A pretty appalling night’s sleep last night… After the drumming, the dogs and the mosques/temples apparently fighting to get their message across loudest, there were all manner of other unfamiliar noises, such as a load of really robust throat clearing, and some kind of animal activity – pigs, maybe, plus every time one of the children turned over in their bed it made a noise like a rustling animal? Then at 6am, there was a lizard/rat/monkey incident, as something felt like it ran across the bed. It turned out to be Steve, but nevertheless I was wide awake for some time…
Jack and Steve have both been feeling ropey today. Steve has a cold, which I understand goes along really nicely with stomach ache… He’s groaning a lot, anyway. Jack is variable but sometimes feeling a bit queazy.
We have breakfast at the hotel/haveli and it takes them forever to bring Ella’s mango juice. Once it arrives she’s pretty sure it’s watered down as it doesn’t match Jack’s, so we decide not to have any more soft drinks from unknown sources, and always from a can… We order a good Masala Chai (black, no milk) and I remember to highlight the ‘Masala’ bit rather than the ‘Chai’ bit… Does Chai mean tea? Anyway, it worked. Nice cup of tea. Then followed by an un-ordered black tea Tetley style as well, which was confusing but fine.
Shakti met us at the hotel. He’s been inside any number of forts and visited Mehrangarh a load of times but not been inside, so he’s agreed to come and have a walk and a look around with us. The walk wasn’t too bad – less than 25 mins, pretty hot, and some nice views along the way.
We picked up the leaflet that goes with the audio guide, so I could see what the key things to see were (forgot the very helpful Kindle today)…
The fort is an amazing place – lovely views down to Jodphur and some really glitzy rooms inside which give you an idea of the lifestyle of the Maharajas.
I was pleased to read that, although the impression you get of the Maharinis is that they have a very sheltered existence, (here, like in other palaces, they could watch any goings-on through windows which hid them from the world, and weren’t to be seen without veils), HOWEVER, they also apparently had territories to administer, money from which went towards constructing public buildings, such as water bodies and temples. They also were ‘poets and scholars’ and played sports, including polo.
Having said that, one of the first things you see as you walk through the second lot of gates is the marks of ‘sati’, hand prints which signify the wives and concubines who have thrown themselves on the funeral pyre of their husband after his death, because apparently life wouldn’t be worth living any more.
The fort has some really detailed carving work on the outside, marble rooms, lots of lovely things to look at. I think we all became a bit tired and jaded though and Jack and Steve were wishing to stay close to a toilet.
We walked down from the fort to the bazaar and Shakti deposited us at Baba Arts Emporium, which is in the guidebook, and has also been visited by Scott and Josie in the past… We selected a pencil case/purse for 200 rupees, and then were asking about cushion covers. This turned out to be a mistake, as they lead you into the far reaches of the shop in the basement, and offer to show you local crafts and specialities. The chap was lovely though and said words to the affect of he wouldn’t pressure us, and we should treat this place as our home. We considered trying to order in a Deliveroo and really making ourselves comfortable, as the air con was welcome and the seats, although hard, were much better than standing up…
Instead we decided to go and look at some notebooks we had seen upstairs… 10 notebooks and 1000 rupees (£11.50ish) later, we were ready to leave, when a forthright foreigner (American or Australian perhaps) came in demanding to look at any ‘indigo skirts’ they may have… (Loud aside to friend ‘I have a collection’). I quite liked the look of one and hadn’t yet handed back Steve’s wallet, so waited til they left and then swooped. Another 800 rupees lighter we headed out.
There was another similar shop across the road which we went into. The gentleman started his friendly chat with ‘where you from’ and that Joanna Lumley and Zac Goldsmith (although he called him Jack) politician-guy had both visited (independent of one another I assume)…
We looked at some more pencil case/purses, having put the 200 rupee one back at the last place. These were the same but only 100 rupees, so good start. Buoyed up by this, when the chap asks us to look at local specialities on the upper floor we fall for it and are soon sitting down (welcome break again) watching a succession of throws being thrown out and their various merits explained. (‘Like baby’s bottom ma’am’), and a glass of water thrown at one to show how impermeable it was…. Some of them are very nice – he genuinely makes stuff for Kenzo and Armani, as he showed me a magazine article that said so.
After seeing a few items for 2500 INR (£27 ish), we are lulled into a false sense of security, however of course the really nice ones which we would have considered were more than double the price… He’s not for letting us go without buying one – which colour would we like to see, more and more throws being thrown. During this time he’d also decided to engage on a game on his phone whilst also talking to us, which was starting to look a little like his heart wasn’t fully in his throw-throwing…..
Ultimately I said I’d like some time to think, as I did feel it was a bit of a ‘don’t leave here til you buy something’ situation. He literally said ‘you wait here, he’ll bring it’ when I said I’d seen something I liked nearer the door of the shop (obviously a ploy he’d heard before)… At this point I announced I felt pressured and I didn’t want to make a decision right away. ‘Pressured madam? Are you saying I’m stealing from you? This will not make me a billionaire, this 2500 rupees.’ I explained that I very much didn’t think he was stealing from us but that we needed to leave and the boys were feeling poorly. He said he’d leave us alone to make a decision and that was fine, but my request to leave the shop and ‘come back once we’ve decided’ was met with a very stony face. ‘People say that madam and they don’t come back’. Tricky for him, I’m sure, but by this point we’d gone right off him. We left. No intention of returning, of course.
After this we walked down to the clock tower where we knew the spice shop was. We walked passed another shop, MV Spices and weren’t sure if this was the one run by Shakti’s friend or not. Also one was mentioned in the book and I still don’t know which one it was. I said ‘is there another spice shop on this road?’. ‘No madam’. Oh, this must be the right one then. Then spotted the other one, Maharini spice, literally a few doors down. On the way someone said to us ‘be careful of the prices maam’. Well, they probably are a bit set up for foreigners, but the chap, who was indeed a friend or associate of Shaktis, says that he doesn’t like to pressure people, which is nice. Instead he hands you a washing-up-bowl as a shopping basket and invites you to sit down to smell open packets of tea, or spices…
The kids fancied some fruity teas, we took a chai or two. Ella found a nice little perfume/essence bottle.
Before we left there was some mild flirting with Ella. This portly 50+ guy asked her how old she was, and bemoaned the fact that he will never be young enough for her. He insisted on a hug from Ella and myself before leaving, and a handshake with Jack and Steve. It was all very good natured, however, of course we spent more than our two nights accommodation on tea and fragrance… (About 3000 rupees (£30) in all, no wonder the chap wanted to hug us all – we should probably also expect a Christmas card…) Some major tea ceremonies required on our return to get our money’s worth out of this lot.
We were all pretty exhausted so wandered back through the back streets for what seemed a really long time, before reaching our hotel. We bought a couple of tins of cold mango juice for 30 rupees and a bottle of water for 10 from a little stall with a fridge, and an old man kindly passed jack some smarty-like sweets ‘as a gift’. Couldn’t be happier with our last transaction of the day…
We eventually reach the hotel and spend some time in the room comparing illness symptoms, before a small tea on the roof.