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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

India: Jaipur

Shopping for pots in Jaipur
Shopping for pots in Jaipur

After a journey from Fatehpur Sikri that is best forgotten, I arrived in Jaipur. Like other cities in this part of India, Jaipur has a bad reputation for its rickshaw mafia, who will refuse to take you anywhere unless there's a commission involved, but I managed to avoid this by getting dropped off at the main post office, ignoring the driver's hotel recommendations and finding my own place.

The Sights of Jaipur

The Jantar Mantar
This 90 ft sundial dominates the astronomical Jantar Mantar

Jaipur is a shopper's paradise, which rules me out; given the choice between shopping for souvenirs and watching paint dry, I'd go for the paint because it's less tiring. But that's where Jaipur's main tout scene hangs out, enticing tourists into carpet emporiums, jewellery shops and clothes stalls, and I simply clammed up whenever anybody mentioned buying anything. I also avoided the rickshaws and walked everywhere, mainly for the practical reason that a jittery ride in a three-wheel nightmare would have stirred up a tender colon that didn't need any more excitement, so I found Jaipur fairly pleasant as far as the legendary touts went.

The Jantar Mantar
The Jantar Mantar is full of all manner of astronomical instruments

From long gack there is no book which can help to the tourists to understand Astronomical Instruments there self, by help of this book. One can see and understand every thing (all the instruments).

Intrigued, I read on, trying to understand the basic definitions given in the text, such as:

Equinox: The bigger circle of the ecliptic interects the bigger circle of the celestial equartor.

I was learning new and strange terms by the dozen: 'heavely bodies' rotated round the 'glob', and one instrument was useful 'to find out the aware of the fact that, the Jaipur time is observed solar system'. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to piece together any sense from Ashok Choudhary's epic guidebook ('He knows English French & German languages', according to the preface) and I hope I can pick up some of his other tomes; I idly wondered whether he'd had anything to do with the crazy commentary in the planetarium in Hyderabad...

The Palace of the Winds
The Palace of the Winds

Street Encounter

The Palace of the Winds from behind
The Palace of the Winds from behind

While wandering back through the pink streets, I stopped to watch a demonstration by the Bank Workers' Union, whose members obviously put far more effort into their rallies than they ever do behind the counter, and that's when I fell into conversation with a local student... or that's what he told me he was. His second question after he'd ascertained my citizenship status was more of an indication of the state of play in Jaipur than anything I'd yet encountered. It was verging on the paranoid.

A building inside Jaipur City Palace
Inside Jaipur City Palace
A huge silver container in Jaipur City Palace
A huge silver container in Jaipur City Palace, which was reportedly used by a Maharaja to carry water to Britain for his visit

The Heat Wave

Ajmeri City Gate
The pink Ajmeri City Gate

At this point it's worth talking a bit more about the heat wave. Unseasonable and unwelcome, it has already claimed 136 lives, 86 of them in Rajasthan. The highest temperature recorded in the country so far has been 49.5°C, Delhi recently had its hottest May day on record, and when I passed through Bharatpur on the way from Fatehpur Sikri to Jaipur, the mercury was hovering around 49°C (120°F).

1 I was to read a week later of 400 heat-related deaths in Orissa alone, 100 of those in one day.