This was a stop on my trip to India, a very important stage both for what I saw, and for what I experienced in those few days. I would say that it was 1997, so today it will most likely be easier to move between two cities, in that period to do 200 kilometers it took several hours. The streets were poorly cared for, narrow and full of animals as ever, especially camels that were most likely used for freight transport from one country to another. So we left rather early in the morning, from New Delhi with a basket containing lunch of the day because we didn’t count on arriving in Jaipur until the afternoon.
The street usually offers many things to see. Small villages that seem lost in time, people working in the fields, some big factory in the distance but this was the only note of modernity we saw. Cars were very few, many bicycles, and many carts. And a lot of animals. Towards the middle of the day, we had only done half the way, stopped in a meadow near the road to eat what we had brought and then left. We stopped a short time later because we punctured a wheel. So we changed it and went in search of a place to accommodate that punctured, also seeing that, for the bad conditions of the road it was very easy to drill again.
At one point we see a sign with an arrow that also pointed to a rubber is a rubber is, so we entered a kind of huge courtyard, with a wooden shack at the bottom and other smaller shacks around. Pigs were circling around, and they came right near us. They had no fear of humans. Our guest explained that this was also a hotel. In fact we saw at the bottom of the shack bigger than in front, apart from a long counter, it was completely open, a row of heamaches. The dirt reigned supreme in that place and there were people who came in and drank beer at the counter and looked at us curiously. It took about an hour to get the tyre repaired and in that time I always had a bit of a fear for that desolate place. Luckily they ignored us and we were able to leave safely.
A couple of hours before sunset we arrived near Jaipur but since there was still enough light we decided to make a stop before going into town. We went to see Amber’s fortress. We did not see the interior of the fortress because it was already closed, we still saw the large square, full of stalls where they sold spices and all kinds of fruit both fresh and dried. There are some wonderful gardens in Amber, located on an island in a lake that I think is artificial. Seen from the top of the fortress are something wonderful. Another feature that impressed me were the monkeys. Many on all sides, which were circling over the walls, between the streets and also in the market. There were also other gardens nearby where we took refuge to escape the heat, and walking barefoot on the fresh grass felt immediately better.
There were many people in those gardens, I think tourists although most were Indian. At one point they stopped a group of guys who saw my son’s sunglasses and asked if they could try them. One of the boys had a camera and took turns inforking his glasses, the very common Ray-Ban, they photographed each other. They were very happy to have that experience, but it seemed strange to us. They may have seen some publicity that had affected them, but they wouldn’t have the opportunity to have them.
As soon as we arrived in the city, even this noisy and chaotic as the capital, overflowing with humanity and animals, where the continuous sounds of horns filled the air, we had a nice surprise; the hotel that our guest had booked us. It was just on the outskirts of the city, but what immediately struck us was the silence once we entered the lobby after a very long drive through a gigantic garden. The hotel was wonderful. It was built as the residence of the Maharajas of Jaipur and perfectly retains its elaborate splendor, with beautiful hand-carved decorations in marble and sandstone domes and balustrades. And inside is the best restaurant in the city, located in the French-style ballroom with huge crystal chandeliers. Its gardens are wonderful with peacocks that roam freely and other birds. We were enchanted by everything we saw. From our room, which was immense and gave on a portico with armchairs and wicker tables from which we descended directly into the garden, to the room where we made breakfast, to the two very different bars, to the pool. I mean, everything was perfect.
The next evening we dined in that wonderful dining room, where thanks also to an Italian chef we ate really great Italian food. And the evening after dinner stroll in front of the hotel lobby or sit on one of the many cushion-covered sofas placed outside enjoying the coolness of the evening, in the light of torches and candles.
In the city of Jaipur we only made tourists going to see everything that was indicated in the tour guides, then the palace of the winds that had been built for the women of Maharaja, who could not leave the palace and who looked at the streets adjacent with the tiny windows that adorned the 5-story facade and inside a whole series of stairs and small niches from which you could see outside comfortably seated. We saw the Royal Palace with a guide who was learning Italian and then struggled to explain everything to us in our language, and shopped in the crowded bazaars. But to return to the evening after the hot, chaotic and deafening day in that oase of peace was priceless.
We stayed another day in Jaipur, then left to return to New Delhi but made a detour on the street to go and see the tiger park. Before the park we stopped at a large lake where we could take a boat ride and where I who stayed ashore I fed peanuts to monkeys that were in the surroundings, staying to observe the larger monkeys that removed the peanuts to the pi I was trying to send them away so I could feed those puppies without success.
I also had a close encounter with a monkey, always the day we got back we stopped in a small town, to visit the old part that had remained like a century ago and after making some purchases to a kind of bazaar getting back in the car , a monkey grabs the plastic bag I had in my hand and at my refusal to leave it almost slaps me, always trying to rip off my bag. She would have won it if someone hadn’t come and kicked her out. But on second thought after my argument with a monkey was a lot of fun, even though it scared me a little bit.
Monkeys in India are really from everything. Our guest, who also lives in the capital, tells us that they had to lock both the refrigerator and the pantry, because if they manage to get into the house they can open both and then they take away all the eatable. But they are endured by the people who also feed them and indeed there is also a temple dedicated to monkeys located in Alta, near Jaipur and here the monkeys are considered sacred and are fed and pampered by tourists who buy peanuts especially for them c they are sold at the entrance to the temple.
The tour we did inside the tiger park unfortunately was not very successful. We haven’t seen one of tigers, but it’s normal to think that at that time of year it’s very hot and they prefer to lie in the shade in the cool. However, we have seen many other types of animals, which have partly paid off for us. These are areas that do not see tourism anyway and where it is interesting to see small towns, rural life, wells, small shops and life as it takes place away from the big cities. I was left with a memory. We stopped for lunch in one of these small towns and at some sort of inn we asked for food. However, we realized that we had almost no more Indian currency but only dollars, so we asked to be able to pay with these. But they did not accept, so to eat we rummaged through every pocket, every wallet to be able to find some rupee and in the end with what we managed to scrape us 4 or 5 omelettes that we divided among ourselves that we were in 9.
On the day of the return to New Delhi we made quite late and so in the dark we were not yet in sight of the city. The traffic gradually went down until it was completely over and every 4 or 5 kilometers we found a patrol of soldiers who always told us the same thing, to get back into the city soon. Our guest explained to us that at night no one travels because it is dangerous. There’s a lot of crime especially outside the inner circle.
However we were able to return safely and since it was late and at lunch we had eaten only a piece of omelette, our host invited us to eat at a restaurant, one of the best in the city, which made international cuisine. The place was almost all full, but not of families, generally they were couples or groups of men. Very few women. What amazed me was when we went out and headed to where we had parked the car. The road was completely deserted. That street where up to two or three hours before there were huge rickshaws, bicycles, camels and elephants along with a flood of noisy people and continuous sounds of horns. there was just nothing.
In fact, in the evening the Indians stay at home, they rarely go out to a restaurant or a movie theater. By the way I have not seen a cinema and very few restaurants and bars.
In the evening sit back home after dinner, we might take a walk in the park in front of the house to cool off or play cards after putting the kids to bed. And after a while if I woke up at night I could hear a strange sound almost a verse of a bird. I asked what it was and our guest told us that it is the guardians of the neighborhood who at night go around all areas and exchange that signal to indicate that everything is fine.
The neighborhood where we lived was surrounded by a very high wall and the gates that were two were closed in the evening and at night armed guards were turning for the tranquility of the inhabitants.
In the neighborhood there was also an emergency room, various shops, hairdressers and a bazaar, but what seemed strange was the pharmacy. Think of a small garage with a metal door. Inside a counter and many small shelves. If you need medication, the doctor marks the amount on the prescription and the pharmacist takes the package and gives you the exact number of pills, putting away what advances.
On my trip,I was lucky enough to be in New Delhi on a Friday 17th. Here it is a date that brings bad, in India and the day indicated for weddings. And that night in the city we celebrated a lot of them. We then went out to see the processions of the groom, who pass through the streets and accompany the groom to the chosen place for the ceremony, where the bride is waiting. These processions are very picturesque, they have lights and songs and to get them they carry with them huge batteries. The groom is lavishly dressed and everyone sings and dances walking.
We have seen several of these processions, more or less long, more or less rich and following one of these we have arrived at a place where pavilions are mounted that at night resemble castles and temples real with spires and towers that are all fake and where the day after, there is no trace of it.
We approached one of these that seemed the most beautiful and next to the entrance we saw an elderly person welcoming guests. We were there to see the procession of the groom, who by the way arrived on horseback. When the Indian gentleman saw us he came towards us and asked if we were tourists. We told him we were Italian and this invited us in. Inside there were tables set up, fountains of all colors and lots of people. At the bottom, covered with golden curtains there were armchairs for the newlyweds where the ceremony would be held. They offered us a drink and a food and when it came time for the ceremony the elderly gentleman took us and took us under the tent and made us sit in the front row. They then told me that for Indians to have foreign guests at the wedding brings good luck.
So we were the guests of honor of that wedding that left us speechless in terms of pageantry, both of the clothes of the newlyweds and of the jewels of the bride and the women of the family. And the setting and refreshments were also opulent. The wedding was simple and very beautiful. The exchange of a wreath of flowers, and at the end rose petals that came down from the sky.
We passed the next day where the night before there were many pavilions and there was nothing left, not even the garbage, it was a barren, dry area, without a tree, really ugly, but that for one evening turned into many castles from a thousand and one night.
One day I’d like to go back to India.