It was my friend Arpi's sister wedding at Jaipur on 6th of February. I got my tickets booked in the Jaipur express from Bangalore to Jaipur, a journey of 40 hours. It had been some time since I made any long travel with the railways and the good amount of time you have to just laze around and read was something to look forward to.
I was traveling with my friend Roshan. We consumed lots of tea and by the end of it had a good knowledge of various teas you can have on a train journey - Tea bag tea, Masala tea - with ginger, with ginger and elaichi, without ginger and only elaichi, plain tea with thick milk and sugar...Dharmawaram (Andhra Pradesh) came and I tried some Daal wadas over there. Be careful, it just looks filling but its stuffed with lots of maida. The Dal was just sprinkled on top to fool you. But Itarasi junction was the lord of all. We had been eating the Pantry Car meals and before Itarasi junction, we were a meal away from the end of our journey. A guy dressed in the Pantry Car Uniform walked in and asked us for the night meal orders. He wasn't the same guy serving us for the past 28 hrs. I asked him if he was from Pantry Car and he shined his laminated ID on my face. It was just 5 in the evening and we were a good 3 hrs. away from dinner time. I enquired about what time he would bring the meals and he confidentially assured me that he would bring it right away.
Me: Par abhi toh khaane mein bahut samay baaki hai.
Itarasi Guy: Sir, abhi aapko casserole mein laake de denge. Aap ko jab man kare kha lena. Khana garam rahega.
Too scared of sleeping empty stomachs we asked for two meals.
Later, the round looking usual Pantry guy walked in and asked for our night meal orders. I questioned him about the guy who asked us previously. There was a look of dismay on his face as he didn't know any such guy working under him. We had been tricked. I peeped into the plastic case of the meals kept by the Itarasi guy. There was food in it for our relief but the Pantry guy was disappointed with our foolishness. At last, we dared to eat that meal thinking of all the plans that Itarasi guy must had hatched to plot the trickery on us.
Nagpur oranges were a good taste of the journey though. As soon as you enter Nagpur, there would be hawkers running around with yellow cheap plastic bags full of small oranges. You can trust 5 out of 7 oranges to be sweet in that. Thats a pretty good ratio considering the number of ways you can be led into being a fool.
I was reading 'The Moon and Six Pence' by Maugham and once again I met a line in the book that spoke very true to me. This book is about Gauguin's life, his madness and methods of being a painter. The book ends with a highlight on an artist's selfless attitude to any acclaim other than what he aches to achieve. A good read and it brought me to jaipur in good spirits.
The wedding went off well with some dance, dressing up, lots of sweets and dodging the pathway of the determined official photographer.
I got hold of a few matchboxes from Jaipur. The last one's back cover shows the literary efforts of our matchbox company put for the goodwill of its users.
Jaipur as a city is beautiful with its architecture and has a very strong character. On the last two days, I visited the tourist areas of the city. I had kept myself equipped with film rolls because keeping the camera off my hands would be difficult there.
We went to Amber Fort first. As soon as we stepped out of the car, the guides raided us with their suggestions. When they realised that we were slipping away from them, the suggestions took a violent touch. I had kept my sketch book with me and looking around the place with a guide would have taken away the easeful pace of observation.
The fort was magnificent and many corners displayed the exquisite skills of the artisans. Sadly, many corners reeked of the smell of piss of visitors and walls had been scratched with names circled in hearts. I kept wondering about the navigation system the kings must be using to go around a place so huge. It seemed very easy to lose track of where you were and where you started. If this was good enough to confuse me, Jaigarh had something more to offer.
Jaigarh was much bigger in its capacity and had an impenetrable stand. The place had four huge tanks to reserve the water for the army to use. In one of the display areas, the mountainous canon was placed. This canon had a shooting range of 22 miles and each canon ball required 8 kilos of gunpowder. It was never used though but its presence was more than enough to keep the fort untouched by any enemies. The view of Jaipur looking down from the fort is something that kept me at loss of words. Here is a panoramic shot of it to make you come close to it.
We made a brief visit to City Palace too. The charm of Jaigarh and Amber Fort was too thick on me and the city palace seemed a bit pale. But, this piece put in the polo exhibit space did catch my attention. Its a polo ball designed to play with in the night. In the centre, it had a candle lighting stand that always stayed upright.
On the last day, we decided to take a round of the old market area - Chhoti Chaupad and Badi Chaupad. Our driver MataDin Ji told us that Old City area was designed by Mirza Ismail and on his name the MI road exists in Jaipur. The place was branched off in many small lanes with equal amount of crowd pouring in from everywhere.
I saw Hawa Mahal too and it looked much less dominating than I used to imagine it to be from the calendar images. Finally, the time had come to pack up and make it on time for the train. I am glad that I finished the trip with Albert Hall. There was not much time to go in and see but I met a fine compromise with sketching it from outside.
I need to come here again with more time, more sketchbooks and more film rolls.