Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Seat of the pants flying...

I have just returned from an exciting thrills and frills road trip to Jaipur in the deserts of Rajastan. I was hosted by two amazing individuals: Akshay Radia (Delhi) and Shahid Buttar (Washington, DC). They are both artistically inclined on a microphone and were going to the Jaipur Heritage International Festival and invited me along.

The adventure started off on a great note at around 10:30pm on Saturday evening. Trying to maneuver out of Delhi city we were met by a wedding procession. Shahid mentioned he had joined the dancing at a previous wedding in India and so I gave it half a moment of thought and jumped out of the truck. We both went over and started dancing with the carts filled with horns that act as speakers and usually announce loudly and distorted that a wedding had occurred or was about to. There were two towering elephants blocking the road with a couple of camels mixed in with all the hijra (men who dress as women and are thought to be auspicious on wedding occasions). The kids joined us in our little celebration and in moments smiles appeared on the moments ago stunned faces. It was the perfect randomness that blessed the adventure.

We finally arrived in Jaipur close to half two in the morning. The only information about this festival was that it was at Mann Industries, a factory in some industrial area. It took us another two hours to randomly narrow down the location of said industries. In between we found a heavily populated area where there were people sleeping on the streets. It was dreadfully cold out and Akshay and Shahid had one hundred blankets they brought to give out to people, not quite the people they were intended for or perhaps exactly whom they were for. We would occasionally wake up the odd person here or there as we were laying blankets over them and once realizing what was going on did they relax into a stunned look with the faintest evidence of a smile. It was a warming experience that I will never forget. Just imagine waking up a frail old man in the middle of sleep, randomly slapping his hand on the ground to locate his glasses. Puts them on and magnifies his eyes and fills the lens with his pupils. He sits up and begins adorning a smile with his nod of appreciation and approval.

Our mission was to still find this Mann Industries. After finding out that anyone we stopped not only didn't know where Mann Industries was but tried offering their services as a tour guide. We weren't hiring, so kept on. Accidentally came across someone in another industrial area in town and he informed us that is was right by the main railway station where we stopped for chai and some nourishment. The information was procured to the whereabouts of said industries. We came up to the entrance of it as the railway barricade was lowered and was informed that it would be lowered for twenty minutes. Our destination lay only over ten sets of railway tracks and down a shady dirt path to a light. We decided to trek over the treacherous train tracks and check the Mann Industries. Three miniature men were guarding the gates and handed us a map with the location of the festival. A full out underground event with a map point - truly an adventure. These were obviously the desert soirée's I've heard about. Half an hour late and shivering over a fire we had the evenings performances described with sayings like "110%" or in reference to one particular group as "totally f#$%ing awesome" in the freshest of fresh Indian accent. The second night of the three day festival was apparently a celebration.

I had my first bath I've had in months. So many months I won't even bother trying to recall - too long. Got a five star pampering that I fully took advantage of. I soaked in bubble bath and was told stories and fables of India by Zia Moheddin - I knew that audiobook would come in handy one day. I had a white fuzzy robe and matching slippers. It was nice... I like...

Shahid was to depart for Paris that evening from Delhi so we made it out of Jaipur during the sunset. I never was able to see the Pink City from an elevation and see all the houses and buildings hued in harmony. We were on the phone with airlines and the states trying to make some in-case-shit-happens phone calls. Shahid's flight was at 1am and we were cutting it very close. So after finding the options slim to none the speed of the vehicle began to increase. Thing were packed, chai was drunk and goodbyes exchanged. The adventure of this road trip was great success.

Everyone got home safely. Now back to trying to get back to getting out of India...

*image stolen from Sam Stearman

3 comments:

  1. Have you seen your mom yet? I loved this entry... especially the random dancing part!

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  2. Haven't seen moms yet. Talked to her for the first time yesterday since her arrival in Pakistan though.

    It was interesting to invite the randomness in...

    Always turns out interesting, that's for sure.

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  3. The best part of this story is hands down the delivering of blankets at 3am to all the cold sidewalk sleepers.

    Life viewed through another lens... the one we let collect dust and rarely use...

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