I took it easy most of the day doing little more than sitting in a restaurant updating my diary. Ajit had promised to take me to the Monsoon Palace – so when he met me at six and informed me it was too late to catch the sunset at the Palace I was naturally disappointed.
Instead he suggested we go to a good point from which to take a photo of the City Palace. I agreed. Just as we were leaving – his wife and son appeared; they were staying in a room downstairs. His (2 year old) son wanted to come with us, apparently he enjoyed riding up front pretending he was steering, so that’s what he did.
We skittered through the outskirts of the Old City over a bridge to a section of land that jutted into Lake Pichola just opposite the Palace. It was indeed a good place to take a photo from. It was hot and a group of local children were enjoying a swim in the lake from the Ghats where we were standing. Judging by the luminous green complexion of the water – this was possibly worse for your health than a dip in the Thames.
Ajit then suggested we go and look at the much bigger lake to the north of the city: Fateh Sagar.
It was indeed a pretty lake and we stopped briefly so that Ajit could point out a few things of interest: a 100ft spraying fountain and an island hosting some gardens, a promenade and an observatory in the middle of the lake.
“It is the biggest in the world” he proclaimed, I doubted that. “My friend is an astronomer” I informed him”he spends a lot of time at a telescope in Hawaii”…”Oh yes I forgot – it is the second biggest. No-one knows what goes on there though – I think it is perhaps a nuclear missile silo”.
Ajit seemed obsessed with the fact that he considered India to be a ‘Superpower’. In his many photos he had pointed out areas in Bombay – that his brother had jurisdiction over – that were defended by huge cannons, nuclear bases and submarines. He was very proud too that they had a satellite based laser defence system – much like the US ‘Star Wars’ project.
“Isn’t that just propaganda?” I asked “I thought that it wasn’t actually possible – or at least the Americans found it too expensive to implement?”
He became defensive “No. It is not propaganda.” – but then how would he know? “Russia and Britain sold all their weapons and we bought them all. So now we are a Superpower. We can wipe out anyone we want to: Pakistan, Bangladesh, China – so people are afraid of us.”
We continued around the lake, Ajit in waffle mode. We stopped soon after passing a place where they do camel rides in order to put his son in between us. Bless him – the fresh air had sent him to sleep. I cradled him with my right hand and held on for dear life with my left. Much to the relief of his mother – we soon arrived back at the hotel.
I collected my photos of the day before and showed them to Ajit – he was most impressed. So much so that he asked to take copies of some. I agreed – but for some reason he didn’t want to take the negatives. I realise now that he just wanted to keep the photos – and I could get copies from my negatives to keep – because having written a couple of paragraphs in his visitors book and paying him 1000Rs for being my guide for two days – I never saw him again.
Apparently he was quite ill – I had seen a large scar on his abdomen when we were swimming and assumed it was an appendicitis he had had recently – but he said it was more serious than that – and had had to take several weeks off work to recover. These last few days too had been exhausting.
I was a little put out – because I had had barely five minutes to admire my work before he took the pictures with him. Oh well, not everyone is pure.