Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Desert Fever

the blue city of Jodhpur in RajasthanSince I left Varanasi last week, I've been enjoying the benefits of travelling solo. It's the last time on my year and a half trip that i'll be selfishly travelling at my own pace, seeing things that I want to see without discussion, and being able to really absorb the local flavor at my own leisure. Don't get me wrong, if I fly solo too long, I get schizophrenic. But in a week and a half, I meet some old friends in Bombay to travel down south for a month, then in April I'll meet a couple of representatives from the Anderson Lanbridge Foundation on a goodwill mission in Turkey, and finally spending the last few weeks at a friend's house in Spain. So basically, with my trip coming to a close in a few months, I've been rejuvenated by this magnificent and magical country that is India, and I'm trying to absorb everything I possibly can every waking minute........it's as if I see the finish line, but I don't want the race to end. And this country, India, demands your full attention.
One of the nice things about solo travel, is that I tend to meet a lot more locals. While wandering the backstreets of Jodhpur near my guesthouse a couple of days ago, a bunch of kids yelled the customary 'hullo, hullo! take photo, take photo'. These kids stopped me and asked for their photos taken.
You probably think I'm a pedophile or Michael Jackson from all the kid's shots I've posted, but I'm telling you, the kids in India beg/harass to get their photos taken. They like seeing their images on the back of a digital camera. I just happen to be the muse.
Continuing on my walk, more village kids wanted photos taken, and hearing all the kids cheering, the mother of one of the kids invited me into her house. Word must have spread fast that a westerner was there because the next thing you know, half the neighborhood dropped in. And of course they all wanted them or their kids photos taken.
a local village mom picking up her kids before inviting me inside
The mother, named Sudya, took a break from her breastfeeding (must you do that while we're introducing ourselves) to make some chai tea. She introduced me to her 3 sisters who stopped by, and then Sudya's mother came walking in. At this point, this lady's 12x12 room/home was filled with 7 adults, 6 kids, a pile of stuff, and me. Conversation consisted mostly of Sudya and her sisters telling me their life stories (which is based on the amount of kids they have), and asking me why you not married? do you have a girlfriend? how come you are not marry? Sudya said that she was recently divorced and had two little kids, numbers 3 and 4 in the room. The rest of the conversations were limited because of their limited English and my knowledge of 5 words in Hindi.
Sudya's neice and son
Sudya and her daughter
At this point, I told them I had to leave to go visit the Mehrangarh before it closed (an absolutely magnificent fort by the way. Highly recommended). They made me promise (borderline threaten me), that I had to come back later in the evening to visit this sister's house, the other sister's house, and then the mother's house.
the magnificent fort of Mehrangarh
Mehrangarh from the rooftop of Hillview Guesthouse. Great place, the owner let's you name your price on a room, and she always forgets to charge your meals. She's good at chess too.
the intricate detailing of the palaces in the fort
musicians in the fort for your listening pleasure
I stopped by after sunset at Mehrangarh and Sudya, with 2 kids in her arms, took me to visit her sister's house where I met yet another, a fourth sister, as well as the husband of one of the other sisters. At this stage I lost track of names, who's kid was who's, and so on. Sudya and her youngest sister wanted more pictures taken, and after this last photo shoot, in front of her entire family, Sudya asked me if she could be my girlfriend.
Girlfriend?? I was caught offguard.
OK think.
I wanted to explain to her that in western societies, when a man is propositioned by a female who is walking barefoot with 2 kids in tow (one who happens to still be breastfeeding), has no source of income, has 4 nosey sisters and one nosey mom, speaks maybe 5 solid sentences of the same language with said male, lives in one 12x12 room where the toilet is a dirt patch behind a boulder out back, the inclination is for the western male to get the hell out of there. But I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I also knew these concepts would be impossible to explain.......so i said, ....Okay, much to the joy of her family. She then made me go back to her place where she was going to make me dinner. ..... Dinner? How do I get out of this? Before leaving, Sudya's mom (if you're keeping score, my future mother-in-law), made me promise to visit her home the next morning at 10 AM. She also asked me if I was Hindi. Great I'm being sized up for a ball and chain by people I just met 2 hours ago.
OK, how do I get out of dinner?
How do I get out of dinner?........hmmmmm, wait a second, a girl is offering to take me back to her place. She wants to make me dinner. And god knows what else she has in mind........and I'm refusing?.....am I turning gay??.......wait, no, of course not. I just don't want to spend the rest of my life caste as an Indian village peasant...that's all.
OK, now that that's figured out, how do I get out of this? How do I get out of this?
When I got back to Sudya's house (2 doors down), I told her,....ummm, no I can't stay for dinner, I just ate 12 hours ago, I'm stuffed (great response, checkmate!).
Meanwhile, a crowd of children and adults gathered outside. I felt like an international celebrity.
She eventually let me go and made me 'promise' (the one English word she happened to use on a regular basis without hesitation) to stop by at 10 AM the next morning to visit mom. I said, OK, of course, I promise. However, of course I did what any other chickenshit guy would do in this situation, which is to catch the next overnight train to Jaisalmer the following day. The other nice thing about travelling solo, is that you can get the hell outta dodge in a moment's notice if the need arises.
if I stayed in Jodhpur, this would be my family photo of my wife, daughter, sister-in-law......
and new son

speaking of international celebrities
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

2 Comments:

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Eugin said...

Hi, I'm from Argentina but I'm living in DC. I met Andrew in the flight from Argentina to the US and he gave your URL.

Your blog is really cool, and very interesting. Keep that way.

Adios,
Eugin

 
At 10:57 AM, Blogger Neil said...

Darn, I was looking forward to meeting the family during the holidays.

Keep up the great posts, man! Loved the last sunset pic.

 

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