18 PICTURE ALBUM
Wednesday, February 18
Steve: We enjoyed relaxing in the beautiful Pushkar Resort this
morning, and spent the time catching up on our reading and writing. To the
kids delight, they were offered a ride in a mule cart just as they were beginning
homework! The donkey took them on a ride around the resort at near-gallop
speed which had them laughing the whole way. There was also time for swimming
in the refreshing pool before we had lunch and packed up.
Our driver (Rajjan) offered to take us on back roads for our 4-hour drive
to Jodhpur to allow us to see more of what rural life in Rajasthan is all
about. We gladly accepted, although at first we wondered whether this was
a mistake. The road was wide enough for only one car, causing problems for
our Rajjan as he encountered the usual myriad of trucks, tractors and camel
carts. Normally, Rajjan passes all these vehicles very deftly, but this road
has no shoulder
and so overtaking required driving at fast speeds on pitted gravel. We were
amazed that our tires survived, but fortunately the road widened after the
first hour or so.
Utpal had promised us photo opportunities of some of the colorful and beautiful
women that carry large pots, baskets and bushels on their heads as they walk
along the road or in the villages. He said that Rajasthan's rural women were
some of the most striking in India, and we had really wanted
to capture at least a few of them with the camera. Uptal also said that the
back roads would allow us to stop in at least one interesting village where
we could meet and speak with some local residents.
Sure enough, we soon started to see many small villages, complete with some
of the ladies and other interesting people we were looking for. Today was
a national holiday in India (Sheviratri - celebrating Lord Shiva's marriage),
and most people were at home. As we approached a village that looked promising,
we stopped to explore. We left our minibus and Utpal quickly worked some of
his magic - before we knew it we had become celebrities again. People appeared
from everywhere, and we were quickly surrounded in the courtyard inside a
family's home. Utpal led a conversation with the ever-expanding group, and
we learned that the family owns goats and also farms barley and wheat 15 acres
of nearby land. As is often the case here, several families all live very
close to each other - this particular family consisted of three brothers and
were asked about our professions, and the group wanted to know how many "districts"
there are in America (we guessed at 3,000, using counties as our guide). The
group also wanted to know David and Katie's ages and what "classes"
they were in. One older lady took a specific liking to Paula, touching her
repeatedly and asking to have her picture taken (we think). The
children of the village were all smiles, and some of them spoke bits of English
- many approached David and Katie directly to ask them their names and ages.
Eventually, when it was time to leave the group followed us to our minibus
and everyone smiled and waved as we drove away. As has been the case throughout
our encounters in India, we left feeling a deep sense of warmth, happiness
and deep curiosity from these people. I tried to capture some of this in several
pictures that we took during our visit here today.
Late this afternoon, we arrived in Jodhpur and our "hotel", the
Umaid Bhawan Palace. It's actually a palace, and is the home of the local
king (again, these kings have retained their titles) H.H. Maharani Sahiba.
It was completed in 1942, and absolutely spectacular. Our room leads to a
huge terrace where we overlook the palace grounds and the city of Jodhpur.
Everything is very grand and elegant. There's no "reception desk"
here - instead there's a wandering group of "palace assistants"
who take care of all your needs. We're pretty sure that we'll enjoy living
here, if only for a couple days!
Tomorrow we look forward to spending the full day exploring Jodhpur.