Travel

Jodhpur diaries: Lost in the ‘Blue City’

Wandering through Jodhpur’s blue quarters and finding fleeting friendships makes for a memorable day

Amidst the cacophonous bells of cycle rickshaws, the loud haggling of street vendors, and the mooing of frightened cows, I polish off a glass of the sweet custard-like lassi, that I have grown to love. Pushing aside thoughts of a second glass, I ask for directions to the cluster of blue houses that has earned Jodhpur the title, ‘Blue City’.

In the true Indian style of directing people, the ‘lassiwala’ tells me to follow the road ahead for a little while to reach my destination. So I walk through narrow lanes, studded with tiny shops selling everything from hand-carved deities to technicolour clothing, dodging kids asking for alms, only to bump into more children, now trying to sell balloons to adults — the irony of it is not lost on me.

Craft central

The tiny streets that branch out in every direction, quite like an overgrown tree, lead me everywhere but my destination. As the streets get narrower, I notice craftsmen moulding silver jewellery with artistic precision; one of whom motions me over to watch him work on an intricate bangle that my broke wallet can only dream of.

The realisation of being lost somewhere deep within alleyways with no names, and street corners with no signages, slowly dawns on me. When I see two Caucasian tourists in the distance, I decide to ask them for directions, but as it turns out, they were going to ask me the same.

Disappointed and hoping for luck, I choose one of the alleys ahead, and begin walking away from them. When they ask to follow me, for they would much rather be lost with an Indian, than alone, all I can do is laugh!

With Callum and Sean following me, I notice people’s curiosity of foreigners first-hand. Men stop me on the road to ask about them, some even ask whether I’m their tour guide! As I try to explain to them the intricacies of their celebrity status, and to reciprocate with a wave and a ‘hello’, we hear yet another voice calling out to us.

The boy who invites visitors home

The boy who invites visitors home  

A young boy, waving from the doorstep of his beautiful blue house, invites us in for a cup of tea. We look at each other, a little apprehensive, but when they say, “We’re with an Indian girl, what do we have to worry about?”, I laugh and reply, “I am with two guys, I’m the one with nothing to worry about!”

Taj Mahal of Marwar
  • Near Mehrangarh Fort, the most popular tourist attraction in Jodhpur, is Jaswant Thada, a cluster of cenotaphs in white marble. It was built in 1899 AD in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, and is called the Taj Mahal of Marwar, by locals.

Strangers as friends

So the three of us walk in, having let go of our inhibitions, and curious to know more about this young, friendly stranger in a white vest. It turns out that he regularly invites travellers in, just to chat and learn of the world that is alien to him. He shows us an album of pictures, captured over the years, of people like us who accepted his invite for a cup of hot tea and lively conversation.

His eagerness to learn more about Australia from Callum and Sean, truly is endearing. He pulls out his map and marks their hometowns on it; a ritual to remember the destinations from where he has met people. When asked about his travel aspirations, his face lights up. He tells us of his travels to Varanasi, Rishikesh, Agra, and many more cities across North India.

Saving to travel

He says he enjoys travelling, whether it is with his parents on a pilgrimage, or a more relaxing trip with his friends. When we ask him to choose his preferred company, he smiles and admits, he would rather travel with friends. He hopes to make his maiden trip abroad sometime soon, and tells us he is saving up for it.

Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada mausoleum

Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada mausoleum   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

He takes a picture with the three of us as we say our goodbyes; a moment saved for posterity, of four strangers who were friends but for a few fleeting moments.

As the three of us part ways, presumably to never see each other again, I can’t help but reflect on the day that I have had. An adventure that took me through the narrow by-lanes of Jodhpur’s Old City, with no GPS, no road maps, or street signs, only my broken Hindi that made locals smile and direct me till I lost my way yet again. It is said that you have to get lost before you find yourself; for getting lost in streets of blue, laughing at my Hindi with the locals, letting go of my inhibitions to make friends albeit for a few hours, and feeling the pride of being ‘protector’ of two fellows twice my size, is an experience I will cherish forever!

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 9:48:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/jodhpur-diaries-lost-in-the-blue-city/article28147675.ece

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