Through Rose Colored Glasses
Jaipur, India – June 24, 2019
They call Jaipur the “pink city” because the entire old-town is a colonnaded street grid that’s carved from rosy local sandstone. Though everything is dusty and crumbling from the sands of time, the ancient architecture is truly amazing. Intricate details are carved out of the pink sandstone walls and lacy white lattice patterns are whittled into the windows. I think everything is actually a shade of burnt-red/brown, but in the heat of the day, when the sun scorches down and white-washes your perspective, everything softens to pink—the buildings, your skin, the surrounding foothills, the chalky desert sky. I now understand how Instagram created their “Jaipur” filter. Sitting in a canopied cafe, you can see yellow-bellied monkeys scaling sketchy, makeshift-bamboo scaffolding and scuttling across the rooftops.
The central area is known for its marketplaces, especially the Bapu Bazaar. Stemming from the beautiful City Palace and the tiered birthday-cake-like Hawa Mahal are symmetrical market streets crisscrossing as far as the eye can see. Squatting men with purple hands are plunging fine fabrics into pots full of vegetable dyes; I obsess over bags of the cutest-shaped pasta that’s formed from potato flour (ABCs, flowers, stars, round-chips, waffles and wheels); brass cookware hangs and clangs in the breeze outside shop facades; and people sit on the cement floor selling keys and locks, tinkering with broken jewelry, shining soiled shoes, and repairing ripped garments. We drank thick milky “Lassi” from hand-turned ceramic mugs, sampled paneer cheese curds, chocolates and sapotes, purchased plumbs and mangoes (apparently India has over 100 types of mangos), and went to a walk-up homeopathic medicine stall where the doctor dripped liquid prescriptions onto tiny silver sugar-pills.
I bought some simple strappy leather sandals for seven dollars where a greying man sat staining the supple leather different shades with a weathered horse-hair brush. Two beautiful hand-embroidered camel leather backpacks (they can’t use cow-leather here) also went home with me. I’ve gotten pretty good at shopping over the years, as now, I only choose to buy something if I REALLY want it or need it. Window shopping, or what I like to call, “inspiration shopping” is my favorite—“Look, look, no buy!” Buyers remorse hits me too hard if I buy something I don’t really need or love, but I love talking with the storekeepers while ingesting their collections. Though they’re probably only chatting with me to make a sale, I enjoy engaging with them. I joke around and mess with them, and though sometimes everything is lost in translation, saying anything with a smile always conveys your correct intention. Smiles and laughter = the world’s common language.
We’re like celebrities here, with a constant paparazzi of people pushing through to take our photo. There are no personal space standards, but the effects are beautiful because you see boys holding hands as they walk to school and women are snuggling each other in the streets. At the Albert Hall Art Museum, three fully-cloaked schoolgirls fixated on me from behind a ceiling-high display case. They stood pointing and whispering from under the sheer folds of fabric that covered everything except their eyes. After mustering the courage to come over to me, we took a selfie, and a girl in all-pink dropped her head in her hands, covered her eyes, and began to cry! A solemn man approached us to ask, “Why can’t we connect with tourists?” We replied that it’s hard for us to let our guard down when we feel like we’re constantly being bamboozled into buying something. Drivers follow us around asking where we’re going, someone at the train station will offer to show us to our platform and after demand payment, people put their outstretched hand in our face as if we owe them something for simply existing as a foreigner. The thing is, you can’t take anything too personally—you have to harden up and realize this is their “rat-race;” that giving feels good and is freeing for the heart; and that the more you give away, the more you will receive in return.
After a solid shopping day, we headed to the Raj Mandir cinema to finally behold a Bollywood film. I didn’t think twice before eating the peel of a random fruit offered as a sample by a market vendor, but I started feeling REAL weird on our way. The sneaky little buggers at ticket-sales tried to give us the wrong change, and moments later, the popcorn guys pulled the same trick, so we realized this must be a recurring hack here. Always check your change! I’ve never experienced a colder theater in my 27-years on this planet, so I layered on every new piece of clothing I purchased. I survived through the entire 3-hour saga, PLUS intermission with puke-bags prepared, shivering with a fever, and honestly felling like I might shit through ALL 4 pairs of pants I was wearing! Clambering up the stairs to my hostel bed, the cute little Indian check-in boys were so concerned. They came around quite often throughout the night and the next day to pet my head, check my temperature, and serve me lemon tea and “Maggi Noodles” (India’s famous cup-noodles).
Alena Netia Horowitz | Miss Potato