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Fourth Entry - yeah, i know, there's two missing. I'm on holiday, gimme a break

INDIA | Monday, 24 May 2010 | Views [413] | Comments [3]

We're in Jaipur now. Supposed to be pink, but that's overstating the case slightly; there are some buildings which are salmony in some lights, and a nice gate or two. Other than that, it's just another foreign city, smellier than some but less smelly than others. Novelty of Rajastan starting to wear off a bit now. The cost of the aircon we need to get any sleep is starting to feel a bit expensive, we've been in the provinces lately (boars joining the cows and goats wandering the streets) and Jess was getting some unwelcome attention. Some staring is understandable, lewd propositions from disgusting little men, in any language, ("You want have sex-sex?") are less so. 'Snot dangerous, they all act like children, and Jess herself could probably physically master them without issue, but it's wearing a bit thin for her now, and it does make me feel a bit fighty. They just run away as soon as I invite them to repeat themselves, unfortunately. But we're looking forward to the mountains, and she's looking forward to not having to cover herself up in fifty-degree temperatures - record-breaking heat all over India, no water in the whole state, yada yada yada. Still haven';t been to "the bloody Taj Mahal", as we've started calling it... It really is NOT on the way, and it means we've had to come here to this city and go to Delhi afterwards - which we'd been trying like hell to avoid (or trying to avoid like hell) - and it'd better be bloody good.
But apparently it is. I mean, absolutely everyone agrees. So we kind of have to go there. Tomorrow, maybe. Or we might go to some honey-coloured fort in a little village called Amber. It's nice not knowing.
The journeys place-to-place have been fairly uneventful, if you can count five hours' worth of constant near-misses uneventful. The buses are the most powerful vehicles on the roads, occupying top place in a hierarchy that includes ninety-year-old men pushing melon-laden hand-carts, auto-rickshaws, mopeds, motorbikes, trucks, hilariously over-encumbered lorries, and very occasional cars which make dad's old 'Nipper' look like a Lamborghini. As such, their mode d'emploi is to hurtle down the middle of the road, hooting derangedly (the vehicles all have hoots that get louder and more complex according to their engine size, and subsequent place in the hierarchy. Ours sounded a bit like the chorus from 'Here Come The Girls' - doop-doop-dooba-doopa-doop-doop), and hoping that other road users are sensible enough to get out of the way. Unfortunately, they're all doing the same thing to the vehicles beneath them in the hierarchy, so it does feel a bit Fucking Terrifying.
Compared to that last bus journey, the train was pretty relaxing. (Lonely Planet quote; "With literally thousands of deaths per year, the Indian railway is by some distance the most dangerous rail network on Earth. However, it is still immeasurably safer than the buses.") Considering our train never got above thirty miles an hour, and must have, if you include stopping times, averaged about the speed of a leisurely jog, it's difficult to see how any train could have a serious accident. Unless one of the buses assaulted it. No, the issue with the train was the staring...
Usually, on the street, you're going somewhere, even if your stalker is intent on following you. You don't get stared at by the same person or people for that long. The group of lads treating us like zoo animals, pointing when one of us moved, nudging each other when we stood up, and continuously pointing mobile phone cameras at us did get a little bit shouted-at after a couple of hours... That was on the way to Bundi, the most rural place we've seen yet, and the first time our patience was tested. In Bundi it got worse, as I've implied, but all it has taken so far is a stern or slightly authoritative word and hassle has simply melted away.
And Bundi was nice, apart from all the attention, normally shared out between a hundred or more tourists, but this time shared out only between us and a guy from Surrey called Jordan, because we're the only people bonkers enough to be in Rajastan in this weather. I'll try and sort some photos of Bundi out later. Cracking palace. Lots of little blue lanes. Boars and lizards and a snake and stacks of bats. And macaques that get proper arsy. Oh, and we were made honourary members of a random little family as well. Invited us into their gorgeous little home for chai after we made friends with their little girl and did well to keep us entertained with wedding photos and little Anjali's school notebooks for two hours, with a shared vocabulary of about twenty words (five Hindi, fifteen English). They were HILARIOUS. The smiliest, tiniest people I've ever been hosted by. When Jess called me a monkey, and I called her a naughty girlfriend (three of the words we'd heard them use already), I thought one of them might actually die laughing, and we quietly resolved to be less witty for a little while. 
We had to go back the next night for chapatis, and we had some misgivings about whether we could sustain it for two consecutive evenings, but they'd been so cheerful and funny... Then we went back the next night and felt totally out of place - some of them weren't there, the ones that were there were unrecognisable, stressed and weeping like Italian mourners, trying to explain what had happened. We never did get to the bottom of it, in fact we weren't even sure of the relationship between the different family members that we met (all women, and somewhere between two and seven generations of them - one of them we thought was a pile of rags until she hauled herself up and out of the house like something out of a horror film more terrifying than any we've ever seen) - but we gathered that the husband of what must have been about the middle generation had got angry and slapped his twenty-something kids about, and they'd left, and the wife was terrified they'd never come back. We gave them some money to call around and find out where they'd gone, then left before the husband came back, feeling that he might not be as charming as the ones we'd met.
Apart from the rather jekyll-and-hyde family, Bundi offered a hostel with affordable aircon and a manager of extraordinary lecherousness and laziness (which we chose to stay in) and a hostel with literally the best curries we've ever eaten. The magic thing about these curries was that they didn't curry us out - our insides remained fresh and lavender-smelling, rather than bloated and a little noxious, which can happen after a few weeks of eating just curry. Had some pasta the other night, and followed it up with pasta the following lunch, and then just went marching around Jaipur like a fit and healthy individual, rather than acting like an especially viscous oil slick and hardly being able to get up stairs without feeling gross. It was good, although a bit worrying. There's still a lot of months of mainly curry to go, and it doesn't how many eggs and nuts I eat, I'm still losing weight fast. Looking more and more Indian by the day, as regards body-tummy ratio. So we were so grateful for these nice curries - we ate there every night, without shame. Lordy, it was good - that on the last night I touched the matriarch's feet (typical Hindi respect-to-parent salutation) - and I called her my 'Indian mother'. Gosh she liked that. They were crying when we walked out the gate, four days after meeting them. The friendly ones, the ones that decide they like you, they really like you. It's really moving.
We decided we liked Jordan pretty fast as well. Never met such an interesting nineteen-year-old. He's just spent three months volunteering at a Kolkata mental asylum. (That'd make you quite interesting even if you weren't before...) He had to work around the same corruption and shambolic weirdness that India's got going on everywhere (the anti-alcohol matron turning up blind drunk every day, the guards accepting bribes to look the other way while the drugs that made the inmates mad in the first place get sold to them, the charity who employed him taking money from rich families just to take inconvenient offspring off their hands and keep them incarcerated for the rest of the their days), and he had to put up with the same food (chapati, rice, watery dal) three meals a day every day including weekends for three months, and he had to live in one of the cells that the inmates occupy, and he had to pay for all this privilege, but he said it was 'just the screaming that took a little while to get used to'. Nice fella. Likes his Elvis Costello, can't be too bad. We met some Geordie girls too, Ruth and Zara. Zara has a mad little afro, so she's great to travel around with - we hardly even got glanced at when she was with us... The youths on the bus were all too busy pulling on her hair and laughing and saying 'Carpet! Carpet!' to pay any attention to us.
Anyway. Sorry for unstructured nature of this tangential digressional - might be more interesting as a result. Chronological narratives kind of suck. In Other News, I am apparently a property owner now (the crowd goes wild) and Miranda, for those of you following this particular saga, has not only installed herself comfortably in said property, but has won her disability living allowance appeal and been belatedly gifted all the money her immobility should have left her with long ago. All good on the home front. Except I believe David Cameron, the first human condom ever to wear a toupe, is in charge now. How's that going for you then?



JAKE! AND JESS! LOVING the blog, Jake... blogging is for winners so I definitely vote for communicating via the blog. Plus, you'll have a nice record of your trip in a confined space, rather than a few random emails in your 'outbox'. Boring.

Loadsa love to you both xxxxx

  Jur May 27, 2010 9:06 PM


Erika's much older sister here enjoying the revealing tales of how India is impacting Jake & Jess!! Having spent some time in India on 3 occasions I find it more than facinating to read your response to life on the streets. I've never met you Jake but feel you are providing me entry into the expression of your personal psyche. It is clear you both feel estranged from your suroundings and I guess that is the point of this kind of travel - right?
I'm so curious as to why you chose India? Following your journey is truly fascinating. Thanks for sharing it with family and friends.
Love & Light Ingrid

  Ingrid Hoffmeister Jun 2, 2010 4:26 AM


Hi Jake. Enjoying looking at your photos, they are making me want to go back for a third time. I can't quite tell if you like it there or not though. I love India, warts and all.

  Steve Maclean Jun 15, 2010 12:58 AM

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