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The jolly Jaipur journey

From the diary of a weekend trip to the first planned city of India on September 11 for two days
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Part One
St Augustine could have been an unknown backpacker in Paharganj. An ancient Roman theologian, he did travel to many places even when he was the Bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430AD, and he got the hang of a pilgrimage, commenting: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” And I realised what the adage signifies when I went for a weekend trip to Jaipur. The journey was just for a change, and we had been planning with some friends since the previous one month. There were eight of us; and we hit the road on a private bus that fine overcast morning from Kashmere Gate.

A trifling did I know about Delhi, and my lack of knowledge about this city became more glaring as the bus tootle along the north-west area for nearly 45 minutes to reach Dhaula Kuan. I have not been to any of the places that we passed through. Well, it was an experience and there were a lot more in store indeed, en route to our destination. The unfamiliar landscapes manifested again when we inched towards the edge of Gurgaon; and from there every thing was nameless, reaching to a new high in Jaipur.


But the bus really tested our patience. We had got rid of an agent for the government DTC bus earlier that morning and had boarded this vehicle, believing it was private and would be more reliable. Contrarily, it turned out to be a nightmare as it drove along with annoying successive stops at every little turn of the highway. Yet the mood was in a sort of a mixed flavour from this irritation and the feel-good factor of traveling to a new place.


Gradually, the heartwarming sensation prevailed. I'd admit the first couple of hours were spent on an Archie comic and an mp3 session. Then the first hit occurred to me when I caught sight of the seemingly endless and sleepy Aravalli Range, lying on the left horizon and almost parallel to the highway. Unlucky, for I could not observe the hills on the other side of the bus though the view of one perspective was a real treat. Quite seldom, it would run towards the road but would drift apart to align at the earlier position: far from the road still so close to my consciousness.


I'm grateful that I have had the chance to note and feel the natural beauty. There's a distinctive emotion aroused when noticing such spontaneous creation of our surrounding, however, there was also a conflict about natural and artificial entities. We have an equally surprising feeling when seeing gigantic or well-symmetrised, man-made objects but the profoundness of our feeling is different. This idea has gone more deeper inside me after I came to Delhi five years ago. Well, of course, the meaning will change when we talk about the Shakespeares, Dostoyevskys and van Goghs — as their works are also artificial creation – nonetheless, the conflict is more about the comparison of physical beauty. I don't know the reason exactly but those unknown and serene landscapes are more indulging than, say, the rigid India Gate.


The thought continued and so did the journey.


There is an even harder predicament than deliberating over some abstract ideas. Piss. Imagine the bus is on the move, it will not stop for a while and the only thing you want in this world is to relieve yourself! But we did find a refuge near a petrol pump.  


Halfway through the trip, we halted for a lunch. It was memorable because it can be included in the Hall of Fame of the Worst Meal albeit it was digestible. For that matter, I'm not finicky about food — it is just a fuel for me — any thing is okay as long as it is not overly overcooked.


The bus had revved up while we were still having the food, as if it was a real-machine-on-time. One of my friends had a war of words with the driver; and I mediated that it's no use to argue, giving my friend a pan-masala pouch to pacify him. That was when we had four more hours to go.


Later, I encountered two more issues. First, we had to but wait for the final stop, with our bums on fire. I tried to make peace by sitting on one butt at a time and constantly changing the side. Sometimes I took the load on both! Secondly, one part of my mind was still holding on to the clash of the natural and the artificial, while another part was engrossed in the panoramic hilly view — and it had got better as we moved towards Jaipur.

Part Two
Sometimes the landscape would appear quite monotonous, though without losing its liveliness. Slowly and finally we reached the stopping place after crisscrossing the city for about an hour. We realised only later that the places of interest are mainly located in the 'outskirtish' areas. We have travelled through the town, which was quite clean and modern yet the areas where we were going to roam looked anachronistic.


It was funny how we carried ourselves when we initially disembarked from the bus. It was interesting as well as confusing, for none of us were familiar with the new place and the whole expedition was quite impromptu. Never mind those fiendish auto-drivers who were trying to take us for a ride, literally, seeing our bewilderment, instead the real spoiler was the rain. It was lucky that it had been cloudy all along while we were on the bus, that the ride was cool.


Immediately we rushed to Hawa Mahal, which was set 10 minutes away from the stop, and lo, the monument was already closed for the day while it started pouring heavily. We got a consolation, viewing the illustrious, side façade of the old building that we used to find in our pre-high school social study textbooks. (I remembered our teachers telling us those days that we would cross huge rivers on trains and buses plus see the forts and tombs when we would go for higher studies.)


Then some of our mates, who had joined hoping to go back to Delhi on the same day, changed their mind. It was planned that we would get there by 12 noon, roam around till late and get a midnight bus. As mentioned above, we debarked from the dopey bus around 5:30PM. So the best thing was to search for a hotel.
 
We tried several of them, going for the hunt on auto-rickshaws and had finally settled for a reasonable two-room lodge that costs 1,100 bucks for the night. Meanwhile, we also found that their 'auto' drivers are more decent as compared to the loudmouthed morons in Delhi. Besides, we had hired the two of them on a reasonable sum for our next morning's cruise. Everybody went to the bathroom in a queue as soon as we checked in.
     
It was time for some stroll and dinner. So lucky we were that we found a theka as soon as reached the main road. There were four of us who booze and 'correspondingly', we took a full McDowell Platinum. (It costs 100 more bucks than in Delhi!) As planned, the four non-drinkers enjoyed their full-course meal while the remaining of us had a light snack. That was around 9PM and we headed back to the hotel, where we had a quite nice and entertaining party. (We had packed delicacies for our post-drinking session.) 


If you have food and booze, there is nothing more you need in life. Oh please, don't remind me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs when we are high. Kicking around the favourite topic — Manipur and its unceasing stories — could be another thing other than the food and booze. We always need Manipur as much as we love Blenders Pride for the simple reason: we belong there. Any body in his right frame of mind loves to chip in when he is high and the topic of discussion is on our state. Critics, be damned, who condemn we talk on this only topic when we are drunk. For that matter, we also have several matters, such as philosophy, Commonwealth Games, girls, gadgets, literature, flyovers, internet and Facebook among others.  


We did have a limit too. I'm not talking about the whisky but the time, as the clock whizzed past midnight and we had to wake up early. So almost midway through the malted confab, we recoiled to our own self after being in the shoes of political scientists, social commentators and analysts and did the right thing. We dozed off. Heavenly!

to be continued....


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Note:

1. This is just a private impression and I have done away with the names of my journey-mates.

2. Wikipedia mentions that Jaipur is the first planned city of India. It is stated: "The city which once had been the capital of the royalty now is the capital city of Rajasthan. The very structure of Jaipur resembles the taste of the Rajputs and the Royal families. At present, it is a major business centre with all requisites of a metropolitan city. The city is remarkable among pre-modern Indian cities for the width and regularity of its streets which are laid out into six sectors separated by broad streets 111 ft (34 m) wide. (It) was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II who ruled from 1699–1744 and initially his capital was Amber, which lies at a distance of 11 km from Jaipur."

3. St Augustine's quote and designation are taken from thinkexist.com

4. The Googlemaps says the distance from New Delhi to Jaipur, which is accessed through National Highway 8, varies between 261km to 285km and the time 3hrs 41mins to 4hrs 18mins. This must be through private conveyance. It took us more than eight hours to our destination because of the lousy bus and nearly seven hours to reach back here.

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