This was the first room that I had had, since coming to India, that actually had an Asian toilet – and to my delight it was immaculately clean. Not comfortable to use for long periods though as I’d get pins and needles in my feet from the squatting.
I finally got myself together and decided to go for a walk around the city, if only to find an entrance to the fort so that I could go straight there tomorrow. I found the folk of Jodhpur a little irritating as they would attempt to draw me into conversation wherever I went. This was particularly the case for the children, I suspect their school teachers encourage them to make conversation, but whatever the case it was annoying because all the short-lived conversations went the same way:
- “Hello, hello, hello, hello.”
- “Hello friend. Rupee, you give.”
- “Hello. Chocolate?”
- “Hello. Nice pen?”
- “Hello. Which country?”
- “Hello. What name?”
Sometimes they could get a little cleverer:
- “Hello. I have coins at home, English. I have fifty pence. You change to Rupee for me?”
- “We are collecting coins for school. You have some for me?
Anyway, I got this all the way past the clock tower, which was a present from the British apparently, through the markets, very hustle and bustle, quite cute, and on up the winding little streets to the base of the rocky outcrop upon which the fort sits.
Climbing up a steep path I figured I’d found the way to the entrance of the fort (no signposts of course). It was gone 5pm so I knew it was too late to see now but, dodging some dogs – up for a fight, I ascended to a vantage point to admire the lovely view over the city.
So, having stood still for approximately two minutes – as expected – I was approached by a child. However, this time he wasn’t like the other kids. He was polite, not pushy, and more chatty than anything. I recorded him with the DV camera. As I descended back towards the city he asked me if I wanted to see his house, it was this blue one on the left where his mother stood in the doorway – and she too waved at me to come inside. It seemed impolite not to accept so I went in.
We sat in their living room where the little boy, aged 11, fetched me a lemonade. I can’t for the life of me remember their names – unrecognisable sounds to the old hearing receptacles I’m afraid. We chatted small talk, school holidays mainly and cricket, and then she invited me to supper – how could I refuse?
Their house was perched higher than any other on the steep side of the hill, in the evening shadow of the fort it commanded spectacular views over the city toward the Maharajah’s Palace. Having accepted their invitation we agreed that I would return at 8 o’clock and I would bring something to drink. “I don’t drink” she said. I explained that I meant a soft drink or something… and then realised that I might seem a bit tight arriving for supper with just a carton of OJ, but this was India so maybe I’d get away with it. I shouldn’t have offered really.
I moseyed to the railway bookings office and purchased an air-con sleeper ticket to Jaisalmer – after last night’s fiasco I was going for the most expensive ticket I could find (Rs503 = £10). The traffic was manic – but not as ridiculous as in Bombay.
After much ado and deep thought I decided that I should give the family something for making me supper – so I dug out a pack of cards that I had with me to give the little boy. Then headed out to find something to drink. Eventually the best option appeared to be seven assorted cartons of juice; this would be the first time I had gone to dinner without alcohol in my hands, quite a novelty really.
She seemed pleased with the juice and then escorted me up to the roof where we could look down over the lights of the city. There was a bed in the middle of the roof. “You sleep here” said the boy. A suggestion shortly repeated by his mother – but I insisted that I had a hotel room where all my things were so there was little point. They seemed disappointed. Fireworks popped in the distance; a wedding perhaps.
As she brought the food up from downstairs it dawned on me that I was the only one eating. Maybe they had eaten earlier or had wanted me to stay to eat when I was there earlier – who knows? I indulged in the home-made dahl, curd, rice, chapatis and a papadam on my own as they watched – it felt quite awkward.
I spent a little over an hour there, chatting about this and that. Apparently they occasionally liked to take in foreign visitors and considering their location it was a good idea. But I was more of a publicity investment to them – a “tell your friends” opportunity. She was 36, had two teenage daughters, hubby worked nights at a factory, she loved cooking, her son watched too much TV, she didn’t want any more kids. I told them about myself and my family and by the time I left I think we could safely call each other friends.
“You going to the fort tomorrow?”
“You come by what time?”
She had obviously enjoyed the attention and wanted me to come again. I wasn’t so keen so I ummed and arred and said probably in the morning – which was a bit of a fib because I needed sleep desperately and there was no way I was going to get up before midday.
As I walked back to the Mayar I felt good however. I had spent a little over two weeks in India and had had two home-cooked, traditional Indian meals in Indian family households – undeniably benefits of travelling alone.