This post is a part of our guest post give away. Madhur Sharma is a executive producer in Bollywood~ Mumbai scared of loosing her everyday life at work, finds sanity in travel. She shares her insight here on Jodhpur~Rajasthan, on her travels with her family. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Since I belong to Rajasthan, one would think that I would have seen all that this magnificent yet humble state has to offer. But you see, Rajasthan is home. This is where my entire extended family resides and hence every single trip since childhood was the mundane duty of meeting never ending relatives and touching their holier than thou feet.
So when Dad suggested we(Mom and I) join him on his 2 day business trip to Jodhpur, I couldn’t find a reason not to exploit the opportunity. Well, of course, apart from the fact that it was a scorching summer and we would probably be melted pots by the time we came back, this all paid trip was inviting in its entirety. To add to that, my Ma would be my partner in crime and it would be criminal to pass that up.
3 days later, with enough food packed to feed an entire compartment, Dad, Mom and I boarded the train which is an overnight journey to Jodhpur. Mind you, 1st class train travel made me feel like a total royalty since local buses are all that I can generally afford. Additionally, my parents for a change were game to play dumb charades and since they were terrible at it, my funny bones got a good workout. So all in all, the trip had a successful takeoff.
For the novice, Jodhpur at its first glance is an explosion of old buildings, shared autos, pan chewing uncles, colourful dupatta draped aunties and the air which smells of fried foods. The train station exit is surrounded by small shops selling the romance of Rajasthan. From Rajasthani mojris (footwear) to lakh ke jumkhe ( earrings) along with lehriya ( flowy) sarees and colourful flutes.
We checked into Shanti lodge, a hotel opposite the station, where my dad has been an audience for the last 30 years, whenever he has visited jodhpur. I personally wouldn’t stay there but since for some reason the awkward smell in the rooms made my father feel at home, I complied.
We had a day and a half in Jodhpur before we were to go meet our relatives. That is a mandatory journey we take every-time we are in Rajasthan but that story is for another time. Without wasting time, I sent folks to get ready while I planned the Jodhpur tour for mum and I.
Staying true to the royalty that I was on this trip, I booked a taxi for us. At Rs 1500 for an 8 hour shift, our driver, Mr. Mighty Changez Khan, would take us to Umaid Palace, Meherangarh fort and the famous jodhpuri markets. He was dressed in a regular Kurta Pajama ( An indian traditional costume)but it didn’t go unnoticed that he was style savvy given his Pagdi( head turban) which was tied perfectly and looked beautifully bright. Also, he was a proud owner of a well kept moustache which covered half his face. I almost wanted to play twirl with his moustache but then Mom would want to do it too so decided against it.
Umaid Palace is all that its hyped up to be and then some. Its one of the world’s largest private residencies with 347 rooms and is home to the royal family of Jodhpur. I was convinced that I should find Maharaj Gaj Singh(the current resident) and convince him to adopt me. I told the same to mom and in acknowledgment was asked to hold her handbag while she adjusted her chappals. Thanks Mom.
There are 3 different spaces to visit in the premises. There is the royal residence which you can only admire from outside which is a good thing I guess. Especially for me, since I doubt I would leave their palacial bath tub if given a chance.
Time travel they say is elusive to humans right now. I would whole heartedly disagree. As soon as you enter the museum which is open for all to see, you are transcended to a culture in time where everything was graceful and hand crafted and magnanimous. The museum is like a peep hole into the lives of the ancestral royalty of Jodhpur. From unusual household paraphernalia to antique clocks, door locks as big as you head to painted canvases carrying the inks made out of nature’s bounty like fruits and stones etc. Parallel what I also discovered was my mother’s love for being clicked. This was a revelation which was quickly becoming torturous because I was the designated photographer and mum made sure she didn’t miss an inch to be photographed with. Hoping to distract her, I suggested we visit the other areas and naive as she sometimes can be, Ma took the bait.
The opposite side of the museum holds a section of collectible cars. From Rolls Royces to Jaguars to Mercedes and Humber. The likes of these would have almost been impossible to comes across, had the Maharaj not given into his passion for the grease machines. Side note to self – Thank him for the same when he does sign the adoption papers.
After much of the oos and aaahs, we headed towards the 3rd section of Umaid palace. This part of the property has been turned into a luxury hotel run the the Taj chain of hotels. Hot and hungry, we decided to have some lunch there. The hotel has a different entry point where your greeted by tall and friendly gaurds. As we reached there and enquired about the restaurant, we were handed a phone with the hotel duty manager on the line. Now, I thought this was some special routine followed to make you feel like a royalty and was almost ready to demand an elephant ride to the front entrance. Imagine my surprise when I was inturn asked if I had a booking there. Upon affirming the negative, further imgine my horror when I was told that entrance to the hotel requires a booking of Rs6000 plus taxes per person. The gaurd and i shared a big laugh when I asked him if I can sell a kidney somwhere around. His very words were ” Madam, hamari kidney bhee le jaiyega, dekhen toh sahi hum kya cheez ki hifazat karte hain”
For those of you disappointed by my lack of further knowledge of the insides of Umaid palace Taj hotel, please visit google. Am sure they could afford the 6k.
Confession time – I felt a little less of a royalty standing at the gate but consoled myself by thinking that I couldn’t eat the whole 6000 Rs worth of food anyway so maybe it was a good thing.
To sooth the rumbling stomachs for the time being, we guzzled some freshly squeezed sugarcane juice with little bit of mint leaves and ginger thrown in as a surprise. Mighty Changez Khan adorned the role of our guide and took us to a local restaurant which apparently had the best daal baati ( local dish). I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we ate dosa inside because it was too hot to costume the dollops of ghee that come with the Rajasthani staple dish.
With satiated tummies, we headed to the Mehrangarh fort. Situated atop the highest elevation point in Jodhpy, mehrangarh fort overlooks the city of Jodhpur like a proud parent keeping a watchfull eye on its pupil.
You can enter the fort either by walking up all the way or by taking a lift which comes at 40 bucks a ticket each. Since mom was with me, we took the latter. The moment you step onto the open porch which houses the famous Kilkila, a mamoth canon ball, your eyes are struggling to take in the vast bird eye view of the entire city of Jodhpur. Its not only gorgeous but also overwhelming. While mom softly grazed the age old bricks that held so many stories of the victorious battles and fallen soilders, I was role playing as the royal family Army general in my head, strategising against the invisible enemy that I would conquer. I was pulled out of the battle field by mother darling asking about the weapons displayed like I was actually the General. All of this right when my enemy was about to surrender. Again, thanks Mom.
We then walked wherever our eyes and feet would take us. There is just so much to see and take in. Different sections of the fort house different paraphernalia. From Royal families wall decor to grand floor rugs. From Soldier’s armour to their weapons. The grand palanquins (transport baggis) displayed in tandem with the elephant howdahs( Seat placed for the royalty to ride the elephants). But what absolutely stunned me was the display of the baby cradles. They are befitting of a royal family. We walked across the rooms which housed 8 of these from time immemorial and had we lived in a crazy world, I would have lulled myself to sleep in one of them or maybe since Mom was with me, she could have cooed a lullaby while I gurgled. Also, this room is full of windows. As I overheard a guide telling another group ( I do that everywhere I go, cheap budget travel tip), this is where the nobel ladies nursed their children while overlooking any festivities that might be taking place on the open veranda below. To get the feel, I looked out a veranda and the lady luck shined. Below us stood a group of foreigners surrounding 2 men showing them how the signature Rajasthani turban is tied. This would have been ordinary for me as someone who is from Rajasthan but the bird eye view of Vibgyor like cloth being rolled into a perfect head gear was halting in its experience.
When we reached the end of our tour, our feet were screming help but our faces reflected the happiness that comes from having experienced the unknown. The sound of the melodious shehnai carried on the shoulders of the beats of a dhol, surfed through the viens of Meherangarh fort that evening. We sat at a cafe, stationed at the exit, sipping on shikanji and paying our respects to the delicate history, stationed safely among these quiet walls. Mom was happy and so was I.
Since we still had some time before we had to meet Dad at the hotel, Mr. Mighty Changez Khan took us to the ever busy and famouse markets of Jodhpur. Since mom was feeling much love for me, I got to shop some beautful skirts and bandej sarees and latest fashionable dupptas with elephant stiched in bright colors on them at the Nai sadak market. And they are a steal.
Also, for those of you who are silver crazy, the sarafa market which hides in the tiny galees ( Streets) of old residential Jodhpur, a visit is a total must. They have gods made of silver in all shapes and sizes. I mention these specifically because Mum went a little crazy with God shopping.
Travels are a personal journey for us all. You can read all the literature about a place and yet you will understand the essence of it only when you visit. Its therefore the end of this story that I share with you. A story which made me discover my mom as maybe the best companion I have travelled with yet.
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