Jaipur on a Saturday


I am amazed how much slips out of the memory and the journey from Delhi Airport to Jaipur triggered an acute awareness of so much that I would experience in the next few days.
My first camel was waiting in the shade of an acacia tree, flicking it’s tail and chewing with beautiful almond eyes closed against the mid-day glare of the sun.
Looking down the embankment of the motorway with cars weaving all over the place, a jeep coming the wrong way towards us and a herd of goats waiting to cross I was suddenly held by the stillness of the water buffalo standing tethered beside a mud hut, the neatly stacked patties of dung in the corner, the brushed mud yard and the woman with the glittery veil miking her.
I lay down in the back of the cab and slept to the sound of endless horns, the shouts of vendors as we slowed to go through towns and villages, and the chattering around me when we were stopped by roadworks.
Arriving in Jaipur was so lovely. Strangely like coming home, and I found that aching longing to spend more time here. I have only a week this trip. a short burst of commerce which gives such an amazing insight into an aspect of how this amazing country functions. The steaming chai opening the deal, the whispered calculations between the men selling, the focus and determination that each side has to do the best deal possible and then the laughter and more chai when the deal is struck and it works all around, the dusty credit card machine that cranks out the receipt and the faithful receipt hand written and stapled together with such firm deliberation. The erotic charge of taking the money passes and I am free to leave and they are open and ready for the next customer. Lights are all turned off and newspapers opened, not to miss a moment of relaxation before the adrenalin rush fires up again.
I have had a day of commerce and come back feeling as though Jaipur froze whilst I was away. In my mind’s eye, progress had swept through the city and all tradition was gone, the sweeping arm of change had erased all that was familiar and known: the dust, the dogs, scrawny cows and bone thin farmers in their traditional camel skin shoes and huge madly wound turbans, their clothes a strange shade of pale blue from the whitener added to the river water washes. But it has not changed at all. Not a moment. The shops all have the same assistants, the same stock, all just a little dustier and they are a little more tired. The recession has trashed tourism and business needs a lift.
So the welcome I received all around Jaipur today was so delightful, from the Chai Wallah to the Chappal Wallah (shoe seller) it was all smiles, asking about my children and longing to know if my hair had grown again.
I am happy to be here. There is a burgeoning row of bags lying in the corner of my room all waiting to fulfil their karma and come to England.