It’s raining, it’s pouring, it’s dark at five… aaaannnnd iiiiit’s colllllllllld. I’m not complaining; it’s winter in the Adelaide Hills, it’s supposed to be cold. But I am thinking, ever more nostalgically, about our sweaty days of wandering through a Rajhastani summer earlier this year.
When we went to India in February we took one of my friends, one of my friends who was trusting us to look after her on her maiden overseas adventure, along for a couple of weeks. We didn’t tell her how stingy we are when we travel- backpacker habits die hard- so along with the culture shock, the heat and the shit everywhere (welcome to India) she also had to travel with two people who would rather walk for five kilometres with heavy backpacks than pay $2 for a rickshaw. We certainly should have warned her, poor thing.
But! Jodhpur was the one place where we stayed in a wonderful heritage hotel- albeit manned by two rather ‘relaxed’ young men who I assume were cousins and who were often at odds with each other, we ate amazing Rajhastani food on the rooftop of a very fancy hotel with a view of the glowing fort, we ate chocolate cake in a cafe with linen tablecloths and we were just generally very fancy.
We all have fond memories of Jodhpur…
One of the things we noticed- not at first, the realization crept up on us- was that the sky in Jodhpur was blue. After being in India a week, in cities, beneath the hazy undefined layer of smog that serves as the sky, this was remarkable.
In Jodhpur the sky is blue.
Maybe to match the buildings which are indigo, baby blue, turquoise, aqua and other shades of blue I haven’t the names for. And as if to remind us to keep paying attention, there are occasional splashes of bright bright orange, yellow and pink. A painter’s palette is Jodhpur, if the painter really loved the colour blue.
For me, Jodhpur will always be a pool of blue surrounding an enormous rock from which the magnificent fort seems to grow, majestic in the centre of it all.
There is the new city of course- as whimsical as blue streets and a patchwork of textile stores is, you can’t run a city purely on colours- but there is no need to venture there. Unless you like loud, dirty, busy, smoggy streets that seem to exist only to pierce a headache into your skull.
But what to do in Jodhpur? The evenings are best whiled away on a rooftop, with a cold beer and the golden fort lit up as a stunning backdrop.
You can walk, up flights of stairs past boisterous men playing endless card games and the occasional territorial dog, behind the town to the rock from which the fort emerges and sit on its peninsula to watch the sun go down over the carpet of blue all around you.
There is the fort itself, a calm and imposing and beautiful guardian to the city. A tour is obligatory and I recommend the audio tour for, as dorky as you’ll look in the headset, it is very interesting. And if you are backpackers like us, the fort is a great place to get a comprehensive idea of the other versions of people drawn to the subcontinent. (Be prepared for hats, sensible shoes and strict itineraries.) Also keep your eyes out for the signs and take note: selfies at this location can result in death…
I also recommend stopping at the intricately carved stepwell on your wanderings. It is hard to gauge exactly how old/deep/purposeful it is because when you ask an Indian something and they don’t know the answer they will unashamedly lie to your face- with only the purest intentions of course. If you visit it at the right time you may see groups of young boys whooping with excitement as they jump from impossibly high ledges to what looks like their death. (They know what they are doing though, don’t worry.) You can even have a go yourself. The cafe overlooking the stepwell also serves an excellent lime soda and a smashing chocolate brownie, starched linen tablecloths and all.
And the last unmissable place in Jodhpur is a tiny store called Sambhali Boutique. There are two sides to Rajhastan: it is the land of kings and palaces and desert nomads and it is also the land of too many child brides. Poor families give away daughters as young as ten to be married off to older men because there is no need for a dowry if the girl is young. This is terrible for so many reasons but it also means, when the husband inevitably dies before his wife, she doesn’t really have any options to make a proper living. Widows are outcasts in traditional Indian society. The Sambhali Trust trains these women and gives them opportunities they could never have otherwise, and the boutique store is run by one of the program’s graduates. It sells well made clothes and beautiful gifts and homewares. And the proprietress is lovely. (If you are interested in this project- donating, volunteering, online shopping- check out the website here.
Jodhpur is a pretty magical place. It’s also still an Indian place- expect dirty streets, motorbikes, stray dogs and people trying their very hardest to lure you into their shops. Don’t forget to take your camera.