Anyway, the last missive was from Jaipur as is this one. I have no record of what I sent and the copies Philippa and Sylvia kindly sent me have vanished (the vagaries of gmail) so I hope I don’t repeat myself.I spent a happy day in the bazaars talking to the traders and finding out their tricks, such as if a Westerner pays way over the odds for some cloth in the textile bazaar, runners are sent out to all the adjacent shops to up their prices. All the shops are owned, the cost in the main Jaipur bazaars being about GBP 100,000 which is a lot.
I had two tabla lessons from a tall, elegant, charming man who runs a music school and the whole place was full of singing and chanting. He adamantly refused any payment. At one point whilst practising three lads sat down with me, took out their violins, played excruciatingly badly for a few minutes, packed up and left. The teaching method was totally different from that in Mysore which I found odd but who am I to question the Masters. After an hour sitting cross-legged I got up, just, and must have looked like a very old crone.
I found a lovely eco lodge (Apani Dhani) with the most charming and elegant owner (Ramesh) who lived there with his family of 10. The rooms are built around a central sitting and reading area covered with bougainvillea of different colours. Beautiful. The first afternoon I had a guide who walked me into town and showed me three havelis in increasing states of repair. In about 1870, the rich merchants from the big cities were persuaded to build houses in this area, each house being for about 40 members of the family (interestingly, without a loo). After they had been built, the stakes were raised and they tried to outdo each other with the quite wonderful fresco painting on every bit of wall, inside and out. I have to say that it is quite tragic that after 130 years I would say that 90% of the havelis are falling to pieces and have no chance of repair. But that’s India; anything at all old just rots and in general all the towns I pass through are falling to pieces as well though there is a tremendous amount of building work going on.
I had been hoping to meet some like minded tourists but out of luck: an elderly French couple who spoke no English had booked in for 10 days. The first morning they refused to take any advice from our host, set off at 9 am to find the havelis by themselves, apparently found one haveli by the afternoon and by the evening she could no longer walk at all! Ramesh spoke English, French and German fluently and was the first Indian to take part in the World Gliding Championships and has flown solo over the Alps twice. He was just completing a 15-person yoga hall and I wished him luck … but they don’t know where the tourists have gone and are worried. For the guide on my first day I was his first client for three weeks. The French love it there but hardly any Brits go.
The next day I took an auto-rickshaw out to another town with a wonderful fort-cum-home still owned by a relative of the maharajah who had built it in 1760. Luckily he and his wife were there for me to question because my “guide” spoke no English and for the entrance fee of 20p one could hardly expect a handout. He also runs a stud farm for Marwari horses which are long distance champions and have very funny ears: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marwari_horse. In the afternoon, Ramesh’s son gave me an excellent cooking lesson. His young lovely wife kept bringing in parts of the course and I was saddened by how miserable she looked. I purchased a curry cook book in almost illegible fancy script but with mouth-watering recipes.
Love and kisses to you all..