Full Power Diwali

Location: Jaipur

Hotel:. Hathroi Palace

When I first started planning this trip, being here for Diwali was the #1 priority.

I could place a link to my post from last year and let that cover an extraordinary day, but that would be lazy.

If Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, the day of Diwali would be the equivalent of Saturday morning before at the shopping centre.  It is crowded, people are hustling and bustling buying last minute supplies, there is a good Vibe as everyone wishes each other Happy Diwali.

Our tour group Dear Leader (me) declared a free morning and I went walking to the old city and the street market.  Banks and bigger shops were all closed, I still haven’t managed to get a SIM card.  I mainly need it to confirm hotels.

The busiest shops were the fireworks sellers.  The range was incredible and for some reason I didn’t take any photos of the funny attempts at appropriation of western culture but getting it wrong.  My favourite was the nazi bombs, seriously dangerous crackers, but the packaging, apart from the name, had no reference to nazis.  It doesn’t tell well, but it was quite bizarre.  Also other cultural icons like singers, wrestlers, Disney characters, movie characters, you name it, where they must just search for popular images, then slap them on the front of a fireworks box.  The stocking up would come later.

Your group members met for lunch and so show we hooked up with Wassim, the driver of a very pimped up tuk tuk.  He had fancy seats and sign writing and a sound system you use for a rock concert.  It was loud!

This was a shopping mission, not my usual idea of fun, but with our group I knew it would be.

Tiff is on the lookout for bits and pieces for their dress up box and a kurta was on the list.  I wouldn’t mind buying one, but the first place wants where it would happen.  They weren’t outrageously priced but I wanted to go to where your average Indian would shop, not a fancy emporium

Tiff and Dawne looked great and would have fit in perfectly on the streets, apart from the turban.  Unfortunately for Wassim, no sale meant no commission.

If I didn’t introduce you to Wassim you would miss much of the experience and fun of the afternoon.  He is in his late 20s, speaks excellent English and understands both obvious and subtle jokes.  It was non stop laughs as we covered everything from religion (he is Muslim) to family to gay marriage.  He doesn’t like the idea because eventually there will be noone having children – I am surprised the anti same sex marriage mob didn’t think of that line…or maybe they did.

Dawne and Jane had been to Jaipur before and were keen on going to the blue pottery store.

This was another “not the sort of place I would go” sort of place.  But how wrong can a tour leader be?  Much of the pottery they sell was beautiful and if it wasn’t day 3, I would have bought much more than I did.  If I was building again (no, never) or decorating, or had a shop selling this sort of stuff I would make a special trip.

I bought some lovely door knobs.  The story of my life; 25 years after building our house, about a month ago I finally put some knobs on a pair of doors.  I am about to replace them 😛

Imagine this on the wall of your bathroom

We spent about an hour wandering and the group members chose some nice pieces to carry for 3 weeks :o)  I helped haggle a price, we had expected that giving a high rating on Trip Advisor and Google Maps would get a corresponding low price on pottery.  Not so, but we were happy and so were they.

The Trip Advisor review photo that didn’t get the level of discount we thought it deserved :o)

We’ve all been into shops or restaurants where they have photos of famous customers.  India is no different, maybe a even more into it. A running joke started about how the actor Judy Dench seems to have visited every shop in Jaipur, no doubt with a little help from Photoshop.

Then to another kurta shop, this time a little down market, but still catering to tourists.  This isn’t where Indians buy their clothes.

Our final stop is the fireworks shop.  Rockets, bombs, strings of crackers, hard to light sparklers and assorted flame throwy items.  A bag full of lethal weapons for only 1250R.

The Hathroi family have expanded and taken over the roof top restaurants in a hotel next door.  Nice and high, we decided to eat and watch the night unfold (and set of our fireworks) from there.  We were about to settle down when I noticed a spiral staircase up to the upper roof, and remembering last year in Udaipur went and had a look.  Perfect!!!  We relocated to a space with tables and chairs and a great view over the city.

On the way short walk next door I let off the first bomb. Bloody hell!  The fuse was only about 2 seconds, barely enough time to light and run for my life.  Naive westerners, we were soon shown the trick of unravelling a centimetre of fuse to create a timer of 5 or more seconds.  I still cowered in fear, and we had 10 of these things.

The great success and surprise was the rockets…here goes…

I have run out of time before we leave for Udaipur.  I’ll try to pick this up later.


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