Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pottering - Jaipur style

On Day 6, I decided to go for a little walk along Man Sagar Lake in front of the hotel before our evening meeting in Jaipur. As I was passing other people, three seemingly-local boys said “hi!” and I returned “hi!” Then we began talking, and I found out that two of them were in college, studying to become jewelers, and another was in high school. Sohail and Ali, the two college students, said if I would come to the old city next day, they could show me the city. We exchanged our phone numbers, and said good-bye.

Next day, after our late lunch at Indian Coffee House near the old city, I called Ali and asked him if we could meet. Finding and meeting with someone on Sunday on a busy street in Jaipur was a bit of challenge. Anyway, after the help of a few passersby, I successfully met with Ali near the Sanganeri Gate (Sohail could not come for some reason). His cousin-brother gave us a short ride to a narrow backstreet, where Ali’s home was located, on a motor cycle. Ali’s younger brother was waiting there, too. Ali said that “I’m a bit busy today getting ready for a trip to Thailand in two days, but my cousin and brother will take you a tour of the town.” “That would be great,” I said.
I was sandwiched between Ali’s cousin and his brother on a Hero-Honda motorcycle, and had an incredible tour of the town for about an hour and half. I had a camera on Ali’s cousin’s shoulder, and we zipped through numerous narrow alleys. Small candy shops, chicken shops, tiny workshops where a few men were busily running sawing machines…there were all kinds of activities going on there. In a very short time, those unfamiliar backstreets became to appear familiar and lively space. A few things that they said interested me. Even though they were not Muslims, they pointed to (seemingly) all the mosques along the way, saying “Look, this is the most beautiful mosque,” or “Look, this mosque has new paint.” They also pointed to hospitals in their neighborhood, giving me an impression that these have a significant presence in their mental map.
Occasionally, we got out of small alleys and passed through commercial streets and bazaars. In some places, it was like riding a motorcycle through Village Green on a sunny Saturday morning in Hamilton, if you know what I mean. We would be either shouted or arrested for doing such a thing in the U.S., but here people looked calm and made us a room to ride through. Indeed, as you will notice immediately in India, honking seems like an expected behavior on street. You do not honk because you are mad at the reckless driver in front of you; rather, honking seems to work like a warning signal for a slower vehicle or pedestrian in front of you—“watch out, I am coming in your way.” There appear to be a different set of traffic rules and norms.
Going back to backstreets, we passed through the “kite street” where all kinds of kites were being sold in many, many small kite shops (January 14 was the kite competition day, I learned). We also went up to a hill on the outskirts of the town, and had a nice view of Jaipur. Riding on a motorcycle, going over 60 km/h, without an helmet, and sometimes against the traffic (although you would not go as fast then), was quite an experience, and I have not yet told about that to my family back home.

On the way back to the hotel, they asked me whether I wanted to play cricket, and I said “yes” although I had never played it before and knew no rules. They took me to a field where boys were playing the game, and they let me hit a few balls. The bat was surprisingly heavy. I had a slight hope that my baseball experience during childhood would help me gain some respect among the curious audience in the field. But, after all, I was no Ichiro.

By 5 p.m. the air was getting cooler and my hands were getting cold. We were back to the hotel in time, exchanged our e-mail addresses, and said good-bye to each other. That was my Day 7.


  1. Thank you for this story. What an amazing day. Do you have more pictures? Did you exchange contact info/e-mails?

  2. I actually videotaped the trip (about half of it), but I did not have time to edit it for blog-posting. I also thought that it may not add whole a lot to the story itself. Anyway, I did exchange our e-mail addresses with Ali's brother, but I could not interpret all of his written e-mail address (so I got the mail delivery failure message). I called Ali next day to send me an e-mail so that I get their correct e-mail addresses, but I have not heard from him since (maybe he is still travelling)...