Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jodhpur: The Blue City

This post is dedicated to Jeff Rosen, a great man who I will miss dearly. I love you and send my regards to you and everyone who is mourning your passing.

Jodhpur is a sprawling city in the middle of the Western Indian desert known for its huge Mehrangarh fort and the blue houses of the old city. We spent our first afternoon wandering the streets and bazaars of the old city, tasting various street foods as we went. A very old looking man approached me and asked where I am from, the typical first question from many Indians. When I told him "From USA," he immediately invited us to his home to have chai and talk about. Of course a red flag went up as I'm not accustomed to being invited to someones home within 5 seconds of meeting them. Eventually we decided to take the man, Allen's number and stop by the next day.

When I called the next day, it seemed he hardly remembered us, but we decided to go have a chat with him anyway. He turned out to be 83 years old so it's hard to blame him for the lapse in memory. We ended up spending a few hours with him, learning about Indian culture and trying to explain things like how people fall in love. It was great fun and we definitely made that old guy's day.

Us and Allen

The fort is pretty much the only thing to see in the city, so the morning after we arrived we trekked up the steep streets of the old city to visit it. We arrived to find that the courtyard beyond the first gate had become the set for some movie. After declining the invitation to don a soldier's outfit and be an extra in the film, we got our audio tour setups, me in English and Julia in German and entered the fort. The stone wall by the first gate is splattered with craters of cannonballs from one siege, but the audio tour was excited to tell us that in 500 years the fort was never taken by force. It's an imposing thing, I can't imagine trying to siege the place. We also visited the Jaswant Thada, a cenotaph memorializing some maharaja from the city.

Fort view from the Jaswant Thada

Opulent room in the Mehrangarh fort palace

At the omelet shop; The guy's been cooking eggs here for 30 years

Fort and old city

Fort defenses

Today we took a local bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. We'd arranged with the guy at our guest house in Jodhpur to check out his friend's guest house in Jaisalmer, but when the bus arrived we were assaulted by half a dozen men representing at least as many guest houses. One, a young kid, had our names from the guy in Jodhpur, though as the others saw and heard them they began to use them too, trying to trick us into going with them. It was a crazy scene, and we did end up going with the kid, who took us too a cool guest house inside the fort here in Jaisalmer. There we met two people who are leaving tonight and were raving about the camel safari they'd taken. We decided to go and we will leave tomorrow morning for four days of camel riding through the desert. I'm really excited.

Looking out from the Jaswant Thada cenotaph

A man makes bangles from gum tree resin

Old city doorway

A woman puts her child on a motorbike to pose for the camera

Through old city alleyways looking up to the fort

Decaying motorbike

Man in a workshop

Women buy spices at the bazaar

Bazaar and clocktower

Some kids invited to play in their alleyway game of cricket

Small cenotaph at the Jaswant Thada


Unknown said...

So much going on! I really like hearing how friendly the people are. They invite you, total strangers, to their houses for chai or to play cricket. It's so nice and seems so innocent and sweet, especially juxtaposed with the touts always trying to get your money. As usual, love the pix, they speak 1000 words, but I especially love hearing you tell your tales in your own voice in your writings. I hope you were able to explain to the old gent all about how people fall in love and marry so that he can understand how this differs from the arranged marriages he knows. That was quite a challenge for you two!

Anonymous said...

You are killing it bro! I am so amazed and impressed by you as usual. Dude I broke my clavicle and need art assistants. Know any cool responsible girls who might be interested? Also are you going to Black Rock City this year?

Anonymous said...

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