I must begin by stating the obvious-Jaipur also known, as the pink city is beautiful. We spent eight days there- and I was constantly in a debate over whether I loved the city or despised it. First it is beyond exotic. Women in saris, and men in traditional Indian dress fill the streets. Camels, elephants, and cows are everywhere. The light in India is different and yellow. None of my photos have been color corrected and you can see the distinctive haze or maybe it’s a glow of the light. Regardless the light mixed with the colors of the city is truly something special to behold. As an art history buff the architecture just kills me. Mughal architecture, a mixture of Islamic, Persian, and Indian art is on full display. The beautiful marble inlay can be seen as floral motifs or geometric patterns as it decorates the walls, the floors, or the ceilings. Plus there are the signature Mughal vaulted entrances, which are framed with honeycombed shapes everywhere. As a westerner, eastern art has a particular enchanting allure. Its vernacular is so outside of ours, which is firmly based in linear perspective that it can be jolting to our senses. I love that about it. The flat perspective, uses of color, and focus on mathematical geometric shapes often seems spiritual to me. They differ so much from what we see on a daily basis here in the west.
Then there was the food. The curries, spices, lassies (like Pinkberry not frozen), and naan (oh glorious naan) are what dreams are made of. You hear a lot about food poisoning and India- I did not get very bad food poisoning while I was there-I did get sick at the end of Jaipur from tea I believe, but I am very adventurous and very stupid, Nick however was fine. I was careful about where I ate- sticking mostly to recommended restaurants and stalls. But the food, the glorious food. Usually cooked in ghee it was rich with out being heavy, filling while also being somewhat light and oh so satisfying with spices, and more! The food is what kept me sane. When something really awful happened, (like Nick sitting in human urine) the food is what kept us both from loosing it. It was always amazing, and absolutely always cheered me up. On a side note I think I could live pretty happily only eating naan (straight from the oven- coated in butter) paneer tikka masala ( a curry over a homemade cheese sort of like feta), and the homemade yogurts.
There is plenty of shopping in Jaipur, If you are looking for fabrics, block prints, or jewelry this is the place to find it. Indian fabric is beautiful, Indian jewelry is insane, and well it would be easy to go crazy. I went a little insane in The Gem Palace and an amazing store Satayam.
But with all that beauty in Jaipur there are a lot of other things that are not so nice. It is almost impossible to walk around Jaipur, believe me we tried. Besides the heat, the traffic, and noise (all of which is enough to kill you -literally), the sidewalks are either nonexistent or cut every few meters requiring large jumps back onto the busy street. Thus to get places you require a driver, and drivers are a pain. The easiest way to deal with this is to arrange for a driver for the time you are in the city as taxis are more expensive. On to drivers- it seems they tend to have a grumpy disposition and love to argue about where you want to go offering thousands of alternatives, usually their friends shops. I asked many of the people we met about this-it wasn’t just ours. Plus I have noticed Indian authors make references to this through out their novels, even Rushdie refers to arguing with grumpy drivers. This would be fine if it would stop with a no, but our polite western no, is seen as a “absolutely, lets do that next”, so the battle is constant and tiring. Our driver figured out we liked dhuries, flat rugs from Rajasthan, and so he would interrupt our monument seeing, or shopping, or eating to take us to god only knows where to look at rugs. He also loved to tell us no, don’t eat here- eat over there. All of this is exhausting, like exhausting to the point where towards the end of our week we just wouldn’t do things or we would take an auto rickshaw (a small scooter like vehicle with a two seat covered buggy in the back) over dealing with our driver. Plus driving in India is like playing chicken constantly with cows, other cars, lorries, and auto rickshaw so car sickness for me was inevitable. Also they drive fast-very fast, in old cars, so its scary.
Second the evidence of human waste is every. Trash collection is still a work in progress in Jaipur, and seeing it is a very constant reminder of what we are doing to our world. We have a way in the America of erasing all these reminders, and seeing it is a real wake up call. Mostly it was seeing the cows and pigs eat the garbage and fall over dead next to the garbage piles from the plastic bags in their stomachs that disturbed me most. I won’t start my long rant but trash is real problem people!!!!!!!!
The truth is I am still confused about everything in India. Sometimes I want to go back, as it really is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Just thinking about some of the shops and people I met, I am itching to head back over. But than I pause and think about so many of the other things I experienced while there and I am not sure. I defiantly wouldn’t recommend it as a vacation to most of my friends. When you only have so much time off a year, India is the opposite of a relaxing time. But it really did change the way I see the world. I believe at some point in Midnight’s Children (I can’t find the reference now) Rushdie describes India as being like a dream. This is the most accurate description of what it is like, it is too beautiful to be real, too ugly to be real, and most of all too strange. Constantly I asked myself- “is this really happening?” Being there is an assault on your identity and when you go home you feel like you wake back up, but still are left wondering how much of that was real and how much of that did I imagine.
If you make it to Jaipur:
- The Gem Palace -for to die for jewelry
- Hot Pink-Marie Helene de Taillac’s Indian store carrying home goods, clothing and stationary
- Khadi Ghar:If you want fabric- particularly high quality India linen- go here at-Opposite Niros Restaurant, M I Road, M I Road, Jaipur –+91 141 237 3745}
- AFKD– furniture
- Anokhi– a block print wonderland
- Satayam- quilts, scarves, and more- this place is awesome. At 174 Laxman Dwara, outside City Palace; 91-14/1260-0555 Next store is an antique store run by his father (also wonderful for antique dhurries and miniatures)