Hotel: Hathroi Palace – one of the cooler places I have ever stayed, anywhere. And my ego is stroked to excess because the guys who own it remember me and give me a wonderful welcome.
Although I am in Jaipur, there are a few loose ends to tie up from Agra.
The efficiency of Indian Railways is only rivalled by that of the post office. I have worked out the railways mostly, this is my first experience with India post.
When in Agra last year a Sheroes calendar seemed too heavy to lug around, we regretted it later. This time I have less space so to keep The Sheila happy I decided to post it from Agra, I also had a letter to mail to a dear friend.
I don’t know how far apart Indian post offices are, but very conveniently there is one about 50m down the road from the hotel. I guess the entrance should have given me a hint, but I was fooled by the modern looking facade…and a facade it was.
As anyone who has visited India will tell you, a scene like this is the norm.
Behind the counter are a man and a woman and lots of paperwork, minimal technology. It looks like post offices are also bank agencies and their manual system of recording deposits takes me back to primary school and bringing in my bank book every week.
It takes about 30 minutes to work out how much 2 items will cost and how to deal with the conundrum of Australian post codes only having 4 digits, but their form has space for 6.
Some scratching of heads and consulting with colleagues – I suggest putting 2 zeros in front, but that seems too easy – and it is all sorted out, the postage of the calendar exceeding the cost of said calendar. The geek inside me was secretly delighted that instead of the mass of colorful stamps I was hoping for, they print a label…on a dot matrix printer.
I am not sure if you can do a poll in WordPress, but I wish I could open one for votes on whether you think the mail will ever arrive or not.
I can’t remember if I mentioned, I am also here on a mission, to replace some rugs in the house, I am hoping to bypass retail and go straight to the factory. Another near hotel experience, 10 minutes walk away is diamond carpets. I walk in expecting a shop, but it is the factory!
Honoured guest I am – and potential customer – so I am given a tour by the manager, offered cold water, given free rein to talk to people and take photos. I am truly gobsmacked by what you can’t see from the entrance where there are 13 people working at 6 looms.
In the back and downstairs in this deceptively large building are dozens of people doing work that I am not even sure how to describe. Tedious? Mundane? Manual? All of the above and more. According to manager they have 200 workers, including another factory.
Take the guys above. They are sitting, going over this carpet centimetre by centimetre looking for loose threads, long threads, wonky threads and who knows what else. I had them show me a spot they were going to fix, I couldn’t pick anything wrong, but apparently there was something to snip.
As an aside, I was in a shop looking at rugs, feeling out prices and learning a bit (it is easy to get ripped off) when a man delivered a bespoke rug that someone had commissioned. It was absolutely beautiful, a simple geometric design on a rich emerald green background and had taken him 3 months make. They wouldn’t tell me the price.
The women below, and you can’t see them all, are hand stitching the carpet edges and putting the fringe along the ends. It was amazing.
I wanted to talk prices but didn’t have my list of sizes with me and offered to come back in the morning before I leave for Jaipur. When I return the manager isn’t in for the day (did he not know that the previous afternoon?) and the people are completely unhelpful. What a contrast.
You should have seen how fast she could tie those knots, I am sure they are paid by their output. It can be hard to be objective about photos. This one tells a story and will bring back strong memories for me. I love it (not withstanding that some light on her face would have improved it), but is it interesting if you weren’t there?
Walking back to the hotel I see this. I don’t think it needs an explanation. Another example of the amazing work people do.
On the way to the bus I spot this
It’s a lousy photo through the front window of the bus (Tall Boy has a philosophy of not taking photos from a moving vehicle. I have adopted that, but this was too good), but we were overtaken by these people doing about 90kph.
I also had fun at the rest stop during the trip. After watching the cook for a while I got to take a chappati out a tandoor oven – how the cook puts his hand in is beyond me. Then made all the workers laugh with a couple of magic tricks.
It dawned on me last night that all the interactions I have, all the games, all the laughs, it is very rare to interact with a woman. This is now going to be the subject of close observation to see if I can figure it out, but I think I know the unfortunate truth.
If you’ve wondered why I came back, I hope this post has given you a sense…I should add that apart from the post office, everything else happened yesterday! And it was a typical day in India.
I think I will head to Rishikesh for Diwali, one of the biggest festivals in India and around which I planned this trip. I plan to buy and let of a huge box of fireworks :o)