I felt a little blind stepping out of the dim lighted coach to a brighter world. A world which was busy in itself irrespective of my arrival. The hawkers were calling out to customers in loud and unmelodious sounds. Newspaper vendors were carrying the ‘taaza khabar’ in their old and broken baskets. Tea sellers seemed to be the most occupied with their both hands busy making tea and small profits. Unconcerned with all the bustling around, food vendors were happy preparing food, flavoured with a little grime and a little more odour.
I made an unsuccessful effort of lifting my bag and then dragged it laboriously making a screeching sound against the floor. A porter rushed for my help. Not much pleased with my denial, he gave me an unwelcomed look to the city. The digital board behind him tried to comfort me with ‘Jodhpur Railway Station Welcomes You’ flashing over it. I somehow dragged my bag to a corner and dialed my cousin’s phone number.
The city was waking up to the familiar sounds of temple bells coming from one corner and Rajasthani music from another. Showing off her rough driving skills, my cousin said, “This is how you drive on Jodhpur roads, otherwise you won’t be able to drive at all.” Passing from broad roads to narrow lanes, we reached her home which was just besides the milkman’s colony. Smelling cow dung all around, I pictured herd of cows going to be my new neighbours for the next few days.
Shedding my thoughts away and taking a quick wash up, we made our way to the city’s glory – Mehrangarh Fort. As our car ascended over the hill, the picture became clearer with a giant structure standing tall at the hilltop. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I started clicking pictures, eager to capture the stone beauty in front of my eyes. Unlike other historical places, there were not many guides around. The ticket seller offered me a digital audio guide which my cousin refused as she had all the necessary information I required about the place. Putting me to amazement, the fort had a well functioned lift installed for the tourists. We reached the top floor of the fort to adore the panoramic view of ‘The Blue City.’ The houses all around were painted in either blue or white. It felt as if the sky was casting its shadow over the whole city.
We roamed in and around the fort leisurely. As it was quite early in the morning, there were not many tourists around, leaving a few locals and fewer foreigners to our company. From the intricate cravings over the wooden doors to the colourful hangings over the ceilings, we patiently and enjoyably explored everything. My eyes were moving from the beautiful architecture to the camera eyepiece and back to the architecture. The fort had a small café catering ‘modern food’ demands of the tourists. But more than that, what pleased me was the sound of traditional music coming from an alley of the fort. Following its direction, I saw a prototypical Rajasthani family contributing to the folk culture of the state. Each member had his/her own job in the whole performance. While one was busy beating the tabla, the other was playing ‘jantar,’ a traditional Rajasthani instrument. The head of the family was bestowed with a more responsible job – singing. The song was in a pure Rajasthani language, not leaving much scope for me to understand it but compliment it every time I think of the place.
After Mehrangarh fort, our next stop was Jaswant Thada, located just beside the fort. It was a temple built beautifully in white marble. Offering solace to those searching for a break from mundane routines over their trips, it welcomed me with a calmed and composed air all around. As there was not much area to explore, we sat in the temple complex and gained all the positive energy we usually lack in daily lives. On our way back to the home, I enjoyed rolling of the car downhill with thundering sounds of the clouds spread all over the sky.
The next morning, my cousin took me to the place she was most excited to show. Forgetting our route and getting lost in the city byways in her exhilaration, we reached Umaid Bhawan Palace after an hour’s struggle. The construction portrayed pure British architecture. Stretched over a vast area, it was a quiet property with architectural beauty pleasing the eyes. Housing a museum with paintings and daily items of the previous and present Maharaja, the palace walls narrated stories of all eras of Jodhpur’s rich past. Half of the whole complex was turned into a hotel few years back. Royal guests and even the presiding king and his family stayed there during their visits.
Busy in deeply analyzing the worth of precious stones put on display, my cousin grabbed the camera from me and asked me to pose. Ignoring her, I rushed towards the sound everyone was heading to. The loud music coming from shehnais and drums and the sudden shower of flowers surprised me. Noticing my curiosity, my cousin explained that this was the standard way of welcoming guests into the royal palace. Completing our tour of the inner complex, we walked towards the vintage car section. A range of royal cars used by the past kings were showcased behind thick glass walls. Admiring them from the other side of the glass, I sighed for a ride in any one of them.
My cousin had reserved the next day for shopping. As she was familiar with the best shops offering local items in reasonable prices, she took me around four famous shopping centres of the city. Almost same in products and prices, the shops were large with enticing things to offer. I bought typical Rajasthani artefacts for my living room, jewellery box for my mother, bangles for my sister and handcrafted college bags for myself. Content with my money well spent, my cousin took me to the most famous food joint in Jodhpur serving the city’s famed delicacy –Mirchi Vada! In my blind love for spicy food, I gobbled two vadas leaving my tongue to a flavourful yet burning sensation.
Determined to make the last day of my stay memorable, my cousin took me to Mandore Gardens. Unlike the other locations I visited in the city, the place presented a completely contrasting picture. It was rushed with locals or better to say innumerable locals coming from some unknown location. The gardens spread over more than half of the premises gave way to the stone temples built over the other half. Hoping to take blessings in one of them, I was bewildered to find no idols inside any of them. In a little paradox, we decided to sit and relax for a while but the interminably moving horde took us along with it and dropped us at the small amusement park built in a corner of the garden area. With great struggle I managed to click a few pictures of the temples and the museums accommodated there. In our effort to escape the crowd, we took a wrong exit route and encountered more rush as compared to before. Surrendering to the situation, we moved along with others listening to the music played by folk performers standing and asking for money after equal distance intervals.
For dinner, my cousin took me to a local restaurant serving Rajasthani food in a complete ‘rajshahi’ manner. We were given huge thalis dished up with nearly a dozen food items. The vegetables and curries were served in exceptionally small bowls with four types of chutney and three types of roti. Each one of them was so toothsome that I didn’t leave even a crumb behind. Debunking my wait for a finger bowl, the waiters brought a customary jug and katori and put lukewarm water over my hands. Enjoying my last meal in the city, we came back home with a satisfactory smile over our faces.
My cousin dropped me at the railway station next day and wished me best of the journey. Waving her goodbye from my window seat, I smiled thinking of already experiencing the best journey of my life in the past four days.