I'm listening to Prateek Kuhad on Spotify while writing this. He's good. I heard that Jaipur is the Pink City of India. It serves as a capital city and borders the Thar Desert in the eastern side of Rajashtan state. The city experiences semi-arid climate, which is actually quite rare compared to other Indian cities. I'm in my journey to explore India from south to north and here’s my story in Jaipur.
I took the earliest flight to Jaipur from Bangalore one morning. It was raining cats and dogs when I arrived. While contemplating the right transport to take to the city, I was approached by a friendly taxi driver called Salim. So, I decided to ride his taxi to my hostel. Despite his limited grasp of English, he was kind. The weather didn’t allow me to travel by bus to the city anyway, so I thought this should do. I found the hostel, called Explorer's Nest, through Airbnb at the best bargain a few days before the trip. It is located in the New Colony neighbourhood, which lies between the famous Pink Fort and Mirza Ismail (MI) Road, the busiest main road in Jaipur. The hostel is famous among backpackers. Its owner, Arvind, was a retired member of the army and started the business with his wife. His wife teaches Biology in one of the universities in the city. Arvind and his wife were really kind and accommodating during my stay. It was early in the morning when I arrived and I had the chance to try their homemade breakfast. From my hostel, I could see the life of Jaipur whizzing past my window.
It is true what they say about the city being pink. As much as I dislike pink, I was amazed by the view and atmosphere here. Having the city coloured pink as its trademark is an authentic idea. The chaotic buzz of auto rickshaws looking for passengers, the madness of traffic, the abundance of roadside sellers and dusty roads welcome my journey in Jaipur.
It was sweltering hot during midday. I haven’t done much research on what to see and do in Jaipur so I just walked about. I started my journey at the MI Road. I walked past many shops and stores which were lined up in a grid form. The concept of the city’s pattern was designed by Maharaja Sawai Raj Singh during his reign. There were convenience stores, restaurants and hotels, luxurious jewellery shops, textile warehouses, art galleries, mosques, temples and even a police station. From the MI road, I can pretty much see the busy heart of Jaipur.
It didn't take me long to understand Jaipur. I walked about 5km along the MI road, which is interconnected with Station Road. I ended up at the main junction at Jaipur Railway Station. I needed to buy a train ticket to Kashmir for the next day, but they were sold out. So, I bought a bus ticket at the central bus station, Sindhi Camp, instead.
From the bus station, I walked to the Pink City, which is 2km away. I was captivated by the bounteous charm of Jaipur which can be seen from this entire area. The gentrification that took place in Jaipur never changed its roots. The tradition of painting the city pink was mostly applied by the Jaipurians. I was overwhelmed by how massive and busy the Pink City was, packed with buyers and sellers, friendly cows, too! I kept photographing India’s colourful galore along this continuous bazaar. The smell of spices and burning incense sticks from the temple accompanied my day.
In the heart of the Pink City stands the beautiful and exquisite city palace, Hawa Mahal. It is a five-storey honeycomb building built from pink sandstones that almost made it look like a fairy tale. The complexity of the pattern in every part of the the building was extraordinary. Hawa Mahal is also known as The Palace of the Winds. It was originally built for the ladies in the royal household to invisibly observe the city’s street life. The afternoon light made the pink colour of the Hawa Mahal pop through my iPhone lens.
People in Jaipur believe pink is a source of energy. It is also a reflection of the culture of Rajashtan. Those facades, belonging to residency and holy temples extremely crowded and cramped with narrow paths, reflected the kind of life in Jaipur. Although many people in Jaipur have adopted a modern lifestyle, I could still see a lot of men and women wearing traditional outfits. It is common to see an old man wearing a red turban called “safa” or “paggar”. They can also be seen wearing a white kurta and dhoti with long, groomed moustaches sitting at the roadside playing flute with a slick buddy, the dancing Cobra. The women, on the other hand, wear super bright colourful dresses and sarees, making Jaipur known for its good quality textiles.
I find Jaipur to have the most flamboyant culture amongst the states in India I have visited. It is also the tenth most populous state in the country. Situated approximately 300km from the Indian capital New Delhi, Jaipur makes the Golden Triangle of India, together with Agra.
As the day proceeds, I decided to ride an auto rickshaw to observe Jaipur lifestyle. It is common for drivers to use their honk for everything. From turning at a corner, stop at junctions, driving too closely with each other or sometimes, for no reason at all. It has become a routine to deal with the infamous traffic congestion in India. As I sat calmly in the auto rickshaw, I tried not to breathe in the heavy fumes from other vehicles on the road.
Photos & Words by Kerol Izwan