Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Rajasthan Diaries - Day 1, The Road to Jodhpur

 This idea had been in my head for a while - why am I not seeing any of the major festivals in India and avoiding them because of crowds or whatever. I could think of at least 5-6 festivals I would like to see - Dussehra at Mysore, Durha Puja at Kolkata, Boat race at Kerala, Pushkar mela, Kumbh mela, Jagannath temple at Puri, Goa carnival, Sankranti at West Godavari district, the Ganpathi festival in Mumbai or even our own Bonalu. I remember being amazed at the crowds that Ramzan draws in Hyderabad, walking the streets near Charminar with Vasu and Sagar. 

Vasu, Abhinay and yours truly at Jaipur Airport

Anyway once the idea came into my mind I decided that I would go to Mysore for Dussehra. Everything fell in place but I chickened out in the end - I mean it worked out so beautifully but I stepped back. Almost as a reaction I made it to Pune though. But the next thing on my list was the Pushkar mela and I would need some serious motivation. So I asked Vasu if he would like to come along. Vasu was game and he said he had dates from the 30th to the 2nd of Nov and the festival was starting on the 1st of Nov. I said yes, with Vasu its on then things move. Vasu booked off tickets and even hotels and we were on to leave on the 30th of November.

Interesting vehicle

Rasoi at Ajmer - superb food

I called Abhinay who is now in Jaipur and he was good to accompany us for the three days. I asked him if he could arrange for a vehicle to stay with us those three days. So off we went on the morning of the 30th. I got picked up by Ravi, Vasu's driver and while we were going to pick Vasu up I asked Ravi what the longest drive he had done was. Now this guy cannot be more than 35 or so i think and he said - Hyderabad to Thailand sir. Apparently he and his master and their family of four - husband, wife and two young kids, took a Honda Jazz and drove off from Hyderabad to Thailand through Myanmar and so on. It took three days to get there he said. They stayed three days and then they drove back three days. And here I am thinking I was doing some extraordinary adventures. Enough to say that Ravi gave me a lot of confidence and inspiration.

Rasoi's Rajasthani thali

Me, Ram Singh and Abhinay

Vasu hopped in and we headed off to the airport. I was expecting Rajasthan to be cold so I think I overpacked. At least a jacket, my pullover and stuff which I never used. The flight was a two hour flight and we sat and chatted most of the distance. I read Trevor Noah's book 'Born a Crime' when Vasu napped. He told me that whenever he travelled Air Asia he always got admonished like a school kid - this time also the lady told him to 'move on' sharply despite it not being his fault.

Chai break en route Jodhpur

Anyway we got off at Jaipur by 1120 am and pretty soon we had Abhinay picking us up. The plan was to head off straight to Jodhpur by car and check that place out and get back to Ajmer and Pushkar the next evening. I had heard tales of how magnificent Mehrangarh was so I was looking forward to that. We drove from Jaipur to Ajmer first where we stopped for lunch. Must have been 230 or so. Abhinay found out that there was a place called Rasoi which serves good Rajasthani food and we found it easily. We ordered three thalis between the four of us (Abhinay and the driver Ram Singh, a stoic soul) which turned out to be more than enouhg. The daal bhati churma was brilliant. I ate a creamy strawberry ice cream after and we soon headed off in the direction of Jodhpur.

Moustache hotel reception 

Interiors - tasteful

The traffic that was heavy on the Ajmer and Jaipur road thinned out now and we saw those funny booze shops which appear to be temporary structures (desi and English liquor), like they are standing on wheels almost. There were marble mines and stuff and plenty of cattle on the road. Ram Singh had a weaving style of driving which kept me on my toes. Abhinay played nice music on the car stereo and we enjoyed the drive chatting and catching up. We stopped at 5ish for a chai and then we did the final stretch to Jodhpur in the dark. I guess we reached Jodhpur by 730.

Comfortable bed

TV and living space in Moustache

Meanwhile Abhinay had booked us into Moustache Hotel, a lovely chain of budget hotel. I loved it. We took a room and Abhinay hit the dorm.  The entire place was so tastefully done - that's one thing I found with hotels and pubs in Rajasthan, the interiors are so tasteful and thought out. After freshening up we went to find Indique restaurant which came highly recommended since it is close to the fort. From the top of Moustache hotel we could see the Mehrangarh fort and the Umaid Singh Bhavan palace and we took the car and went through the narrowest lanes to Indique. The Indique guy quickly sent us out - no reservation no entry.

Dylan Cafe, rooftop restaurant
Mehrangarh fort looming over us

Some serious talk

Right across the street we found a restaurant that was a perfect fit for us - the Bob Dylan hotel. It was painted blue and we climbed up right to the terrace and found they played Dylan numbers. A few foreigners were there. We had the most amazing view of the fort and the Girdikot market and the lock tower. I had a rum and coke, Vasu and Abhinay drank lemonade. Then we ordered food, pretty decent laal maas (overrated if you ask me). After a nice hour and a half there we walked into the empty market, walked around and got ourselves a rickshaw back to the hotel since we had sent Ram Singh back. One thing we realised, the trash and garbage removal is pretty bad in Jodhpur. At least in these parts.

The Sardar Market - beautifully planned 

The clock tower

The empty market 

At the hotel we freshened up and hit the bed. It had been a long and eventful night. The plan is to go to the fort early, see the Umaid Bhavan Palace and then head to Ajmer. The hotel room and bed was very comfortable and pretty soon I was in dreamland.                

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