(the answer is no, by the way)
I got to Jaipur that morning from Delhi, around 10 or so. I was bedraggled beyond belief due to the little sleep I had gotten. Although it didn’t stop me from looking out the window expecting to see signs of Rajisthan’s famed desert lands, as I have never seen one before, to little success.
I got a very nice hotel towards the center of town and researched a place to soothe the hunger pains in my belly. I set out walking to a place recommended by my guide. My mood was bad from the previous night and the fact that I hadn’t eaten in an eternity wasn’t helping nor was the oppressive heat. I waved off driver after driver until one pulled up next to me, “Do you need a ride?” I shook my head and ignored him, my usual response but he kept driving alongside me insisting that I talk to him. I motioned that I wanted nothing to do with him until he pulled over, got out of his vehicle and came after me. I think he could tell he startled me because he followed up with a, “Don’t be scared I just want to talk.” He was tall, had a gold earring on each lobe, a mop of curly black hair crowned his head and a scratchy looking stubble covered his jaw and upper lip. His smile was friendly and his stance unthreatening. However, the first thing that I noticed were his eyes, a starting blue/green/brown mix that looked catlike when reflected in the sun. (Disclaimer: I am not coming back with an Indian husband, this isn’t one of THOSE stories)
I dismissed him one more time, thanking him for his concern but I really didn’t want to talk to anyone. He asked where I was from, I sighed and answered America. “Ah Americans, they are so snobby,” he retorted. Well, if I didn’t want to talk to him then I sure didn’t now. I kept walking.
I thought I had lost him, but he sidled alongside of me, still chatting away, and finally I stopped and asked him his name. “Gopal,” he replied. I said listen, Gopal, I’m starving and tired. I just need to eat something. I’m in no mood to talk until I do. “Okay, where are you going?” Niro’s. ” Niro’s is expensive, I”ll take you somewhere to eat and I won’t charge you.” Exasperated, I said alright. At the very least I could say goodbye afterwards.
We had lunch and chatted. He turned out to be a cool guy. When he mentioned my plan for the day was to go shopping he “graciously” offered to take me to the shop his brother worked at seeing that he knew they had shoes there. The shop was quite large, it was a craft emporium of sorts with many different types of items for sale from linens to rugs to scarves. I came for the shoes but walked away with more (of course). But they were really nice at the shop and even showed me how to wear a sari.
After he took me to a good place to eat and we arranged a tour tomorrow. He’s a nice enough guy and told me he’d give me a discount.
The next day he picked me up in the morning and we set out for an exciting day of sightseeing. Jaipur, being quite a large city, has much offer by way of attractions. We first made a quick stop in front of the beautiful stained glass windows of the city palace, the area where I inferred that the Maharajah’s harem was due to the anecdote that Gopal gave me about ladies waving out the window.
The next stop was the White Marble Temple, dedicated to Laxmi. It was a newer temple, startlingly clean and pristine, with stained glass windows depicting Hindu stories on the inside and representatives from other world religions and philosophies on the outside. After, we went to the hill-top monkey temple. Ever since the horror stories about Nepal’s vicious temple monkeys I am wary of all primates regardless of country of origin. I selected a monkey bodyguard, of sorts, from the barrage of boys that swarmed the rickshaw. I got a bag of peanuts as well. My monkey guard assured me that there was nothing to worry about because he is some sort of figure that strikes fear into their hearts. He showed me that feeding the monkeys peanuts was pretty safe, so after much chiding I have them some damn nuts.
Then we went to the Royal Gator, which is the burial place for the Maharajahs (and family) of Jaipur past. It was a quiet little place with beautiful onion domed marble structures that was fun to explore. When finished it was on to the jewel of Jaipur, the Amber Fort
The fort is a large palace complex at the top of a not too distant hill that is a very popular place to explore. The creamy stone buildings dotted with a plethora of arched windows, turrets, and domes sit majestically on the side of the hill. I was left to explore for a while, and despite the heat I excitedly made my way up the cobbled hill to the palace. One of the two well-tended palaces I have seen so far, the place was pretty full of tourists but not so much that I could escape the others and live my trapped Indian princess fantasies without much embarrassment. The main parts of the palace had lovely sculpted hedge gardens, boasted an impressive area in the main courtyard, which was a huge glass mosaic that was for the reception of guests. With the entry ticket you’re largely given free rein to explore the many rooms and pockets of the palace. The view below was magical, especially when seen through the ornately “screened” windows. I went up and down steep stairs and ramps, attempting to get a feel from the former residents, to imagine the lavish lives they lead in the isolated hill palace. I felt like a kid exploring a new playground, darting from this room to that room, in this turret or that balcony, curious to explore every crevasse.
Before I knew it was time to meet up with Gopal again and the both of us hungry we had lunch at one of his favorite places, KFC. It was strange walking in because when you do, at this one, the entire counter staff waved jovially at us, which hasn’t ever happened to me before.
Gopal and I went to a really great museum in a beautiful building that had all sorts of art from the area from pottery to paintings to musical instruments and textiles. We were becoming great friends to the point that since it was low tourist season he offered to show me around to a few places in Rajisthan that I was going to visit anyway, in his car, for a discounted rate. I agreed and we arranged a time for me to be picked up in the morning for more adventures.