Jaipur is about a five hour drive from Delhi so we settled down for a long haul that would not be punctuated by the “learning and discover” experiences that made the drives in the south so much fun. As we left the big city and moved into the suburbs, huge buildings in various stages of construction loomed large. Many of them looked half finished and no one was working on them. In India patience is a necessity.
In the countryside we saw many cows often right on the tollway. At times the road was six lanes wide, which meant that there were at least eight lanes of traffic, and in the midst of it all - cows. Krishnan explained the strange and wonderful relationship Indians have with their cows. The original inhabitants of India were dark skinned people, who were generally subjugated by Aryan types who invaded from the north. The Aryans loved cheese, milk, buttermilk, yoghurt and consequently loved their cows. They began to institute the caste system, based on the kinds of work that you did. The light skinned people got the cushy jobs and the dark skinned people did all the physical labor. Sounds familiar... They worried that there wouldn’t be enough milk to go around and forbade the lower castes from owning and eating cows. That didn’t go over so well, so they maintained that you should think about a cow like you think about your mother since both produce life giving milk. This began to move the cow out of the menu category and on to the sacred category. Today everyone but city dwellers owns a cow and uses the milk, but never slaughters the animal for food. When they are too old to have calves, they are turned loose to wander around if the family can’t afford to keep feeding them. The cows we see here today act like they own the place. They go anywhere they want at a pace that suits them. Even though we think of Indians as vegetarians, less than 15% of them are and chicken is commonly available on every menu. In the south that was also true for seafood.
Since the lunch stop was located down some tiny roads no bus could travel, we got on open air safari jeeps and rode through town and up a hill to the Shapura Havelli. This property belonged to royalty and the current owner who is a descendant of the rajahs, has restored the place to the max. The place was so beautiful, they could have fed us anything and we would have been happy. The haveli (mansion) also has five guest rooms for those who have time to linger and enjoy the space a bit longer. A truly romantic spot.
As we rode back through the little town, we noticed some changes in attire. Even though the women are Hindu, they have taken to the face hiding of their Muslim sisters. I was sorry not to see their beautiful faces, either lined or unlined. Maybe it was all in my mind, but I didn’t get the feeling of warmth from the people that we did in the south. My South Carolina sister will say that this is true for the United States as well. They took peeks at us, but we didn’t get as many of the big smiles and waves that we celebrities have become accustomed to.
When we go to Jaipur, we stopped at Jantar Mantar, the royal astrological observatory built in the 1700’s. The site resembles a collection of bizarre sculptures. Each piece had a specific purpose, for example measuring the positions of the stars, altitude and azimuth, and calculating eclipses. The rajah who had the place built started with metal instruments, but they were imprecise during temperature change so the final measuring devices are huge stone structures. The site teemed with tourists. We could hear many different tongues. Krishan said this is what happens when you come to an area during the best weather, so it’s likely we’ll be seeing some of these folks again the next few days.