katrinasadventures' Travel Journals


  • From Massachusetts, United States
  • Currently in Jakarta, Indonesia

Fall 2009: Northwest India

Join Katrina as she shares her adventures, stories and feelings throughout her journey across India's spiritual land. Traveling with a consortium of New York Schools (Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Hobart and William Smith, and Colgate), Katrina will spend time in various locations, such as Musoorie, Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi.

Homeward Bound (Jaipur Style)

India Jaipur, India  |  Nov 18, 2009
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 Jaipur is a dangeruous city... 

Sunday, Nov. 1st:

If there is one day that I feel is experienced similarly around the world it would be the Sunday. I feel that the majority of the world spends Sundays relaxing and cleaning.  On this typical Sunday, the hot sun woke me up and I went on my computer… but, my net setter was not working, so I had no friking internet… I ate lunch with the family who was furiously cleaning the common rooms and courtyard.  During the night, Anand had had a vicious asthma attack from the dust, so everyone was beating the rugs, curtains, and furniture to get rid of those evil particles of dust.  I helped clean a little, even though they “didn’t” want me to… :)

Marissa and I went on a little errand run in the afternoon to search for some make-up.  Thinking that make-up would be a little cheaper than back home, we walked over to the air-conditioned mall, City Pulse.  Deepoli has recommended the West Story shop and so as soon as we got in the store to the small make-up counter we were flocked by six workers.  The selection was tiny, but these six workers were just hovering around us as we tried to look at make-up. 

Around six, just as the sun was setting, I began to walk to Cynthia and Sheila’s apartment for a little Halloween get-together.  As I walking down a smaller road, I suddenly saw a light and vehicle noise creeping up behind me.  I was walking on the sidewalk and thought that someone was just driving close to the edge of the road; however, I was mistaken since these two disrespectful boys were up on the sidewalk.  They whizzed right next to me and the passenger grabbed my butt.  I was shocked, so I stopped and just stood there.  Another older man on a motorcycle drove by and started yelling at me in Hindi...  I only understood do (two).  I was confused and a little scared, so I got behind a bus and whipped out my phone just in case.  The two boys came back and started driving back and forth on the road.  Eventually, I emerged from that street and made my way on busy MI road.  I was a little shaken up, but I trudged on and eventually got picked up by Mridula and Marissa and we tried finding the Kamal Apartments. 

We were a little late to the party, and so dinner was already being served.  Some people had dressed up, more specifically, members of the group dressed up as each other (Jori=Jeremy, Jeremy=Fernando, Fernando=Jori, Chelsea=Jeremy, Hannah=16-year-old Fernando in a Speedo).  The energy was a little low and certain members of the group were acting secretly (since they wanted to leave and go smoke “Hookah”), so the party was not the usual festivity that occurs on the college campus on Halloween.  We pumped some tunes and danced a bit, but around 930pm everyone was ready to attire to their bedrooms.  Anna, Kim, Marissa, and I searched for a rickshaw and after a good 20 minutes, we found one for a good price.  While we were riding back home, we saw numerous techno-parties, aka weddings.  The music and light from the weddings could be heard and seen from blocks away… duff duff duff REMIX dff dff dff…


Anna, Chelsea, Fernando, and Hannah all showed us the dance that they had choreographed in Mussorie… please see video for further insight. 


Monday, Nov. 2nd:

Today, my other half, Marissa, did not accompany me to class because she was suffering from some sort of sickness.  She did not sleep too well during the night because she was running to the bathroom so much.  So, I ventured on to Hindi classes and was shocked to find that Hindi did not go as badly as I thought.  Since I did my homework, unlike some others…J, Hindi classes went by fast.  However, I had a lot of other work since our biweekly field journals were due on Wednesday and I had not had a chance to touch begin writing them.  Therefore, I wandered over to the Anoka café, also known as the European bubble, with Anna.  While we wrote up our field journals (description of an incident, reaction, and analysis), we watched the middle class, English-speaking Indians and funky Europeans, who wore very interesting outfits, as they ate and conversed with each other.  Most of the Europeans looked like they had jumped out the 80s and were trying to bring back the curtains.  After our fix of organic food and English books (there was a bookstore) we left around 4pm and walked back into the reality of India, including beggar harassment and all. 


Post Anoki café, I went back home to the ailing Marissa.  She was in the bathroom when I got back, which was a problem since I also had to use it.  So, I distracted my bladder by talking to Mridula about her arthritis pain.  Marissa was still not feeling too hot, so we loaded her up on some meds and she slept the afternoon away.  I worked on my field journals…  I then spent the evening relaxing with Anand and Deepoli in the living room/their bedroom surfing the internet.  We all had our computers out on our laps and were taking advantage of the newly placed wireless network.  My net setter was not working so Anand donated his time to help me try to fix the defect device.  Even though he was a remarkable computer/internet engineer, he could not fix the while we were all on the internet.  It reminded me of home since we were in the presence of each other’s company but we were all silently surfing the net… o, the good times. 


Tues, Nov. 3rd:

Ah, another day of lectures and classes.  Marissa was up and Adam today and so I knew that the day would be off to a good start.  Thinking that classes began at 9am, I got up at 730am worried that I was running late.  When I went to the kitchen window to drop off my lunch box for Mridula, I then realized that classes started at 10am.  So, I cleaned my room—mom, you should be proud of my organization—and finished some homework.  I then walked to school noticing that the police officers were out directing traffic and making sure that all vehicles abided by the traffic rules.  That was a first. 


TOURISM by Professor I.P. Mody:  Leisure/tourism is the largest component of the labor industry in the world.  Leisure is just important in life as work and sleep is.  Since the world seems to be moving towards a work hard-play hard one, those with sufficient incomes are desiring more and more to travel as a form of leisure.  Especially in Europe, regional tourism is increasing around the world since it is cheaper and easier to plan.  The impact of “work, money and ‘weekend’” has just begun to be studied in India and so tourism research is a new field. 

Historically, tourists were referred to as travelers and often by foot or animal, they would travel to their destination.  Traveling was the manly thing to do and masculine characteristics were assigned to travelers.  Later, as technology and transportation increased, such as the airplane and train, so too did tourism increase.  In 1950, there were 25 million international tourists; but, in the next ten years (1965) the amount grew to 157 million and by 1994, 500 million people could be found traveling the world.  It is projected that in 2010, the number of tourists will cross 1,000 million—almost the population of India.  Today, every 9th person in the world, or every 16th person in India, is earning his livelihood through tourism. 

            In India, tourism is heavily influenced by religious ties through the pilgrimages and marriage arrangements.  Traditionally, marriages would only take place in a certain radius, but now this is not the case.  Now, migration is a large factor in the country and almost 46% of women move from one place to another, the largest export.  Employment and marriages also increase the interexchange of parts of India. 

In India, the inbound tourism is 5 million, while the outbound is 7 million.  Therefore, a greater number of Indians travel elsewhere in the world than international tourists coming to India.  On the other hand, China attracts over 30 million tourists.  Our lecturer believes the reason for the large amount of tourism in China is the cheapness of accommodation, food, and transportation.  China has organized their tourist destinations superbly.  Similarly, Rajasthan is a significant tourist destination, with about 20 million domestic tourists.  (Yet, in drought years, residential migration increases since tribal people search for water.  When the rains come, people come back).  The positive impacts of tourism are chiefly economic, since it provides money and employment opportunities at tourist destinations.  Also, tourism has reintegrated traditional ways, handicrafts, and goods.  This new interest by domestic and international tourists has kept alive certain cultural traditions, temples, shrines, theatre shows, dances, and fairs.  However, the negative aspects include drug trafficking, AIDS (Thailand is spending more money combating AIDS than tourism profits), prostitution (Sri Lanka), mock marriages, etc. 

Beggars are a cultural handicap and Indians are not proud of this aspect of their country.  The institutional organizations attempt to manage this aspect of Indian culture, but there is not enough education, time, resources, and energy used to address all.  Those that live below the poverty line ($1 per day) have decreased and now comprise 30% of the population.  During the winter months, the government puts up huge tents and provides blankets for the homeless.  These provisions are made, but besides that, there are only attempts made to control this problem through giving kids something to sell instead of just pure begging. 

It is important that tourism destinations are not pushed beyond its carrying capacity.  It is also important that traditional cultures are not commercialized.  If something is deliberately put up for marketed tourism, such as some fairs, then this leads to commercialization of Indian culture.  At some points, the Indian government has tried to send village/ tribal people to display their craft in other countries, but these instances have been a disaster since they are essentially dropping villagers off in a foreign culture.

For India, the impact of the recession on tourism has been minimal.  The most harmful aspect of tourism in India is the November 2008 Mumbai attack.  This attack dropped tourism by more than 10% and 70.5% in 2009.  After March, the tourism has started to recover slowly.  Currently, it seems that India has already recovered from the impact of those attacks.  It is also expected that business tourism will increase in 2010 and so the impact of the recession is not so great.  www.Unwto.org, www.wttc.com


Two recommended anthrologies: The Inner Culture by Lakshmi Homestow & Her mother’s Ashes by Noor-jehan


After the day of lectures, I speed walked home so that I could go on a run in my favorite park.  I think people have gotten used to seeing me around the neighborhood because I am not being stared down by the local vendors as much.  The park is a fascinating place of study.  I have noticed that women always look angry when they are walking with their husbands or brothers, while young men enjoy sprinting around the park with short shorts.  The paths were also infested with tons of ants.  It seems like all the ants had emerged from underground and were all above ground doing last minute errands.  Are they preparing for the winter?  In some cases, there were so many ants that they had worn down a path in the grass. 

After my jaunt in the park, I wanted to sneak in some wireless and wanted to get some help translating Hindi words, so I headed over to the family courtyard.  All the women of the family were there singing some traditional songs (actually I found out later that on every Tuesday evening the family gets together to sing as a tribute to the gods and goddesses) A.J., the baby, loves hearing songs and often moans along with the beat.  He especially likes the ones that sing about horses and the one about frogs in a pond.

After dinner, I had an interesting conversation with Sheetal about the sexual frustration of men.  She told me that she believed that men often take out their sexual frustration on women in public because it is so taboo in the home.  She said that the older men were the worst.  Anna could relate…  (She is sitting next to me as I type this…)


Wed, Nov. 4th:

Today we reviewed Hindi postpositions, which are complicated because they are used all the time in Hindi and there is no clear pattern for them…  For instance, if you want to say, “I need food” you would need to say, “I (to) food need” (Mujhe [mujko] khanna chaihye).  So, after a confusing three hours the group emerged from the classroom and gobbled up our lunches. 

I walked with Anna to a market corner, so that she could go on the internet.  While she was doing that I went to a miny park, well it was more like a temple with a patch of grass next to it, to write up some homework.  Of course, all the men were hanging around not doing much while the women were sweeping, working, and begging.  I walked my normal route home, taking note of the intense pee smells that were looming in the air.  There are certain sections on our walk home that I have come to discover are often visited by squatting men and therefore pools of urine. 

On another note, Marissa and I (sort of) share a bathroom with the servant, Mina.  There is a wall that separates us, but you can hear and see her through the small window in the middle of the wall.  Sometimes, I come home to use the toilet and she is showering one foot next to me, with only that thin wall and screened window separating us… on another another note, there were some languor monkeys harassing the tree next to us.  They were running and bouncing on our roof and at times it sounded like the metal roof was going to collapse from their weight.  The rest of the day went by swimmingly with Mridula telling relatives the story of how we came across the word khutti (bitch)…  Mera khuttiyan kahan par hain?  (Where are my bitches at?)


Thurs, Nov. 5th:

            I woke up the usual time and headed out the door to class.  The walk usually takes about 40 minutes and I have memorized every road and curb of the walk.  I know which places to avoid due to defecation, dogs, smells, beggars, or high traffic, and which places I can “put my guard down” to enjoy the walk.  I usually leave the house 40 minutes before 10pm, so I arrive right on time or a few minutes late.  Today, we were given a lecture on the current economic Issues by V.S. Vyas: 

The large, emerging countries are progressing fast (aka India and China).  India’s economic growth (measured by GDP), also known as growth domestic product, is close to 8-9% per year.  Per capita per person is also increasing rapidly and therefore has created a new scenario for India.  Why are India and China progressing so fast?  Economists are trying to figure that out, but prospects are good for investing in India and so the investment is high when you take into account growth. 

Back in the day, everyone wanted to invest in the dollar to be on the safe side, but American saving itself was very low.  In India, because saving investment rate was very high, there was a good foundation for economic growth.  India also has a very large domestic market and with their big market service, providers are encouraged to produce more.  There is a large middle class (as well as large number of poor people) that makes 20-30 million people available for entrepreneurship and private goods and services (this number is greater than the number of consumers in Europe).  India also has a relatively stable political environment since there is not much tension as compared to other countries.  Today, India is number one in IT industry because there are many well-trained engineers.  India did not suffer comparably in this global melt down as other countries did.  The type of distortions that occurred in USA, Britain and Europe did not occur here because of India’s strong regulatory factors.  The APEX organization, also known as the Reserve Bank of India, is closely watched by the Indian government. 

Still, even though GDP growth is high, there are many challenges including poverty, corruption, malnourishment, and unemployment.  About 28% of the people are below the poverty line and cannot afford health, education, and social security (which is quite informal here).  The way in which poverty is measured is only in terms of income, but in terms of education, health, and malnourishment there is a much larger population.  More than 1/3 of India’s people live in a way that does not allow them to meet their basic requirements of life.  Even with this rate of growth (one of the highest in the world), the impact of reducing poverty is minimal.  The economic development that is occurring is a jobless growth and does not provide meaningful production for the poor.  So, how do you manage growth while reducing poverty? 

The living, thriving democracy that India has forces people to rethink the economic issues that it faces.  Currently, there is a shift in the economy that emphasizes population inclusiveness.  During the last 4-5 years, people are realizing that there are resources in the country and yet they are still not reaching the poor.  So, there is a change for a more “inclusive “growth, which is a form of economy that emphasizes participation of Indians and not just world growth.  This is the overarching philosophy of the current growth.  There are several indications that some progress has been made in this direction.  Furthermore, job security is another aspect that is being looked at since a large percent of the population is agriculturalists.  Everyone in the rural areas can ask for 100 days of employment at any time and no one can be denied this employment. 

Weak delivery system is another challenge that India faces.  There is a lot of corruption and inefficient resource distribution.  The use of technology, which is a unique feature of India, has improved the amount of corruption.  Millions of people work for these technology industries and their wages are directly transferred to the bank, where the workers can pick up their money from the bank without money being “lost”.  Social audits are created so that the corruption is reduced.  The structure is there and every panchadt is supposed to hold a meeting where everyone is invited once a month and can share their problems.  There is still a disconnect, but the mechanism is there.  The most significant change made in the last few years is the right to information because people can ask questions about where and when their wages will arrive, and actually receive the answers.  The “Right to Information” movement has reduced corruption at the higher, more official levels, but there is still the corruption on the low levels.  The deprived population is hurt the most by petty corruption. 

The right to education is a fundamental right.  It is the responsibility of the state to see that primary education (ages 6-14) is mandatory for everyone.  The banks in this country believe that every person should have a bank account and now there are targets for inclusive banking. 

The nuclear family has replaced the extended family and so the parents, who have invested their money in their children and their education, are in a pickle when they retire.  There is a serious problem in that older people do not have enough money to retire on.  There is a slight pension for older people, but the delivery system is weak.  If everyone who is entitled to receive 500RS did, then India would not have this problem.  Therefore, legally, the earning son or daughter can be asked by the government to support their parents; however, there are many young Indians who have moved away from their home and to other countries (Non-Residential Indians).  Still, the children are a more secure and reliable insurance of social security than the state.  Currently, the government is determining what the legal entitlements are for the retired generations and trying to work on a national social security system. 

The economy cannot be discussed without mentioning the environment.  In India (as well as rest of the world), the environment is a huge challenge because the main production of this country is agriculture and raw materials.  Land and water is deteriorating and is further being accelerating by climate change.  In the close future, Indian production will substantially suffer from deterioration of the environment.  The professor believes that without the green revolution we would have been very dependent on other countries.  The Green Revolution was necessary for population growth and the assurance that resources were available at the local level.  Since the Green Revolution was experienced, it enabled the population to grow and now slow down due the increase of affluence.  However, I believe, that the Green Revolution only taught workers to rely on fertilizers and pesticides without using the local resources and knowledge that they had.  Maybe tractors were a necessary machine to speed up the farming process, but what about crop rotation and complimentary planting?  What must the environment be degraded, instead of improved with green manures and natural products?


Sheila Bennett gave us a talk on the perceptions and use of caste in the current time:


Caste is something that had played a very important role in forming the British (and Western) understanding of Indians.  There are contemporary Indian historians that argue caste was in part a British invention (just as curry was).  There is a self-fulfilling prophecy that surrounds the idea of caste.  Westerns bring this same mentality to caste.  They try to learn to read the visual and social landscape through the scripturally based divisions:  “He is dressed a particular way, she does this particular job, so he must be this caste, etc”.  Although some educated Indians tell non-Indians that caste has been abolished or that "no one pays attention to caste anymore," such statements do not reflect reality.  Three key terms must be understood in order to understand caste:

Caste: social categories that are scripturally based

Jati: endogamous, hereditary social status groups with a specific name that marry within themselves; identified through name groups, social status groups, and certain social-economic attributes; on the ground, caste lived as jatis, arise out of occupation

Jajmani: the patron-client relations, such as a landowners relationship with his peasants; principles of social organization (interdependence); the cross cutting set of relationships; the jajmani is organized by jati (in the way they provide goods and services) and is essentially interdependent on other jatis

Generally, groups of individuals are based upon and differ in their access to resources (stratification).  Village India stratification is more pronounced than in urban settings, especially by gender and jati.  A villager knows everything about each person in the village—who someone is, how they dress, how they relate to each other.  There is occupational interdependence according to the jajmani and so there is very little mobility in villages.  From an ethnographical view jati is what we are looking at in villages, while in urban environments the stratification is much more complex.  Individuals do not inherit their jobs and so they have greater ability to move around within society.  Their jati is far less a predicament. 

 There are three major changes in India that are changing caste perceptions:  urbanization, industrialization, democracy.  Historically, by explicit British colonial policy, India was pushed to be a labor and raw material supplier (which arrested development).  In 1947, 12% of Indian population lived in municipalities, now 36% live in urban areas.  Post colonialism, urbanization and industrialization altered the economy and therefore access to resources.  The access that individuals have to scarce and valued resources is where the stratification and class identity comes into play.

India looks as if it is a fragmentation process, but is a true democracy.  Democracy based in universal suffrage and privilege.  Consequences of political empowerment is that deprivileged people now have access to greater political resources.  All citizens have the right to vote, and political competition is lively. Voters from every stratum of society have formed interest groups, overlapping and crosscutting castes, creating an evolving new style of integrating Indian society.

The Muslim birth rate is much higher than Hindu, and so percentage of reservations depends on institution.  There are about 87 registered political parties.  Caste has become more important in politics.  Political parties have looked at vertical mobilization in order to gain a greater audience and diversity.  The persistence of caste is important, especially for individuals, and you can choose to focus on that, but when you focus on that, you focus on an India of yesterday.  Caste is moving towards class distinctions and away from fixed social identities.  India is moving towards social identities based social and economical backgrounds in the political environment.  Many Indians have many different facets of identity.  Today class equates to ones achievement and access to resources, while caste is the way described. 

India may be thought of a kaleidoscope (illusionary, fragments whole picture), but it seems to resemble more of a lava lamp (keeps the integrity of the shape, forms, reforms, blends, dynamic).  Both images are nondeterministic. Societies in which little change is taking place are ones that have little friction.  It is when change takes place that friction and tension emerges.  What is producing that friction?  Friction is productive to social change. 


Kim interviewed our family to find out about their daily puja worship.  I learned many things during this interview including the pecking order to the household.  Krishna is the head of the household because she is the eldest woman in the family (even though she married into it) that can move around easily.  Because she is in charge of the household, she must perform the pujas and organize the scheduled prayers (which are usually on Tuesdays and involve singing).  The family is very devoted to the saint, Sri Ananda Mayima, whose pictures are found throughout the house and in almost every nook and cranny.  She was a well-known saint that was friends with the father of this household and actually spend a few days in a “miny apartment” they had built for her (in the 1970s).  Her bedroom now has become the family temple and is decorated with her photos and all the deities that the family worships.  The Pareek family had built a kitchenette and bathroom for the saint while she stayed there, and now because the things are sacred no one uses the kitchen equipment.  They really deified this woman.  (See http://www.srianandamayima.org/masteach.html)

             I then slept the rest of the evening because I was feeling feverish and overall pretty ill.  I think I had what Marissa had gotten earlier in the week, except not as severe.  Later, I came to realize that I had formed a rash all over my body (hive-like).  Hmmm….


Fri, Nov. 6th:

Today, for the first time in a couple of weeks I did not walk to school.  Mridula drove Marissa and I to school.  We were running late as usual, but I managed to sneak my lunch into a newspaper so that it could shrink down in size (the big lunchbox we are given is a little bulky).  When I got to school, though, I discovered that the lunch had already leaked all over the newspaper.  It was shocking o see how much oil I consume at lunch… it is also entertaining to have lunches consist of four pieces of chapattis and then a pile of potatoes, because I don’t really get much protein or nutrients from these meals…  I miss some aspects of life back home…

I headed out to the Central Park with Cynthia in order to get a little walk in and to practice Hindi on the go.  I need to get more oral practice in since our classes are not very good at giving us that type of practice (it is mainly reading worksheets).  After a few practices, Cynthia got a little distracted by the birds that we were surrounded by, which is understandable since they are quite cool, especially the Indian rollers and the Franklin Partridges.  The rest of the day consisted of my usual home-relaxation-dinner schedule. 


Sat, Nov. 7th:

I pushed myself to get out of bed this morning and after my normal routine of breakfast and waiting for my lunch, I took off with Kim and Rebecca to the Ajmer gate where we waited for Cynthia and then walked over to the bus station.  We decided to take a bus to Ajmer because it was much cheaper than a rickshaw.  The bus was a great decision because we were one of the crowds.  We got a better view of the landscape and city on the taller bus.  On the bus, we journeyed for 20 minutes through the hills and eventually found ourselves face to face with Amber fort and her comrade Jaigarh fort.  The scenery in front of the Amber fort area was pretty sparse, since the lake that was normally teeming with water, was empty.  Everything was one color: sandy yellow.  We took a few pictures and then started heading up to the fort, passing a few elephants on our way.  This fort is known for the elephant rides you can get up to the main gate; however, the treatment of the elephants has known to be a little inhumane…  The elephants were decorated with paints and beautiful colors…  Kim was utterly impressed… she will never be the same.  The place was overcrowded with visitors, mainly European tourists, who wore some revealing outfits, such as tank tops, shorts, etc.  Furthermore, most of the toilets in the fort’s bathroom were clogged with the toilet paper from lazy women that did not bother to put the toilet paper in the trash. 

The Amber fort (pronounce “A-mer”, which means ‘high’) is a fort-palace that beautifully illustrates Rajput artisanry in its faded shades of reddish pink.  Amber was built around 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh, the Rajput commander of Akbar’s army, and then later extended by the Jai Singhs before their move to Jaipur.  It was once the ancient capital of Jaipur state.  We started at the Kali temple, which was small but beautifully decorated with marble and silver doors.  It makes sense that the Rajputs worshipped Kali, a ‘Goddess of tooth’ that was often depicted with weapons and severed arms and heads, since they lived during a warring time.  After that visit, we headed to the main stairway, which led to the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience).  It was a large room with a double row of columns and latticed galleries on top.  The Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory) was noteworthy because it was covered in inlaid panels and mirrored ceilings.  There were carved marble relief panels all around the hall with delicate (and quirky) cartoonlike insects and sinuous flowers.  Opposite the Jai Mandir was the Sukh Niwas (Hall of Pleasure), with an ivory-inlaid sandalwood door, and a channel that once carried cooling water right through the room.  The gardens were beautiful there.  A guard told us that the water channel was the historic form of air conditioning and herbs were put in the water to send cool, refreshing smells throughout the room.  The zenana (area were women were secluded) surrounded the fourth courtyard and was linked by a common passageway for the maharaja’s discreet nocturnal visits.  Hmmmm… We also explored an underground tunnel and could see (and smell) many large bats.  Overall, there were many neat passageways and tunnels in this fort, as well as hundreds of little rooms that functioned as toilets back in the day.  At one point, we ended up finding ourselves in the “sewer room” where all the defecation ended up.  We also found three rooms that had seven squatting toilets in them.  Talk about a group poop!  That is quite a social gathering. 

We left the Amber fort grounds and found ourselves on a cobbled road curving up to the Jaigarh fort (we didn’t realize but the fort cost 150 RS to enter).  On the way up, a pack of 20-year-old boys were fooling around and harassing us.  So, we stopped and ignored them, hoping that they would go away.  They didn’t.  So, we kept walking and after a good while lost them.  I was not really enthusiastic about going into Jaigarh fort, but certain people were hungry and wanted to get food… so, we paid admission and then walked out of the fort to go to the only restaurant in the area.  The restaurant was cleaner than most of the restaurants, and the khanna walas were VERY attentive to us.  There was an older man, who said he was 99 years old, who held a photo album in his hand and showed us all the famous people that he had met in his lifetime.  He was a cute old fart.  Back to the meal, Rebecca and I had packed lunches so we ate those, while Cynthia and Kim ordered a rice dish.  While the khannawala had taking the orders, he insisted that we order the famous chicken kebab, because the restaurant was known for it. We did and out came four tiny little balls covered in breadcrumbs.  Cynthia looked at them and then at the menu and exclaimed, “wow! These cost 125 R!’  (No wonder they are famous… famously expensive)

The Jaigarh fort was built in 1726 by Jai Singh.  The stern red fort, which is punctuated by whimsical-hatted lookout towers, was never captured and has survived intact through the centuries.  The fort has reservoirs (that were all dryed up), residential areas, a puppet theatre (which reminded me of the scene in Sound of Music) and… the world’s largest wheeled canon, Jaya Vana.  The world’s biggest canon on wheels was a letdown.  It was much smaller than I expected.  However, we did see a very beautiful hookah pipe covered in the shells of the dung beetle. 

We left the forts and headed into the small town of Amber.  The town had narrow streets that were filled with cows, water buffalo, dogs and pigs since the trash was plentiful and the sewers were overflowed with goodies to eat.  We visited a beautiful, yellow step well that was in the middle of the town.  The step well was amazing.  It was the funkiest thing I have ever seen.  It was too bad, though, that the water in the well was practically boiling with the amount of pollution that was in it (when I saw boiling I am referring to the bug life on the water).  After admiring the architecture of the well, Rebecca and Cynthia toured the Anoki pattern museum that was there, while Kim and I sat high up on a bridge like structure to watch the locals doing laundry, playing cricket, preparing for dinner, and… participating in a parade.  While we were up on the bridge, just hanging out laughing and gossiping, a marching band followed by about 50 colorfully-dressed women came through.  They stopped in front of our view and the band did a few tricks for the crowd until finally the priest and deity (sitting on a colorful cart) caught up to them.  The village had taken their deity on a walk through town and they couldn’t have done so without a large crowd and boisterous band.


After that sight, we squeezed our way on to the bus.  The bus was a bit more crowded, but we got good seats in the back.  It was nice to watch the little chai and snack shops along the road while we drove off.  Finally, we got to the pink city and squeezed our way off the bus, Even though we were sitting in the back the bus driver made us crawl through to the front to get off—he wanted to make sure everyone followed the rules.  Cynthia insisted on taking us to a nice, but expensive sweet shop.  It was essentially a huge candy store—Indian style.  We sat at the restaurant and binged on goodies.  It was a little break from the overwhelming pink city on a Saturday night.  After Cynthia and Rebecca left, Kim and I walked up and down one street four times because we were unsure of what we wanted to do.  After the fourth time, we took off back to my house and Kim stayed for dinner.  Around 10pm, she managed to get a good price for a rickshaw for home.


Around 3am, I work up with a strange urge for the peanuts that I had bought earlier.  I was in this weird sleep eating mode… protein deficiency?  Mental unstableness?


Sun, Nov. 8th:

Nothing exciting happened today because I needed to do work… I lied around for most of the day and then around 5pm I actually left the house and went on a walk around Central Park with Anna and Kim.  It was pretty funny because when I got to where they were sitting on a bench there was a man lying down a few meters in front of them touching his body very seductively.  When I asked if they wanted to go on a walk, they said, “That’s probably a good idea since that man has been making his way up closer and closer from that green trash can”.  I looked over at him again and he had the widest grin on his face.  It was quite entertaining.  We then went on a stroll through the park around the golf course and the polo field.  We tried asking several people when the polo games were actually played but the season doesn’t start until January.  Some random Indian guy came up to us wearing red pants to tell us more about polo but he could not really speak English.  After a few awkward sentences, he decided to give up, and ran away like Napoleon Dynamite.  He suffered from a serious wedgie as most men in the park do when they work out.  It’s great. 

On my way back from the park, I saw members of the Pareek family in the familiar white car (the one that sings songs when it goes in reverse).  They said that they were going to a book fair, so I hopped in knowing that I would be sucked into the world of books for the next few hours.  We arrived at a huge exhibition set-up where there were tons of book vendors all around.  The highlight of the trip was all the children’s books.   There were columns and rows of children’s books, mostly in English.  I have never seen so many copies of the Ramayana and Indian Fairy Tales.  I also saw a really interesting book entitled “Sex for adolescents”, which discussed how children should go about the act of making love… 

For dinner, we had pumpkin, which was very tasty, with our chapattis.  I was pretty tired so I headed directly to bed.  I think that I am still getting over something.  My body hives still have not disappeared.


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