“Beta are there lots of girls with you on the bus?”
“Of course Ma”, replied the not-so-dutiful daughter as she stared at her traveling companions – four shorts-wearing, cigarette-smoking, excessively-giggling boys from college.
I was going to Jaipur to witness authentic Eid celebrations at my friend’s house. Last minute ditching by all my female friends led to my being thrust into said company, a truth that would’ve thrown my mother into repeated fits of panic over my honour and safety.
What she doesn’t know can’t harm her. Thus she will never be shown this blog post, nor ever be told the truth about my visit to Jaipur.
A smooth, sleep-inducing six-hour ride later we got off at the bus stand, finally inside the Pink City. My friend came and swept me away while accompanying male bodyguards went to a separate accommodation. At 21, I am yet to make up my mind about my religious beliefs/non-beliefs. So it was with extreme reluctance that I allowed myself to be whisked away to see the Birla Mandir that evening, one of the city’s famous landmarks. The towering marble structure stood against an old abandoned fort, a sight that struck my fancy more than the temple itself. I spent a good half an hour looking at the numerous panels inside that beautifully depict via paintings several mythological episodes in Indian folklore. The three marble domes of the temple represent the three major religions of the country, thereby making it a place of secular worship. The pav-bhaaji outside the temple made the experience even more satisfying!
After dinner, we stepped out to visit the special Eidmarkets at Bapu Bazar and Jauhari bazar. A taste of sweet faluda and a pair of red and green jootis later, I settled down by a street hawker who decorated my hands with henna, an experience I have never encountered before at midnight!
The next day was Eid and my morning began with a rooftop glimpse of the nearby masjid where men clad in white engaged in special Eid prayers. A very welcome guest at this festival, I soon got busy with getting dressed up for the occasion. The day passed with eating enough food to nourish a baby hippo for several lifetimes in the company of previously mentioned male-company that made its collective way to where I was staying for a special Eid lunch.
This done, we all set out for a drive with no particular destination in mind. After wandering through the festive streets of the city, we reached the outskirts and found ourselves at the Choolgiri Jain Mandir off the Jaipur-Agra road. Stuck at an age where religious sentiments tend to take a backseat, we spent a good amount of time marveling at the view of the entire city that this site afforded. The statues resting within the portals of this temple are culturally and historically famous in the country. We had a quick tour of the place and then spent a good amount of time making faces at our own reflections in a well housed in the temple. The drive out of the vicinity of the temple had us catching a glimpse of a blue bull and several colorful twittering birds.
A trip to Jaipur is incomplete without a stop at the Nahargarh fort, made famous by the movie Rang De Basanti. Nahargharh means abode of the tigers. The fort was built by Sawai Jai Singh to bolster the defence of the Amber Fort. The fort overlooks the city and presents a panoramic view of the entire city of Jaipur. It was dusk when we arrived here and by the time we climbed up the ancient walls of the fort and settled in its grooves, night had fallen upon the city.
Its only sometimes in life that you come across a sight so beautiful it becomes hard to put it in words. This was one of those times. The city sparkled and shimmered with lights of all colours that wreathed it, a vision as sublime as the countenance of an Indian bride.
The night came to an end with a quick drive past the Jal Mahal that stood proudly in its twinkling royal grandeur. Departure for Delhi the next day happened with a visible unwillingness. “a truly memorable trip”, I thought to myself as I dialled my mum’s number and got down to the business of fabricating lies about my ‘female’ co-travelers!
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