Location: Jaipur, Barala, Kuala Lumpur
My flight to the Gold Coast leaves from Jaipur. This was a deliberate choice when I booked back in August. I wanted to come see my friends at Chillout Hostel on my way home.
Coming back from Rishikesh I had 5 days before my flight. Decisions. Pushkar? Udaipur? Somewhere else?
As I said a few posts ago, plans are for wusses. Counting days isn’t of much interest, but I would guess that I ended up spending maybe 1/3 of my time in Jaipur. And oh, what fun.
Or, as it turned out, one option, and the one I unintentionally took was to I just hang in Jaipur. There is plenty of adventures to be had, some when you least expect it.
Having paid for a bag in the hold I decided I might as well buy some gifts for peiple – something I don’t normally do – and found something that is unique, exotic and actually useful. Also light, easy to pack, not expensive and a couple of other check boxes ticked.
The concept of me as part of the Singh family was being strengthened and Mumma Ji is now my sister, I am an uncle. It is actually quite special and I am honoured to be loved and included by everyone.
Here is an example, out of order chronologically but a good place to include it. My last day in Jaipur. I am flying out at 2315hrs and not sure what to do with the day. Chilling is a good option.
In the morning Ballu, my “nephew” asks if I would like to come to the village. Of course I would, having no idea who, what, why or where is involved. As long as I am back my 1800hrs it is fine.
In the car is Ballu driving, Mumma Ji, a cute young girl whose name I forget already but she is my great niece nowadays. We are going to Mumma’s village of Barala.
It isn’t where she was brought up, that is Mohchingpura, site of the wedding. Barala is where Mumma lived after getting married. It is traditional that the bride moves in with the groom’s family.
Barala is only 30km from Jaipur and most of the roads are pretty good. Most. One section would qualify for Worst Road Ever and included a partially collapsed bridge…or it may have been partially constructed, it can be difficult to tell.
First stop is at a shrine where respect is paid. This is for men only, women must remain outside. I don’t know how they know this as the shrines have no obvious markings. It is just knowledge.
Then to another shrine. This time it gets more serious. We are first there and over the next 30 minutes or so people keep arriving. Men inside, women outside. I say outside, but we are all out in the open, women are outside of a wall around the shrine.
Most people arrive with a bag with what I assume to be an offering. There is wheat, young coconuts, incense, sweets, cigarettes and ghee.
One man is responsible for preparing everything. He has a fire burning the coconut meat, feeding it with ghee and what looks like tea.
Another man develops what looks and sounds like the hiccups. He is getting louder and more frequent when he suddenly jumps into a small mattress and is on his knees bowing.
Everyone bows and Puja begins. There are many rituals, I don’t understand any of them. I have so many questions.
The most intriguing is where and individual would lie prostrate and the holy man (I assume) would “sweep” from the altar toward them about 10 times with a bunch of peacock feathers and then use it to slap them on the back. Some people got a gentle tap with the feathers, others got quite a whack with the other end.
We left before it was finished, interestingly there was no red dot put on foreheads or the string around wrists. So many questions.
We head off and getting answers to the questions was no longer important. It was incredible just being there.
One thing I did want to know was whether the ceremony was because Mumma came or it was on and Mumma came for it. I know, but it doesn’t matter.
Next stop is at Papa’s home, where Mumma would have spent many years. It is a farm growing wheat mostly. I meet Ajeet and Ballu’s grandmother and aunts and they sit and catch up while I sit or wander.
Eventually we drop Mumma at a bus, she is heading to Mohchingpura, where she grew up. We head back to Jaipur.
That was Friday 15th. Thursday 14th is Valentines Day and if you think it isn’t celebrated in India you have no understanding of the spread of western culture.
Chillout is planning a party and it was fun helping set up. The guys bought a big bag of rose flowers (no stems) and we hung them around the place. Candles were lit. It looked great. I even managed to convince them that party music was needed, not the love ballads they were playing.
Not a lot of outside people came but finally, some dancing! I had also prepared for the night with some fireworks and a bottle of rum. Thanks Shaked for asking me to not get drunk and fall asleep because we are going to a club later…that’s what friends are for – seriously. Not that I was going to. After the last party where I wrote myself off I was taking it easy this time.
Hmmmm…the club…India style. Fact is it was a cool place, done quite well with a big curved roof but no walls upstairs. But the recently deceased Martian rover likely had more atmosphere. All it needed was background music and some lighting. Instead it was like a venue that had just opened for the day…except it was midnight or so.
The owner was a pretty great host. There was food and drinks, not sure who paid, I didn’t order it.
Then we went downstairs and after I spent some time in the kitchen (maybe my favourite place in India) I found the others in a small room with some decent dance music happening…loudly. REALLY FUCKING LOUDLY! This Is Spinal Tap did the “turn it up to 11” scene, this was at 12. But we danced. A lot.
At 0130 I had had enough and decided to head back to Chillout. No tuk tuks were around (incredible!), maps said it was 1 km. My new shoes were hurting so a peaceful barefoot walk got me back.
Oooh…I nearly forgot. When we arrived 8 or so of us squeezed into a tiny lift to go up to the club on the 2nd floor. The light indicated we were going up but we weren’t. For around 10 minutes we weren’t. I admit to having a moment of claustrophobia but kept breathing and it passed.
Eventually someone opened the door from the outside and we thankfully went up the stairs. I suppose it should have been obvious only 6 people could fit in, but at least we didn’t plummet to our deaths. I went to the lift on the way out but one look and I changed my mind.
I need to get this video from Agra in somewhere…this will do
My plan is to write this on the plane between Kuala Lumpur and Gold Coast and publish it while waiting for my bag. Am I being ambitious? Over confident? (I ended up publishing at home).
KLIA2 (Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2) is a big place. Arriving at 0430 isn’t fun. Arriving at 0430 when your next flight is at 2315 is really not fun. I got a room in the capsule hotel in the airport. Too tired to go into the city I could sleep, shower, rest and enjoy the delights of an airport that is just like all other airports.
I did find this gem in a toy store.
By the time you read this I will be back in Australia.
Each time I go to India I expect it to be my last. Each time the place is more amazing than ever. I am already invited to Ballu’s wedding, he just needs to find a girl ;o) I have promised I will come, and I mean it.
It’s been a deeply personal trip for me for many reasons. If you don’t know, my wife Sheila and I separated late last year, after I had booked tickets. I am not sure I would have come had I known how life would change. In retrospect, not coming would have been one of the greatest mistakes I could make.
I was invited to the wedding in Mohchingpura after I had my flights booked and I contemplated whether or not to go, it would turn my plans upside down. Not going to the wedding would have been a huge mistake, it was life changing in ways I don’t yet understand. I still can’t speak about the event without getting emotional. I may never be able to.
Other small aha moments, one big one which I hope to stay focussed on to be a better human.
Although I start and end alone and love travelling alone, this has been a trip of friends and family.
Thanks to my new Indian family for welcoming me. Ajeet, Jyoti, Ballu, Gopal (?), Mumma, Swati & Anant and so many more. I can’t possibly list you all but you have touched me deeply.
Shaked, Anouk, Tom & Laura, Mimmi, Fernanda. Will we ever meet again? I so hope we do, somewhere. You are always welcome in my home.
I travel alone but people at home helped when I needed it. Megs and Aaron with the card, Jasmine with medical advice for me and others. Thanks to those who stayed in touch Lesley, Dave and George, Tiff and Dawne, Tina, Di, Erna and you.