On a Sunday afternoon I met my four friends- Raja, Ram, Mohan and Roy. It was supposed to be a casual meet but Mohan initiated a random discussion on Rajasthan. The discussion went out of control and we ended up booking flight tickets! Three days later we were on an indigo jet to Jaipur. Normally this is not how trips are planned but we during our previous travels had developed this weird habit of jumping the gun. We never planned our trips, it just happened and Rajasthan was no different from it.
Jaipur from the outset was a city in transition, stuck between the illusion of development and the memory of it’s past. Our bags and bodies found a place in Rajasathan state tourism hotel. The pink bus that carried tourists around the iconic places in Jaipur had long left. We started off with Birla mandir which was a modern structure, very different from other monuments in Jaipur. Albert museum was our next destination followed by Hawa mahal. Hawa mahal stood like a majestic figure in the hustle and bustle of the city.By this time we were low on energy and needed some refueling. Adil took us to a small but famous restaurant. The Rajasthani thali was excellent and the dessert was nirvana to my taste buds.
Ever wondered why the boundaries of the countries in Africa are straight!! This is because the boundaries were drawn up by the colonial European powers in a crowded room in Berlin. Now after 132 years, a bunch of fools on a beautiful morning in Jaipur were drawing random lines across Rajasthan to depict the journey they were to make. On the peripheral boundary of the fort stood a huge gateway. I don’t know if there exists a heaven up there, but down here there was this gateway that opened to the sky. Up there the wind was in solitude, the sky in peace and in front of us stood the Aravalli mountain range. Well he was like a sleeping giant. The wind around us carried his snore. I closed my eyes and felt his snore talk to me. He said thank you for coming, I said thank you being.
Udaipur was a city in festive mood. It felt as if the city was welcoming us. It was navarathri, the Dandia sticks were out and so were the beautiful girls in their traditional attire. I put my head out of the window and just enjoyed beauty in it’s purest form. Every city has its uniqueness and Udaipur that night was a spectacle unfolding. Udaipur seemed a completely different city. The city palace was our next stop and we broke into it in all eagerness. The wisest thing to do when you are visiting a historic place is to hire a professional guide. The advantages are manifold. One you get a better idea of the place and two you get to know a person who has his own world view, which is often quite different from yours. In our pursuit we found Zaheer Abbas, a well built guy in his mid 30’s. The palace was a masterpiece, there was a tree in the 1st floor, certain rooms possessed the most splendid souvenirs from other places of Rajasthan and world.
Often in life when you reach a point of no return, you will have two options — stay were you are or move forward. We did not really have the liberty of staying. So we decided to move on the treacherous road. We were moving ahead but there was no progress. Hours passed but we could not find a proper town. Barmer was the nearest town. I was done with my driving, so I passed the baton to Ram. He did a great job and we managed to reach Barmer and decided to stay there for the night. The sky was clear, the road from Barmer to Jaisalmer was a peach. As we moved towards Jaisalmer, one could see a transition from semi- desert vegetation type to desert vegetation. We were now part of the desert. The road stretched to an endless path, so did my thoughts! It is in this path that I captured infinity! Ever wondered what infinity is? Have you seen it? Have you ever felt it?
Jaisalmer looked like a different world to me. Golden-yellowish buildings everywhere. We entered the Jaisalmer fort with great enthusiasm and it did not disappoint us. The most fascinating part of the fort were its narrow streets, it had natural flair to take you along with it. Up there the whole city of Jaisalmer could be mapped with ease. Old, non-functional but tolerant cannons sat there, watching human folly and madness unfold. I think one day the cannons might just want to fire a couple of shots out of frustration.
When you travel in an eastward or westward direction the sun can cause serious visibility issues. As we were making the eastward journey from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur the reality was inescapable. Ram was probably the best driver among us, but he too was finding it difficult to drive. On one occasion he mistook a divider to a road and the wheels rammed on to the divider, fortunately major damage was averted. We reached Jodhpur and the only place on our radar was the Mehrangarh fort. A scene from “The dark knight rises” was shot with this fort as background, so excitement was obvious. Forts in Rajasthan were more strategic than symbolic. They were constructed on hill tops or elevated areas. That along with the geography of the region meant that the regional kingdoms managed to retain their dominance through time. We looked around the fort for a well but found none! Christopher Nolan got us there.