except Jodhpur has a colorful clock tower at the spicy end of the road. We also went to 'On The Rocks' which was a nice, though slightly expensive place to hang out, to waste some time till our train to Jaisalmer.

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