The "Real" India (pt. 2)
Jaipur Day 3 - 5/26
I rode an elephant.
No trip to India is complete without this experience. We visited an elephant village, where there are over 150 elephants living on a reserve. When I came close to this majestic creature, I was in awe. They are so peaceful, elegant, strong, and gentle. I held my hands on Boby’s (the elephant’s) ears, placed my foot on her powerful trunk, and she lifted me 10 feet off the ground onto her back. She then took me on a short tour around the reserve to see the grounds.
It was so serene. She walked slowly and gracefully as I sat on her bare back. When I rubbed her trunk, she even closed her eyes with delight! Being around amazing creatures like Boby reminds me of God’s wonderful creativity.
After a long drive from Delhi, our group finally arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City. Driving into this new city was like driving into another world. The landscape, buildings, and climate was so different than the “real” India I had seen. The women even wear their saris differently and keep a scarf over their head. It is known as the Pink City because the entire city has been painted a vibrant pink color. A Maharaja (King) in the 1870s ordered that the whole city be painted pink, to empress the British rulers. Jaipur is the capital city of the state, Rajasthan.
Following our incredible elephant experience, we arrived at our hotel to wash up and get settled. The hotel was like something straight out of a vintage Bollywood movie. Elegant, classic, comfortable. After a quick freshen-up, we ventured back out to an artisan textile shop.
Jaipur is famous for different types of artisan handiwork, and the government actually does not tax this industry to encourage business. This small shop featured hand-embroidered and block-printed textiles. The owner, Vikas, gave us his full attention, as we were the only customers. With each tapestry they rolled out, my eyes opened wide with amazement. Each textile was colorful, unique, and absolutely stunning. I was so inspired by the creativity and beauty I saw. After admiring the cloth and purchasing a few special items, the shop owner served us a home-cooked North Indian meal. We all sat together, cracked jokes, and filled our bellies. I will treasure this special moment.
Jaipur Day 4
As much as I am a 21st-century-empowered-feminist-who-hates-the-objectification-of-women, I also decided that I would like to be a Rajasthani Maharani (Rajasthani Queen) from the 1600s. These ladies may have been completely used as objects of pleasure for the Maharajas, unable to leave their palace, and shielded from the view of the public, but my goodness did they live in luxury. For Diwali, the Maharani would wear a dress SO elaborately ornamented, that it was too heavy to walk, and she needed to be pushed in a cart.
Jaipur’s Amber Fort and Palace is an incredible piece of art. As I toured through the palace, I could imagine the royal family relaxing in their summer house…a cool breeze flowing through the jasmine-perfumed curtains. Or keeping warm in the winter palace, with a flame’s flickering reflection on the thousands of mirrors on the mosaic walls. I visualized the stunning garments and ornaments they must have worn, and wondered what their life might have been like.
You won't see the "Real India" on my Instagram.
The historical sites Hawa Majal, Amber Fort, Jal Mahal, and Jantar Mantar revealed to me the beauty, diversity, and striking contrasts of India . You won’t see the “Real India” on my Instagram. Juxtaposed to many of these grandiose palaces are slum villages. While trying to enjoy a peaceful view of Jal Mahal, a beggar woman approached me, with a baby in her arm. Her clothes were worn, her body bony and thin, and her palm extended towards me. Other women were nearby, asking for money to foreigners who might want to take a picture with them. These people begging were persistent, especially with us “rich” foreigners. It broke my heart, and made me feel uncomfortable and unsure of what to do.
The reality is that privilege and poverty generate massive divides between people; this disparity could not be more evident in these places. Tourists feel RICH in India, because the US dollar takes us a lot further than it does in America. I used to always call myself a “poor college kid” especially when I felt the pain of my wallet after shopping at Target. At the same time, I lived in my own free apartment, had my own free meal plan (thank you Res Life), had access to a washing machine, and graduated from a private American university. The thing about privilege is that I often don’t recognize when I have it. I take my access to education, financial sufficiency, comfort, and health for granted.
Again, with these Indian Maharani…I wonder if they saw themselves as severely oppressed or highly privileged…
These incredible sights make me ponder…