Having spent four formative years of my life in Rajasthan, it’s a tad difficult for me to zero in on just one memorable instance from there. What I have penned down is a non-tourist-y account of the place I once called home.
My tryst with Rajasthan began in 2004, when my mother was transferred to Nasirabad - a small cantonment situated at about 25km from Ajmer. For someone who had lived in Srinagar and Ranchi earlier, it was a 360-degree terrain and culture change.
For an 11-year-old me, women dressed in ghagra choli with white bangles up till their upper arms and men sporting colourful turbans was quite an intriguing sight. And the way they conversed, even stranger. You hear a lot of ‘Sa’ (meaning ‘Ji’ in Hindi) in their conversation.
Tyre puncture is yet another common phenomenon in Rajasthan, especially in small towns. With Babool trees and Cacti all around, puncture repair shops are a decent source to earn livelihood. Visiting the cycle shop to get tyres and football fixed was a regular affair. As much as I hated it back then, I must mention that it’s only because of those visits that I can now fix a cycle tyre puncture by myself.
Any narration on Rajasthan cannot be complete without the mention of its amazing delicacies. While many may go gaga over Dal Baati Churma, I root for their Pyaz Kachoris. Served hot with a sweet and spicy chutney, those Kachoris are a must-have!
Now, it’s impossible for anyone to have stayed there for so long and not visited its capital city, Jaipur. I clearly remember my first visit to Jaipur. It was an easy 3-hour bus journey from Nasirabad. As soon as the bus entered Jaipur, I remember popping my head out of the window to see why it’s called the Pink City. To my disappointment, it wasn’t as pink as I expected it to be. First of all, the pink was very different from the colour that I knew, and secondly not all buildings were pink.
Nevertheless, I was excited to see the places (read ‘tourist attractions’) I had only heard or read about until then.
The tourist trail began with visiting the famous Hawa Mahal, followed by City Palace, Jantar Mantar Jal Mahal, Nahargarh Fort and Amer Fort. Out of the four, I loved Amer Fort the most. Firstly, because of the elephant ride, and secondly, because of the stunning view. You literally feel on top of the world when you’re up there.
There are monuments, and then there are markets. The thing about markets in Jaipur- be it Tripolia Bazaar, or Johari Bazaar- is that they bewitch you with their old world, colourful charm. Jewellery, jootis, dupattas, bags - these markets will not let you walk out without two shopping bags at least!
Fast forward to 2008, the first season of IPL. Long queues, stringent security checks, painted faces, flags, jerseys, celebrities, cheerleaders, and of course, the roaring crowd - I had my first brush with the madness of a live cricket match at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur. I must give credit to my cricket crazy mother for showing me this completely different side of Jaipur. The capital city had become second home, and Rajasthan Royals my favourite team, all thanks to those regular stadium visits.
Talking of 2008, how could I forget the deadly blasts that ripped the city off its tranquility! Nine serial blasts - the incident rattled me beyond imagination! I was there, at one of the blast spots, exactly a week before that fateful day. A narrow escape, I must say!
Other than Nasirabad, Ajmer and Jaipur, I have also had the fortune to visit Jaisalmer and Mount Abu.
Jaisalmer- My first ever camel safari, and the first ever desert sunset. Sitting in the middle of a beautiful sandy expanse, watching the sun reduce to beautiful orange hues- the experience is surreal to say the least! I could only imagine how beautiful it must be on a full moon night. Full moon or not, you can count on Jaisalmer evenings to be colourful and lively if you attend a cultural show. Highly recommended! Most of the hotels in Jaisalmer have it in their package.
Mount Abu, a quaint little town nestled in the Aravallis, enjoys great fanfare for being the only hill station in the state. Other than the usual hill station elements - a lake, a sunset point, mall road, etc. what makes Mount Abu special is Guru Shikhar, the highest point of the Aravalli mountain range.
The hill station doesn’t boast of pleasant weather and pleasant views alone; it has the famous Dilwara temples adding to its glory. Known for their beautiful architecture and intricate marble carvings, this group of five temples serves as a pilgrim site for the followers of Jainism.
There’s only so much I could see of Rajasthan in those four years. The place has so much more to offer. Attending Pushkar Mela will enrich my experience of Rajasthan further, and doing so with a loved one will make the experience all the more special.
It’s funny how despite staying so close by, I never had the opportunity to go to Pushkar. I hope I do it this time around.