Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state and known as "The Pink City," is today's destination by motor coach. The endless juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary continues to amaze me. One minute we're stopped at one of the ubiquitous Mickey D's to troop in en masse and use the bathrooms (standard issue wall-mounted electric hand dryer just like you see in fast food restaurants all over the USA), the next minute we're on the highway looking out the window at a large patch of grass, the grassiness of which is actually hard to determine because it is literally covered with litter, as if someone had carefully and deliberately emptied out a Dumpster, Jackson Pollock-style, so that the trash would be evenly yet randomly distributed all over this grassy area, presumably for the benefit of feral dogs and cows. Cows walking up and down sidewalks and lying down in front of shops is given as much notice as you would give to birds landing on a park bench or squirrels bounding across the road. Rickshaws, bicycles, and overloaded wagons and carts that look exactly like what you see in Fiddler On The Roof or a John Ford western move along next to scooters, motorcycles (rarely ridden with helmets), automobiles constantly honking their horns in a sort of improvisatory audio semaphore, and an array of massive trucks with the inevitable HONK PLEASE painted or stenciled on the back door. The apparent lack of large external side mirrors on trucks makes this a necessary request, the alternative being a regular flow of tractor-trailer-on-Fiat collisions.
The tour group is surprisingly diverse, both ethnically and chronologically, and seems to have come from all parts of the USA. One couple shared our flight in from Paris (though we didn't meet them until our travel rep met us outside baggage claim). They're from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and immediately amazed me when the wife explained that they had driven 70 miles to Birmingham, caught a flight to Atlanta, transferred to a flight from Atlanta to Paris, then to our flight from Paris to Delhi. And I thought WE had a long journey to get here. We also have a couple from Ecuador that politely tolerates my Spanish; after we started chatting on the bus yesterday morning the wife said that she had never met a composer before. I've heard that many times, the context usually being something like a cocktail party where a person half-listening to me says that as if he or she had just been introduced to a toilet salesman. You know that somebody, probably a lot of somebodies, are engaged in that activity, but you just think those things sort of just show up where they're needed.
The grand prize and Holy Grail of photographs on the road to Jaipur is one of the occasional camels, used as working animals pulling carts and such. I always seem to be occupied when I turn to the left and find myself staring at a camel for a second or two before the bus rolls onward. I can't tell what their treatment is like but the 3 or 4 I've seen so far are not working in what anyone would think of as pristine, sanitary, comfortable conditions.
We're now in Jaipur, and if you think you've seen poverty, you've seen nothing. Trust me. To be continued.