Colours of India- blue Jodhpur

Making our way from the highway to the hotel, we soon realized that Jodhpur is a dirty, dusty and noisy city. On reaching our hotel, Jodhpur signaled, royalty and resplendence. A pluralism am well familiar with.

The Mehrangar Fort, clearly is the main attraction in Jodhpur. Masses of red sandstone used in construction in the hey days, transported via donkey drawn carts, not human labour (as was in building the pyramids of Egypt and the TajMahal in Agra). To minimize human effort, yet achieving precision, the blocks of sandstone were fixed, using a remarkable technique of placing ice between the blocks. The ice melted, the blocks were moved or turned into position and interlocked with each other, so that there was no need for a binding material, such as cement. What do you call this method? Sheer Genius!

We climbed to the top of the fort and whoa! the entire expanse below was blue in colour – awesomeness. It is thought that Brahmins – members of the priestly class – first took to coloring their houses blue (indigo?) to signify their domicile and to set them apart from the rest of the population. In addition they did the house doors in pink, and shutters in green. It’s like walking through a painting:) However, soon, the rest of Jodhpurs population followed suit and coloured their homes blue too. History does not tell us which brave non-Brahmin was the first to do it, yet it happened and since that day the people of Jodhpur have steadfastly maintained this tradition.

The fort is stunning. Within the fort there are little temples and museums. We walked around the area getting lost in the labyrinth of climbing alleyways and twisting side streets, catching glimpses of everyday life. Even stopped at a local chai shop to have fruit bun maska and adrak wali chai, given coffee is alien to this land:)

Did you know Jodhpur is the land of cotton? A variety of handmade fabrics, quilts, bandhini, leheriya to spulrge on. In addition every hue, shade,colour bangles you can imagine. And jootis so many in colour and design- everything vied for the purse.

What marred Jodhpur for us, were the narrow streets of old town filled with dirt, dust and garbage that cluttered every inch of the way. Crowded lanes too narrow for even a small car. Wiser to hail an autorickshaw here. Cows, excreta, human unhygienic’s, all left us gasping for oxygen!

The silver lining literally -:) seeing a small shop hand craft ornamental silver elephants. A couple of men would take scraps of silver, and thru the handmade assembly line, turn the scraps of silver into beautiful jeweled elephants. I watched this thru the confines of my car and lost track of time, waiting for the driver to get back from his meeting with a relative with whom he had to exchange some goods.

Jodhpur has numerous ‘pols’(large gates) - Loha pol, Jai pol, Chand pol - The walls close to these gates have battle scars created by cannon balls. On one of the gates are a set of numerous small handprints which belonged to the wives of one of the Rajput leaders who was killed in battle. So many stories to dig out, so many anecdotes to narrate...

Jaswant Thada, is the traditional cremation grounds of the Jodhpur royal families. Sheer beauty in marble. The main memorial is built to resemble a temple. Its walls are made of intricately carved sheets of marble. The marble slabs have been polished till they have become extremely thin and translucent. This makes the monument glow from within when the sunrays fall on its surface

On speaking to a couple of foreigners, I realized the locals, were jostling for income. By conning tourists into submission to get henna (mehndi) for their hands, by selling them pre-packed stuff like a bed-sheet - which they later realized was torn and scruffy (when they returned to their rooms), By pre-reserving one kind of room online, at one rate, and on arrival of the tourists, downgrading them to another, on the pretext that the hotel is full due to priority wedding bookings or some such lameness. This short changing cannot be good for Jodhpur in the long run.

Some big differences between Maximum city and Jodhpur: non-existent skyline, easygoing attitude of the people, rickshaws don't have meters! Enjoy the colours of Jodhpur, albeit, with a wee bit of grimace, get Blue'd:P


A foodie’s dream: Surat

Before I launch into the dna of this city (which may really boil down to food) the one thing that will always stand out for me about Surat - is the warmth and simplicity of its people. Ask for directions or simply ask for a clarification on some Gujju word, the Surati’s will happily make the time to pause and explain - a novel Indian experience this has been compared to the bustling aggressive metropolises’ of a diversity called India.

Surat is prominently known for its textile market equally as also for "Bunder-e-Khubsurat” (a beautiful harbor) and of-course equally for being India’s largest diamond market. Prosperity thrives in Surat. The average Gujju is a hardworking, earnest guy who is hungry for more and wears his heart on his sleeve and works tirelessly.

What Surat lacks in heritage places and natural sights, it makes up for, in its business and industries (oil, energy, steel, petrochemicals), it is a city with peace and maximum prosperity. NaMo has every reason to be proud of his state (Surat very recently was voted the cleanest city). Other state chiefs indeed must learn a couple of lessons very soon from Surat!

Surat’s amazing road infrastructure of flyovers and bridges puts a city like Bombay to shame. A small airport where only one flight lands in the morning and one takes off by evening, may foolishly make you believe, is a sleepy town; Far from it. Surat has the heart and mind of an astute businessman who knows how to be ambitious and also knows how to relax and enjoy life. It’s so incorrect for Surat to be dubbed a tier two city!

If keen on seeing places of interest- there is Dandi, where India’s struggle for independence began with Gandhiji and the Salt Satyagraha. There is Hajira and Tithal showing off their beautiful beach resorts surrounded by the Arabian Sea. Gopipura is a small village famous for its Jain temples. And the Winchester Museum if you dig ancient collector items.

And now of cos food:) - Surat has been a memorable experience. In the backlanes of Muslim-dominated Zampa Bazar, stands a proud home , where Fatima Bibi stretches and stretches a flubber-like ball of maida, incredibly soft after four hours of kneading, until it covers the 15 ft by 12 ft space like a sheet of thin muslin. When the pastry dries, it is cut into 12-inch squares, combined with mawa (reduced milk), and baked. The result is: sagla bagla mithai, sweet but not cloying, and magically delicate.

This single family of bakers, headed by Fatima's husband, Mohammed Khalid Rafat, bakes for a community it does not belong to — the Dawoodi Bohras. No wedding is complete without sagla bagla, which travels to them wherever they live. Laughs Mohammedbhai: "We've made this 105-year-old recipe public. But nobody else can make it, it's hard work." As we leave his home, clutching mithai boxes he will not let us pay for, he nudges us into another room. Another flaky confection, I think. I find myself face to face, instead, with the wine reds, emerald greens and lapis blues of his antique glass collection—lovingly picked up, piece by piece, from the bazaar. Envious!

With seven out of ten diamonds in the world cut and polished in Surat, can we really leave without sighting The Rock? We find ourselves in a huge bungalow, chatting with Uncle,nephew, niece team, on the top floor running their diamond empire. A collection so vast, the mind boggles.

The soul of Surat has to be its mouthwatering food - Surati’s are crazy foodies. Surat is essentially a vegetarian place. Here reside people who do not even consume eggs and then, there are the Jains, who do not consume anything with onions and garlic in it. There are very few restaurants offering non vegetarian food.
For all you non veg food readers I assure you the food here is so delicious you will not miss no non veg one bit, I promise you.

You have the regular fare from Bombay(buttery paranthas, pani puri, chaats, pav bhaji etc) but what I’d recommend is skip the regular fare and discover the local cuisine!

The yummy silk Khaman, the delectable ice Gola, the variety of Handvos, Locho, rasawala Khaman, the ‘sweets’: smooth Ghari, Laaris, Ghooghras(hand made plain flour dumplings deep fried in ghee with minced milk mawa, embellished with dried fruit and nuts, with a hint of cardamom) O! and not to forget the ‘Nastas’: crispy Fafda’s, crunchy Jalebis, freshly baked Naankhatais, butter Khaaris, Cholafali, Khakras and Theplas -- I can wager a bet no one will be able to select a teeny weeny portion and say “bas/enough” to one dish. Surat entices you to overeat!

A unique thing about Surats eating style - people flock to eat out of home. So much so they pack a picnic hamper on a Saturday, Sunday evening, come to a side walk haunt, spread their mats and sheets and eat together in a big group. Very flower power generation-isq ;) This is some experience - sitting on the wide footpath, under the shiny lights of surrounding malls with cars zipping past. This is a strict don’t-miss if you are visiting Surat. Tho must confess I didn’t do this. (would I have? Hmmm not sure:)

Just a word more, before I sign off, a word about driving into Surat on NH8 - A nightmare! The highway is under expansion, is reduced to 2 lanes. It took us forever to reach Surat despite us breaking free at many spots! Added to our woes were the poor (really bad!) drivers almost all from GJ, all along the Highway! NaMo, Can you please instill a sense of good driving in your citizens as a favour to mankind?:)


Uniquely Sweden: random thoughts that stir the memory

Swedes carry really, (really!) large shopping bags. First time I saw it, I cracked up

There are sooo many women with baby carriages. Out on the streets, it looks like...a NASCAR race of baby carriages:) The café exteriors, look like stadium parking lots for these carriages:)

The road rules are not for bucking as we realized. We had to cough up 300 (Kroners) for a speeding ticket, roughly a $40-43 - bummer!! Lesson learnt! But am glad we bucked the law by a HUGE margin heheee

We saw daylight till 10pm, this is the land of midnight sun after all

#LeRouge, a restaurant and bar, we visited was like stepping into French fin-de-diecle. Classic French and Italian menus, where tradition is more important than trendiness. No Swedish minimalism at this bar!

Bought a beautiful silver dolphin from the beach side silver shop. Somehow reminded me of Goa:)

Saw some uniquely talented street side performances. Sipping a coffee at the bay filled with sleek yachts, boats - watching these performances by the roadside-Life:)

In Sweden the right of way is for Dogs, Cows and Cycles first:)

Swedish women don't change their surnames when they get married.

Side-streets and kerbsides are filled with flowers in bloom, almost feel like they are there by design!

One big downside, people push you in the malls and even the cafés and don’t apologize!

Besides blonds and bikes, Sweden is known for great wine. And also for fresh ginger orange marmalade's, great coffee and cheeses, croissants…I got back some of these goodies..:)