[ Jaipur, Rajasthan ]
In which Yours Truly charms an assembled crowd at a street wedding, nearly gets trampled by an elephant in traffic, tattoos a camel, laughs (uncharitably, I’m afraid) in a famous guru’s face, shares tea with a Hindu holy man and his acolyte, and exchanges niceties with adherents of a local mosque. Details will be in the picture captions…
The guru was suggested to me by someone I met here, so I decided to go with an open mind–it being a new experience ‘n all. He was, however, the expected charlatan–a huckster; a belligerent twit selling baubles to idiots. As we met (over a glass counter of highly priced stone-baubles he usually sells to help correct problems with people’s chakras, naturally), he typed numbers into his 10-key to impress me with his psychic prowess (guessing my age, my birth month, the age of my imaginary girlfriend–which I suppose could be determined using the manufacture date of the last inflatable sheep I purchased), then told me I had unresolved issues with my mother. I said “yes, but they involve your father. Did you know THAT?”
Thus ended our interview.
The next two days were devoted to finding a cheap motorcycle to rent or purchase so I can spend the next two weeks gallivanting about Rajasthan without map, guide, or plan. This is a bit harder than it sounds: everyone you meet tells you they know a guy, and that the guy they know is more reliable and helpful than all the other guys’ guys–each of whom is somehow a bad guy in a good guy’s guise.
Driving this Shakespearean intrigue is everyone’s simple, sincere hope you’ll commit to their guy and that they’ll get the concomitant, commensurate, cash bonus commission.
In the end, I did get a simple, clean, low-mileage Hero (ubiquitous, low-cost Indian brand): $115 inclusive, for 14 days, unlimited kilometers, and liability insurance, anywhere in India I’m brave enough to go.
The first task was driving home from the shop during rush hour, an adventure in its own right involving the usual sub-continental menagerie (sans elephants), 8-lane roundabouts, homicidal tuk-tuk drivers, raging pedestrians, and full-sized tourist buses with drivers who prefer bumping one’s rear wheel to honking. (It’s not like I could actually move yet; I was wedged behind a three-wheeled cycle piled high with colored linens who was in turn stuck behind an angry bull. India rocks.)
I survived, though, and tomorrow morning I’m off in the direction of Pushkar. Maybe.