Rajasthan Stories - Day 2: Jaipur

Jaipur, the Pink City as it is often referred as, is a wonderful place to walk around. It is one of the best planned cities in the country, where the entire space is divided into six quarters linked by wide roads and walkways. Most of the buildings are still painted in Pink, and even the name boards of shops are all in black font on a white background. There is an underlying order to the structures and activities, in spite of the filth and crowd that has come about with modern times. Even after Shailesh's warnings that we cannot walk and see the city but to take a cab, we decided to give it a shot and walked into the Tripolia street.

Passing the shops selling ironware and brass-ware we came across a Krishna temple. Taking a flight of steps we stepped into the courtyard and the priest there was happy to invite us in. He even let us climb on to the terrace by a stairway behind the temple which also doubles up as his house. He had an art & crafts store operating adjacent to the temple and he showed us the fastest moving item in his collection - palm leaf scrolls with Kamasutra paintings on them. A priest selling Kamasutra as memorabilia by the temple, that is today's Jaipur for you! We then walked towards Hawa Mahal, another landmark structure in Jaipur. Built to look like a honeycomb, with more than 900 windows, this is another example of royal eccentricity. Story is that this beautiful palace was built for the royal women to watch the festivities on the street!

Bang at the heart of the commercial area, built of red sandstone, this five storied building is a formidable structure and provides a good view of the city and Jantar Mantar, our next pit stop. It is an understatement to say that Raja Jai Singh, the king who built Jantar Mantar was an Astronomy enthusiast. You should see the elaborate structures in the observatory for predicting eclipses, position of planets etc to understand his serious interest in the topic. This is the largest of the many Astronomical observatories he built across his empire and it also houses the world's largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall. Local astronomers use these instruments even now, to predict local weather.

In the morning as we came out of the rooms at the hotel, Rakesh Jain was waiting to give us his daily dose of expert opinions and tips. Hearing that our plan was to leave Jaipur that evening for Ranthambore Tiger sanctuary, he sent a man out to fetch Rajendar. The nearest railway station to Ranthambore is Swai Madhopur and Rajendar was a native of Sawai Madhopur who had a mechanical shop in Jaipur. Rakesh arranged for Rajendar to get tickets for the evening train and accompany us to Ranthambore. In spite of our best efforts to discourage this arrangement, Rakesh insisted that we should take Rajendar along, as he is very resourceful around there, and indeed he was! A jolly good fellow who sweetens up after having a peg or two in the evening, Rajendar readily agreed to the proposition and asked us to meet him at the Railway station that evening.

So after visiting Jantar Mantar we vacated the hotel room and by that time Rajendar came with the tickets. It is a 2 hours train journey from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur and the train was crowded like hell. We managed to get in with much difficulty, but the journey was comfortable unlike we expected. We reached Sawai Madhopur by 7 in the evening and soon realized Rajendar is indeed a Lion in his home turf. Everyone from the cobbler on the street to the shop keeper knew him and exchanged pleasantries with him. He was kind of a somebody out there, someone who made it to the big city and making a living there. He showed us around and introduced us to some of his 'important' friends. He walked into an eye-wear shop, picked up a sunglass and told the shopkeeper that he will try it for a while and pay afterwards.. now you get the picture!

We wanted to take the tiger safari at Ranthambore park the next day morning and we did not have tickets. But Rakesh had got us in touch with the manager of one of the resorts at Ranthambore, who could arrange tickets for us. Rajendar also agreed to come with us to collect the tickets early morning the next day. So after putting us in a hotel he left to meet his friends for dinner. we had to get up at 4 the next morning, walk up to the forest office 2 kilometers away, meet a person there to collect the tickets and then go for the safari at 6. With such a busy day on the cards, we did not waste much time to hit the sack and in no time we were roaming with tigers and deer in our dreams. Rajendar was also somewhere there.. wearing his cool new shades and riding a tiger!

Click here for more pictures!

Rajasthan Stories - Day 1: Jaipur
Rajasthan Stories - Day 2: Jaipur
Rajasthan Stories - Day 3: Ranthambhore
Rajasthan Stories - Day 4: Osian & Thar
Rajasthan Stories - Day 5: Mandore & Jodhpur

Rajasthan Stories - Day 6: Udaipur
Rajasthan Stories - Day 7: Ranakpur & Kumbalgarh
Rajasthan Stories - Day 8: The Taj Mahal

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