In the pink...

In the pink...

Navigating through the bylanes of Jaipur leaves Mary Ann Issac feeling liberated as she discovers the alluring beauty and charm of a city waiting to be explored solo

City Palace. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR

Alone for the first time in this great country of mine, I was scared, to say the least for, a couple of decades worth of conditioning about the perils of a lone young woman in a man’s world, kept creeping up inside me. I wanted to overcome this fear and prove it baseless to myself, and to my detractors, though the latter would be impossible till the end of time.

I checked in at a popular hostel in Jaipur, anxious to meet my roommates. I form an instant connection with Natasha, a Brazilian architect working in Auroville, who was on a tour of North India and Nepal. We made plans to explore the city together the next day, palaces, forts, bazaars et al. The next morning after breakfast, we meet Nidhi, a seemingly quiet, yet confident young woman from Delhi, who was on a month-long road trip across Rajasthan, having taken a sabbatical from her IT job. I didn’t know then, that the adventures of the day ahead would instil confidence and help shed the unnecessary fears that were a part of me.

Nidhi valiantly took on the horde of autodrivers awaiting to fleece us for a ride to Amer Fort. We watched on, amazed at her resolute stance that didn’t crumble under their collective intimidation tactics. When a defeated autodriver motioned us towards his rickshaw, we laughed as a victorious Nidhi emerged from behind him, a mischievous wink directed at the two of us novices who had let her take the bullet.


Nahargarh Fort

At the crowded Amer Fort, we soon realised that a young Brazilian woman could for some people be more alluring than architectural grandeur of the palace. Men were following Natasha around, asking for her picture, and outright making passes at her. Unfazed by the unsolicited attention she was garnering, she just shrugged so as to say that it was best left ignored, though she struggled to understand the Indian man’s obsession with a foreigner. Now I had to smile, because explaining the intricacies of the Indian -‘firang’ obsession was not going to be easy.

Exhausted from exploring the Pink city under the scorching sun, we head to the cacophonous bazaars of Jaipur, where a riot of colours greeted our weary eyes. Bapu Bazaar is a wonderland where vibrant tie-dyed sarees and mirror work lehengas vie for attention amidst hand-painted jewellery and handcrafted leather merchandise, while multiple persistent street sellers approach the tourists with wind chimes and trinkets draped on their outstretched arms.

Amidst the overload of noise, shoppers, and colours, haggling with vendors who can smell a novice from a mile away, makes it a harrowing experience for the wallet. The Delhi street smarts were a blessing to have in our arsenal and a true learning experience from a master of the game. With Nidhi doing the talking, shopping in the bazaars of Jaipur was as therapeutic as a retail experience should be.

As the sepia-toned desert sky made way for the soft white light of the rising ball of ivory, we jump into a shared rickshaw to take us back to our home for the night. But the driver seemed to have more adventurous plans for us.

He drove us through tiny bylanes, past mothers running behind toddlers with food in hand, past young cricketers whose yorkers missed our windscreen-less rickshaw by a hairbreadth, and braked just in time to save the omnipresent cows of the neighbourhood as they mooed their way home.

All the while our driver hurled curse words, at those who obstructed his way, mothers, cricketers, and cows, alike.


Amer Fort

During the enthralling excitement that is akin, yet, unique to the streets of India, we failed to notice the deviation our chauffeur had taken. We looked at each other, faces of perplexion, fear, and distress, when Nidhi took the lead yet again, questioning the driver about the route. His explanation of having to pay the dues for his vehicle was not very convincing, but we didn’t have much of a choice.

We halted at his lender’s shop for close to half an hour on the pretext of waiting for someone while the lender tried making conversation with us.

Our saving grace came in the form of a family of four, a mother and her three children, who needed a ride back into town. She squeezed herself into the little space that was left, while the kids made themselves comfortable on our laps, and between our feet. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy being invaded of my personal space before!

The rickshaw started to move and our worries could no longer be heard over the jibber jabber of the little ones that now dominated the space.

We bid a hearty farewell to the lovely family who unintentionally saved us from a possibly sticky situation. Three strangers who couldn’t have been more different from each other had spent an adventurous day together in the Pink City and what better way to commemorate it by saying cheers with three creamy kulfis topped with joyous, boisterous laughter.

 

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)