Played the tourist again, hired an auto and did the major haunts. It is the best way to get around a big unfamiliar city where the sights are spread out. Welcome to Jaipur.
It was a nice slow auto ride, not part of the plan, but, when the throttle cable breaks, it is part of the adventure. Poor Yash had to hold the end of the cable with a rag until he could make temporary repairs, then later we stopped at the auto repair workshop…actually it was just a spot by the side of the road more than any sort of workshop, but it was fixed.
First stop was Amber Fort. I hate to sound blasé, but it is your pretty standard Indian Fort meaning it is big, spectacular, beautiful and quite amazing. This one is also crowded, I am now in the golden tourist triangle – Delhi, Jaipur, Agra – and there were lots of groups of European tourists.
But as usual there are surprises. In a corner of a crowded square is a sign explaining about underground water tanks. Nearby is a bored looking guard next to an iron gate. I go to peer through the bars on the gate and bored guard is suddenly as animated as the guards get (not very) and opens the gate for me. Down down down, all alone to the underground water tank, too dark for a photo.
Later I see a half hidden sign pointing to the secret tunnel. The tour guides lead the packs past a doorway, I venture in and alone again I head down down down to a tunnel that was an escape route from the castle if the hordes were attacking…or paparazzi are waiting at the front gate.
All this is great, but no one told me about the elephants. There are 120 of them carrying people in a steady procession up the mountain to the main courtyard past hordes of touts selling textiles, carvings, umbrellas and photos – maybe they should use the tunnel.
I can imagine the same scene in Australia. People would be wearing seatbelts and helmets, the elephants would walk behind a big fence, everything would be so safe. But this is India and you walk with the elephants, mahouts will shout at you if you get in the way.
All this and more during the day plus the fun of tracking down another baoli (stepwell). Not as big or spectacular as the one in Jodhpur, but still remarkable. I have found 3 to visit in Delhi.
In Pushkar a couple from Argentina had told me about the Hotel Hathroi Palace in Jaipur. A couple of young guys took over the lease in mid 2015 and are turning it into what will be a cool and popular hangout. They already have a great chill space on the roof, are decorating and renovating and if you toss in great personalities it will rock in a year or so. This is an unashamed plug for the place that will hopefully increase their internet profile.
I asked about a concert of some sort, I hadn’t seen any music yet. Yes, there is something on tomorrow night I am vaguely told. Yash to the rescue in his auto, we head off to somewhere, I have no idea where or what.
Turns out to be the very flash Hotel Diggi Palace, very flash indeed. Hmmm…. I am directed down a side street to the servants entrance and a sign announces that on a beautifully warm Jaipur night, the very flash back courtyard has been taken over by the Sufi Music Festival. I can’t believe my luck…again.
I got to see four vastly different performances. The first, with only about 10 other people was very devotional and everyone had to have their heads covered. The words to the “songs” were displayed using PowerPoint – good to see PP is just as bad everywhere in the world. The tabla player was incredible.
One great thing about the event that puzzled me was that all the announcements and banter by musicians was bilingual. First in Hindi, then in English. I was delighted, but being the only westerner there I wondered who the English was for.
The woman was the lead of this trio and had an extraordinary voice. The instrument, I have no idea of the name, rests on her shoulder as you see and is essentially a drone, it is strummed without any work on the neck at all.
I didn’t want to mid another photo op, so I went down the front, in the VIP area, having earlier expressed my dismay at being turned back when I boldly tried to walk in at the beginning of the night. “But I am a VIP” I huffed and puffed to much laughter. This time I simply went to the other end of the fence where it was completely open. Down to the front, I sit on an empty VIP couch in row two, but is effectively the front row at this spot, a couple of photos, perfect. Great music, I make myself comfortable. I have the whole couch to myself, a bit further down some real VIPs including government ministers are being fawned over and photographed.
I am very comfortable now and regret leaving my bag and sandles back in the cheap seats. I consider going and getting them and making the move permanent, but have learned in the past that when you are scamming, it is good to not draw attention to yourself. Eventually a group of real VIPs join me on my couch, completely spoiling my premium experience by talking, using their phones, not clapping and just being on my couch. I think I may appear in a photo in a newspaper and have half of India speculating about who I am.
The headliner was great. An apparently well known young woman who performed contemporary rock Sufi music and the crowd went off…in an Indian way. I can’t speak for where you live, but had this been in Australia the audience would have been on their feet about half way through the set, dancing, clapping, singing. Not in India.
The video is early in her show, I got caught up in the event and as well as crowd watching forgot to shoot more video.
Despite bursting with joy and excitement cheering and singing, people would jump up, dance for about 5 seconds then reluctantly sit down again. This was happening all over the audience. Despite all the fantastic energy, there weren’t even people dancing around the sides or back of the crowd. I was truly hoping she would invite everyone to get up so it would really go off. Unfortunately I didn’t think to video towards the end, so this will have to do.
Eventually as the final song built to the usual concert crescendo they couldn’t hold back and for the last 30 seconds the place erupted. At every other similar concert you and I have been to there are then screams and claps and whoops for an encore and of course the act obliges with their 3 pre planned encore songs.
But this is India, we just went home.
Footnote: never buy a tablet if you plan on producing content, they are for consumption. This post has been particularly painful to edit and has taken 2 days to (hopefully) get right.