They warned me. Every single Indian I met warned me. They said, why are you going to Rajasthan in summer [it’s summer here]? They said it was insanely hot and no one in their right mind would go there this time of year. I figured it couldn’t get any worse than anything else I’d experienced thus far.
I was wrong.
Rajasthan is dry heat, which is nice, because it’s something with which I am familiar, growing up in California. It’s a refreshing change from the oppressive humidity of the rest of the country. But that doesn’t make it any less painful and unpleasant.
Willa arrived in Mumbai nearly a week ago, after I returned that afternoon from Panchgani (I have a post about those last two days that I have to post after this sometime). I gave her the whirlwind tour of Bombay-in-a-day, which worked out fabulously, and I think she loves it as much as I do, despite the fact that we didn’t see any museums (not that there are many to see), and mostly shopped, since we had to get her a new wardrobe. Then, we set off for Udaipur, where we spent several lovely days exploring the gorgeous City Palace, the quaint town, the “lake” (it’s mostly dry this time of year), gazing longingly at the Lake Palace (they no longer let non-guests in, much to my chagrin, since it was pretty much my prime reason for wanting to go to Udaipur), taking a tour of the surrounding countryside forts and temples with some Canadians we befriended, avoiding touts and other people who wanted our money, and frequenting the same coffeeshop. We even went to a cultural dance show, it was great.
At this point, however, things went sour. On our daytrip, on the last leg as we headed back to town, Willa got sick. She might smack me for making this public knowledge, but who knows. She spent the rest of the day in bed, with me playing mommy, and fortunately felt better the next morning when we got on a bus to Jodhpur. I, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Finding myself sick in the middle of the night, I spent the better part of the bus ride trying to ignore the heat and the stares; as soon as we arrived in Jodhpur, we collapsed in our room and slept for several hours. I proceeded to not leave the room until today, finding myself with a severe fever all day yesterday. It seemed a little absurd to come all the way to Jodhpur and not get to see any of it, so, fortunately, I woke up feeling slightly better today, and we ventured out this afternoon to go see the fort, which is quite famous, actually, though I can’t remember the name off the top of my head. Needless to say, it was absolutely stunning, as is the Blue City, as Jodhpur is called, from that height. All the guidebooks and the people we’ve met suggested the audioguide, and I can add to that chorus; it’s better than most, and very informative.
What you have to understand about me and Rajasthan is that, while I have wanted to come to India for at least ten years, the buildings of Rajasthan have been my visual. And then, last year, I saw the movie The Fall. I highly, highly recommend this film for anyone who loves storytelling and creative, intelligent movies and beautiful cinematography. Beyond all of this, though, are the locations in which it was filmed, many of which are in Rajasthan; among them are the Blue City and its fort, Udaipur’s Lake Palace, and, I believe, Jaiselmer’s fort. (There is also Fatepur Sikri, but that’s another story I’ve yet to write here.) Today, in one of the fort’s courtyards, I got so excited because a scene from the movie takes place there and I could see it all in my mind; I’m sure everyone thought I was nuts. Anyway, I write this so that you will all go watch the movie and see what I’m talking about; then you can understand why I am so passionate about all of this.
Of course, I am not the only one passionate about Rajasthan’s beauty. Since getting here, I’ve noticed a marked difference in the way people treat you. First of all, this is far and beyond the most touristed place I’ve been; Goa is touristed, but it’s beach tourism, which is different. Rajasthan is aimed at people like us, and so while on the one hand you are less of an anomaly as a foreigner, more people are likely to see you as a source of money. We befriended a Mexican guy traveling around for 10 days on his own and he kept talking about how people just kept trying to get money out of him in every way possible, whether it was for him taking their picture, or giving him directions. That almost happened to us today, but women are slightly more respected in that sense, because people are somewhat less likely to just approach you. Though men will, of course, harass you, and it was worse today that I’ve seen it in weeks. Willa went out yesterday on her own and apparently our adorable hotel proprietor was very concerned about her going out alone; it’s just not kosher here, or terribly safe. She claims to have been fine, though, and only had to pretend she had a husband around to some adorable older ladies who were worried about why she was a woman alone.
In any case, it’s a different experience, as always. More to come.