Me and India are beginning to come to terms with each other. It has been a hard road to this this agreement, with many battles along the way, but the beginnings of a friendship are underway. I still harbour a hint of a distaste in my mouth from Delhi, but Jaipur has been much more enjoyable. But let me start from the beginning...
I thought I would have travel companions to Jaipur, but I ended up having to do the journey completely alone. When I learned that I would be leaving at 3:30am, my level of enthusiasm for India reached an all-time low. I reluctantly left the safety of my hotel when my taxi pulled up, putting my faith in the unknown Indian driver. The car meandered through the nearly deserted streets, inhabited only by stray dogs, random herds of cattle, and thin, veiled street people that glided like black ghosts through the darkness. When we arrived at the train station I grit my teeth, thinking the driver was going to dump me at the gates to fend for myself - but instead he parked, dutifully grabbed my pack, and lead me through the jumble of trains, people, luggage, livestock and feces, until we found my seat. Thank you Unknown Indian Man, you just saved my life.
I wedged myself and my baggage into my coffin-like bunk and then something strange happened...For the first time on Indian soil I felt myself relax. Hell, I even dozed off! This phenomenon is hard to explain. Let me tell you it was definitely NOT due to the luxury or comfort of the train. Indian trains in no way resemble Canadian trains. First of all, people and luggage are shoved into every available orifice, and then some. It is by no ones standards, clean, quiet, appropriate temperature, or comfortably lit. In fact the florescent light above me flickered with every rock of the train (every few seconds), I was blasted by icy cold air from the open door next to my bunk, and every so often a shit smell so overpowering would arrive, and I would have to hold my breath to keep my stomach contents in place. I was the only fair skinned individual in sight, so my presence warranted more than a few double takes.
But...A young family was in the bunk across from mine. The tiny boy started at me dumbfounded with wide, muddy brown eyes and I couldn't help but smile. His uncle spoke some English and chatted me up, bought me a chai tea, and the family shared some bread with me. The uncle even escorted me off the train at my stop after he had learned I had no idea where Jaipur was or when to get off. And so, I arrived safe and my faith in the Indian population rejuvenated...Finally someone without an ulterior motive.
And Jaipur has been far more enjoyable. Still absolute insanity, with more people crammed per square kilometer than should be legal. It's known as the "pink city" but really should be the "city with every method of transportation under the sun". And this is no exaggeration. Besides your obvious array of motorized vehicles, tuk-tuks, and bicycle rickshaws up the ying-yang, there are horse drawn carriages, camel drawn carriages, people riding donkeys, scooters, cows, pedal bikes, and elephants. Yes elephants. It is not uncommon to see a fully grown elephant come waltzing down your average congested inner city roadway. The whole city's traffic swirls in the most incredible, disheveled system of haphazard organization that somehow works. The pink city part is just the background to this scene, with rows of shabby pink, decaying buildings that line the inner city streets. I would love to be taking pictures of all this, but I feel like every time I pull out my camera I'm pretty much pasting a large sign to my forehead that reads "stupid rich white girl...Please rob me now"
I won't bore you too much with the sites I've seen as I mostly wandered around by myself. History puts me to sleep so I've pretty much learned nothing about them other than they were really old and super fun to take lots of pictures of because cameras are more socially acceptable at these locales. I know, I know, I'm supposed to be an intelligent human being...but I just don't care who built the damn thing or why! The highlight was by far the monkey temple, which is an ancient temple built directly into a rock face, that is now home to hundreds of the cutest little monkeys!
Well I could ramble on but it's getting late here. To conclude, my emotional stability has improved considerably and thanks to all those who cared. It's still a tiring place to be, I'm harassed constantly by beggars, store owners, children, tuk-tuk drivers, and men whenever I'm on the street and they all want SOMETHING from me. But what I've come to realize, no one really means any harm. Indians are just very outgoing and open, and I'm shy and brought up in a comparably reserved and private society. Yes we are reserved compared to Indians! We hide everything neatly behind closed doors and regard strangers as either indifferently or suspiciously. Not so the case here! Also, I've always been taught to be polite to everyone. Here, you can't be too polite to anyone! That's code for "this person is an idiot, take advantage of them". Indians are not even polite to each other so really there's no point in trying. Respect yes, but no polite gestures needed. So for me, it's been quite an adjustment! Well...That's it for now, 'til next time.