After one last sunset view from Mt. Abu, it's off on an overnight bus north to Jodhpur, the Blue City.  The bus comes, and off we rattle down Mt. Abu and into the night.  I finally give the luggage boy the 10 rupees he had requested, mostly for the peace of mind that my luggage and myself will arrive at the same destination.  We stop often, for no apparent reason, and it's always disconcerting to come out of a half sleep and see crowds of people milling about in the glare of the bus headlights.  The driver will inevitably lay on his air horn, which can be heard far and wide.

The bus leaves me in Jodhpur in the middle of the night, where I straggle about helplessly, victim to the one hotel that I find open at these hours.  No choice, but fortunately, it's a nice, quiet place with a garden in which to relax.  

Meherangarh Fort rises out of the blue maze of alleyways, clotheslines, dwellings and temples that is the old city of Jodhpur, the Blue City.  Sounds mix and mingle as they rise along the fortress walls on their way skyward -- children playing cricket, chanting from temples, horns of distant traffic, a train whistle.  

At the entrance gate to the fort, a man clothed in lightweight white cotton garb, with a red turban wrapped around his head, eyes me with a firm, hardened expression.  He holds a wooden instrument that resembles a handmade violin, and uses a wooden bow to play a lilting, squeaky Rajasthani tune.

His wife sits beside him, with their child in her lap.  Her beautiful face is adorned with a nose ring and a bindhi dot between her eyebrows, and framed by a long, flowing red veil.  She wears a bright red dress and Rajasthani jewelry -- a necklace, intricately-crafted earrings, and many bangles on her arms.  They are selling handmade instruments like the one the man is playing.  Their sad expressions speak of tough times to eke out a living.  

At twilight, a sudden downpour brings momentary chaos and an incomplete pre-monsoon cleansing to the pulsing energy of the old city.  Blue buildings reflect a calming light in muddy puddles formed in the narrow streets.  Warm light streams from the doorway of a small shop where a dark-haired, mustachioed man takes a small blowtorch to silver to work an ancient trade.  Paintings of Lakshmi, Ganesh and Shiva adorn the bright blue walls that hug the intimate space.  He melts a block of silver into small beads that roll about on an iron pan like mercury from a broken thermometer.  

Once the silver beads cool and harden, another man with a wide face and wisps of gray lightening his dark hair, sorts out the roundest beads and deftly fashions them into intricate necklaces and ankle bracelets, jewelry destined for a bride on her wedding night.  

With characteristic Indian hospitality, they offer me a cup of chai.  Why yes, thank you very much.  The younger man pours water into a metal bowl and adds cardamom, ginger and other spices, and milk, and brings it to a quick boil with his blowtorch.

I thank them for the chai and the demonstration of their craft, and walk out into the nighttime streets.