A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Pink City

The three nights in Delhi went by in a blur and we were already off to the train station, headed to Jaipur. Up at 4:45am, as usual on travel days, we had mostly packed the night before, everything snug in its usual place, a well practiced ritual by now. We checked out and were on the dark, quiet streets. This is the time to see India, in the early morning its wonderfully quiet. We got to the New Delhi Railway Station thirty minutes before the train, or thirty minutes too early. It seems everyone arrives only moments before departure. Our “chair class” car, which is second class was air conditioned and they weren’t kidding. It was meat-locker-cold, us shivering in our boots trying to remember how deep in our bag we packed our fleeces.

It must have been the nicest travel day we’ve had in months. The train was clean, the chairs were roomy and comfortable and they served us a large breakfast with multiple cups of tea. How fabulous! This train certainly rivaled European trains, but it was an exception not the rule. There were plenty of the trains you’ve heard about with hundreds of people piled in a car.

We passed slum after slum producing more awful smells - hundreds squatting by the railroad tracks, with no modicum of secrecy. It was morning business as usual. It looked like a war-zone but there had been no war except man against man in an overpopulated and poverty stricken nation. I used to hear a lot about the contrasts of the rich and poor in India, but I have yet to see anyone I would consider well off.

Amit and his dad, Raju, bless their hearts, picked us up from the train station. It was the first time in months we felt like someone was waiting to see us - like family. Raju owns a small private car company. A driver for over twenty five years, he embodies the principle that you have to be a professional to drive here. Amateurs would cause a ten rickshaw pile-up in the blink of an eye. The ebb and flow of traffic reminded me of fish in the sea. One car moves and every other car adjusts minutely. Two lanes of traffic balloon into four and then recede back as oncoming traffic picks up and everyone interprets the nuances and meaning of the incessant honking. It’s pretty amazing to watch, even though you are grabbing onto your seat in a death grip and praying to your god(s). It was a wonder we never really saw any traffic accidents, but I guess you never see yellowfin tuna collide into one another either, that would be silly.

We visited Amit’s family home for some drinks and sweet snacks. They live in a small two story house on a quiet residential street. Living areas doubled as bedrooms, as all the family was visiting for Diwali. The sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We were offered to stay as well, but would probably have been given the parents bedroom, knowing how highly they treat guests. We didn’t want to impose too much, and stayed at the nearby Hotel Galaxy where we got a room for 900 rupee($18) a night.

With the luxury of a private car and driver compliments of Amit, we explored Jaipur, what they call the Pink City. The old town is surrounded by magnificent high walls - white squiggly designs on a salamander pink background. Later that day we also visited the City Palace, where the royal family or Maharaja of Jaipur once lived. It was free for Amit and his friend Sandeep because they are Indian nationals, and superb negotiators, but Ron and I paid 600 rupees each for a one hour whirlwind tour. We especially enjoyed the vast collection of ancient weaponry but weren‘t allowed to take photos. One looked like a knife, gun, cigarette lighter, and nail clipper, all rolled in to one handy dandy metal MacGyver tool. There were also some fantastic and intricately detailed architecture and doorways in Rajput style.

And, of course, the obligatory guys running around in turbans...

We wanted to get traditional dress to wear for Diwali so we stopped at a store recommended by Raju called Satguru’s. I was expecting to try on a number of pre-made salwar kameez but instead found myself in a tailor shop with bolts of fabric being pulled out right and left. Do you like this, madam? Or maybe this? Or maybe this? I found myself amidst a frenzy of technocolored silk and chiffon. I asked about a red sequined sari and cringed at the 15000 rupee price tag (and also a bit at the idea of a midriff baring crop top). It was all a little overwhelming and after some time, and some complimentary drinks, I was definitely in one of those awkward social situa tions. I didn’t want to spend $200 but I didn’t want to upset Amit, and I certainly didn’t want to offend his Dad who specially set up our shopping experience. What’s a girl to do?

Finally I settled on something I thought would suit my style and budget more appropriately - a punjabi suit with pink paisley brocade top and pea green pants. I had a hard time picturing if it would look good on me, and wished I could try on a few styles instead of pointing to Indian models in a magazine. Not the best representation when you are several inches taller and several times curvier. An ancient tailor measured me, too bashful to get the most accurate of measurements, but I still held out hope. Especially after forking over $130 which was $120 more than I wanted to spend.

They delivered it to the hotel, as promised, later that night. When I tried it on, it was a complete disaster from top to bottom, front to back. The fabric of the top was stiff and boxy, three times too large, like I was wearing a giant pink garbage sack. The pants were too loose and too short, adding to the overall frumpiness and unattractiveness of the vision before me in the mirror. I was so horrified, and in tears, that I would not even allow a photograph. Not even for prosperity. Not even for you, dear readers. I never want to see that outfit again as long as I live.

Now what will I wear for Diwali? How do I tell Amit? And what will Dad think when I show up in non-traditional dress on their biggest festival of the year?


Anonymous November 5, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

Didn't they have a return policy like Macy's?? Can you even keep count of the luxuries you are used to at home? All the small, small things which really don't seem to matter that much ,at home, which you take for granted, and certainly don't think of as luxuries. I hope Ron got a secret shot of the sari! Smiles, Mom

Joe Seif November 7, 2009 at 7:48 AM  

Miss you guys! Be safe!

amit November 15, 2009 at 11:52 AM  

thanks ron n alison

amit November 15, 2009 at 11:59 AM  

hope u will see me again................

Alison November 23, 2009 at 3:50 AM  

Amit - thanks for such an amazing time in Jaipur with you and your family!!

Sending our love,
Alison + Ron

amit January 27, 2010 at 6:48 AM  

enjoy your holidays guys!!!!!!!!



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