We left England with pre-conceived ideas of the weather and the stresses and strains of London life. Three days later we have begun to relax into our spiritual journey, helped by the books of Indian life to create our mood we have arrived in Jodphur to the most marvellous of hotels, the Raas. It reminds me of a Morrocan setting, probably the Muslim influence as M says. We were greeted by what seems like the entire staff of the hotel, all lovely and welcoming and settled in to our fabulous room which includes its own purda room, for the women to watch the men, as in past times they must be kept separate.
Delhi seems a thousand miles away now and has a different feel altogether, M and I are glad to be out of it but strangely looking back, grateful to have seen the Gandhi museum and to have met and experienced a mystic Sufi in the guise of our tour guide named Robinson. Once we got over the shock of the weather ( think London pea souper ) and the fact that I had to wear M’s clothes and my Ugg boots to keep warm we really enjoyed the crazy early evening tour that we took with Robinson. Meandering through the souk like streets and even through people’s gardens to get to the Aga Khans tomb, which I have to say was a beautiful treasure amongst the chaotic life of Delhi.
We walked through a mosque and saw the Sufi trees full of little pots with offerings. We arrived at what seemed to us a stagnant pool possibly with typhoid tendencies which apparently has healing properties and people come for miles to drink, I would say if you survive a glass of it then you can survive anything. We walked bare foot and had to abandon any worried notions of Delhi belly which M now seems to have contracted where I, as usual, still haven’t managed to go at all. Luckily Robinson just pressed the heel of my foot and gave me some green tea, as soon as he left I was cured which is more than Western medicine has ever managed for me!
So here we are in our Indian surrounds, relaxing at last and letting go of our Western ideas, for the Indians see beauty in a musical note and a wedding necklace and so shall we. We are travellers and look like gypsies, or at least I do, M has managed to retain British Raj. I am reading “A Princess remembers” the memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur and M has finished women of the Raj. Robinson saw something spiritual in him and so we bought Gandhi’s autobiography which I am hoping he will read next. At the moment he is reading all about polo and the amazing fort that towers above us and I know that tomorrow will be special. A pigeon just flew out of our room as if to confirm my auspices.
We just finished a delicious Northern Indian supper of tandoori chicken and cauliflower cooked like no other in spices and chilli, beats cauliflower cheese hands down, even M ate it! Have settled down to bed and M is fast a sleep which is quite extraordinary because the whole town seems to be celebrating a local wedding. It is now one o’clock in the morning and it sounds like Bollywood gone beserk, drums, tamborines, singing, screaming, dancing, hooting of horns even the stray dogs are joining in with their wolf like howls.
There is nothing else for it, if you can’t beat them, join them, there is life in the old dog yet so I am pulling on M’s best linen clothes and my faithful Ugg boots to see if I can get a closer look at the magical wedding beads. According to our tuk tuk driver parents save their entire lives only to bankrupt themselves at their daughter’s wedding. Maybe they’ll take me for a Bedouin and let me join in, with my new scarf from the bizarre this is highly probable!
Sadly the hotel is locked and I can’t get out, the security guard brought me some tea and reassured me that it will only continue until 3 am. He says not to worry because it is the Moslem wedding season in December and January and they only last one night. October and November is the Hindu wedding season and they last 9 days, whew, that’s a relief I think as I creep back into bed and snuggle up to M.
These people really know how to party, having celebrated until 3 in the morning they were up at 5.45 am for prayers, who needs sleep anyway ! Some jasmine tea and a pineapple later we are dressed and ready to meet our guide, a most handsome man of the highest caste. Pawlo knows everything there is to know about the Fort and is an absolute must if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Jodphur.
We are regaled with tales of years gone by and shown the palaces within the fort complete with elephant carriages I was particularly struck by the beauty of the hunting carriages adorned with silver lions. The views are breath taking, there is a sweet story of how the ancient people believed that if you painted your house blue it would keep the mosquitoes away, they believed it was the colour blue that the mosquitoes didn’t like but today we know it is because of the lime that the paint is mixed with and it strikes me how clever the ancient people were to be instinctive enough to discover these things.
We saw where the Maharaja’s are cremated which has to be by water according to the Hindu religion because it is important to wash yourself after a cremation to become pure again. It is then very important to return the ashes to the Ganges River which will carry you to the gates of heaven or hell. You may only be cremated if you have completed the five stages in earthly life which are to be incubated in your mother’s stomach, feed from the breast milk of the mother, have your first hair cut, have your ears pierced and to be wrapped with a special thread. Other wise you must be buried and ask that you be returned to earth as a human and not cast back thousands of years to start again as an amoeba.
After lunch we are taken to the polo ground to see the Maharaja’s collection of vintage cars and watch the final of the polo matches played from 25th to 30th December. This was such a treat which M loved because it was reminiscent of the Raj . Sadly Jodphur were out in the semi finals the day before so the Maharaja was not in the best of spirits but he nevertheless impressed us with his charm and was a total gentleman throughout, he had an amazing presence and greeted us all with such grace.
Next M and I went in search of a Purr jacket and a Ganesh, Pawlo took us to a special wholesale shop, an Aladdin’s cave of fabric and ganeshes. I found her sitting quietly in the corner, she chose me and I loved her from the start. They say that if you buy a Ganesh for someone you must love them with all your heart and darling M bought her for me. Ok I admit that he thought that the number on the bottom was the price and not the weight to be multiplied in order to create a price but as Pawlo said when it comes to our gods there is no bargaining we just hand over the card. M bought the most beautiful vintage purr jacket which had been made for the maharaja in the 60 s and was an exact copy and so a prince was born, he hasn’t taken it off since and he will certainly be the king of smoking jackets next shooting season.
We ended our perfect day at a little known restaurant frequented only by the cream of Indian society with the most delicious food and panoramic views of the evening sky line. We are both now smitten and can’t wait to continue our adventure on to Udaipur tomorrow, what will the morning bring? I feel like Jodphur is our first born child, can we possibly love another child as much? Only time will tell but as any mother knows as soon as the second child is born an incredible feeling of equal love is delivered and I have a feeling that our family will grow in Udaipur!
Our flight to Udaipur was cancelled and so we set out on a six hour drive from Jodphur and so glad we drove, it gave us a chance to see more of Rajasthan so that we could really feel the land and the people. On the way we stopped off at the most spectacular temple we have ever visited, the marble carvings were incredible especially considering they were carved in the 1500s. The chief priest showed us around and we meditated with him as he blessed us with his chanting, he had the most beautiful brown eyes with a pale purple almost lunar circle encompassing them with a physic shine to them. M ate his chicken sandwiches in the car still nervous of his tummy while I had the most delicious spicy vegetable curry in a restaurant on the side of the road surrounded by hill tops, we have seen the sun for the first time, hooray, the air is still cool. On the last part of the journey we watched ‘The Best Exotic Beautiful Marigold Hotel’, I love all Anglo-Indian films but this is my absolute favourite to date especially as I can now relate to it so closely.
New Year’s Eve and we arrive at our hotel, the weather is bright and the pool is like a moat around the entire place, I think we’re going to like it here. Happy New Year from the Oberoi in Udaipur, the best food and the best weather we have had so far, this gap year type adventure is in danger of turning into a five star holiday in the sun. Half relieved, half disappointed I settle down to read Gandhi’s autobiography. Michael is busy arranging for us to see the palaces, someone comments on his Purr jacket, he smiles, shrugs his shoulders and I hear him telling them that the Maharaja gave it to him when they met at the polo.
By Emma Holland
Emma is the founder of You Make a Cake Ltd. www.youmakeacake.com
Emma will entertain us with other diary entrances of her peregrinations over this coming year.