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
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