23 Feb - 02 Mar 2015 Jodhpur

Jodhpur Blue: Skies, Houses, Royals...
Matt: Exploring Jodhpur, the Blue City of Rajasthan, which is centred on a labyrinthine old walled town, whose sky-blue mass of dilapidated cubic houses is overlooked by India's most imposing hilltop citadel, the mighty 120-m high, 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort with several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces inside its boundaries.

"Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual."

Matt: Getting lost in the decaying maze of Jodhpur's old city, dubbed the Blue City after the indigo-added lime-based colour-wash of its old town houses, meeting friendly Rajasthani people from all shades of nobility and walks of life in the city's crowded bazaars, with different areas assigned to different trades, and regaining my strength with the help of many mirchi bada, the local speciality, a big chilli covered in wheat germ, potato and spices and then deep-fried like a pakora (washed down with ice-cold Kingfisher Premium Lager beers from any of the "English Wine & Beer Shops" on Nai Sarak, situated south of the distinctive Clock Tower: 650-ml bottles of Kingfisher Premium Lager with 4.8 % alc./vol. for INR 90.- or c. US$ 1.50 per bottle).

“I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring cities or deserts or mountains or roads.”

Matt: Stumbling across many traditional Rajasthani crafts and trades like sword makers, block printers and turban sellers and learning that the up to 7m-long colourful Rajasthani turbans aka pagaris do indicate a wearer's social class, caste, and region and can be used (i) as a pillow, a blanket or a towel, (ii) as a strainer to clear muddy water and, unravelled, (iii) as a rope to draw water from a well with a bucket.

Matt: Entering through an elaborate system of seven defensive gates the mighty Mehrangarh Fort (dodged admission: INR 400.- or US$ 6.50 per foreigner), whose soaring windowless walls appear to have grown directly out of the enormous rock outcrop on which it stands, passing the sharp iron spikes which hinder the ascent of charging enemy elephants, noticing the handprints of Maharaja Man Singh's ill-fated widows, placed on the wall in 1843 CE as they left the palace to commit sati on the maharaja's funeral pyre, admiring the fantastic lattice work aka jali that almost entirely covers the surrounding sandstone walls and enjoying stunning views of the Blue City with the Umaid Bhawan Palace on the horizon, the Maharaja of Palaces, one of the world's largest private residences.

Matt: Visiting the Jaswant Thada (admission: INR 30.- or US$ 0.50 per person), nicknamed Taj Mahal of Marwar, a pillared marble memorial to the popular 19th-century Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, who purged Jodhpur of bandits, initiated irrigation systems and boosted the economy, and realising the still existing huge influence and power of India's royal families from the erstwhile princely states.

Matt: Touring together with my friends Maya & Daniel from Israel a few Bishnoi villages southeast of Jodhpur (full-day tour from the recommendable and professional Haveli Tours and Safari +912912614615 for INR 700.- or US$ 11.40 per person, including a very delicious vegetarian lunch at Pukhraj Ji Ki Dhani, cooked traditionally on open fires), learning about the Bishnois' ecosensitive, animal-loving and tree-hugging culture and slurping strong opium tea from the palm of the headman's right (!) hand at Khejarli Village.
"...went on to tell a story of how the Bishnoi caste, who believe in a very strict ethic of non-violence to all forms of nature, had managed to preserve their khejri trees from loggers sent by the Maharaja of Jodhpur. They had hugged the trees, he said, even as the maharaja's axe men were felling them. Three hundred had died before the order was finally cancelled, and people still gathered every year to commemorate their sacrifice..."

Matt: Leaving the cosy Cosy Guesthouse +912912612066 (clean double room with private bathroom for INR 650.- or US$ 10.50 per night, great views of the fort from the overpriced rooftop restaurant which mainly caters for innocent Nutella-banana-pancake eaters abroad), flagging down an auto rickshaw aka bajaj aka tuk-tuk from my guesthouse to Jodhpur's Roadways Bus Stand aka Raika Bagh (3 km, ¼ hour, INR 70.- for the uneventful ride) and taking thereafter a comfortable enough and seemingly undestroyable R.S.R.T.C. government bus (Rajasthan State Road Transport Company) to Jaisalmer (285 km through steppe and semidesert, 5 ¾ hours, INR 221.- or US$ 3.60 per senior citizen), situated in the remote westernmost corner of Rajasthan and close to the Pakistani border.

For Raoni, Tien and Ronja:
Hier im Lande Rajasthan gibt es viele alte Burgen, Forts, Festungen, Zitadellen und Palaeste. Die meisten von ihnen sind mehrere hundert Jahre alt und wurden fuer die jeweiligen Landesherren (maharajas, maharawals, maharanas) recht solide und komfortabel gebaut. Einige davon schaue ich mir dieser Tage in Ruhe an, von aussen und von innen, natuerlich nicht alle. Im Grunde aehneln diese trutzigen Bauwerke irgendwie auch denen in Schottland, Frankreich oder Deutschland: Burg ist Burg, Festung ist Festung und Palast ist Palast - in Europa wie in Indien. Die Durchdachtheit der Architektur und die Gruendlichkeit der Bauausfuehrung waren vor 300 - 500 Jahren in beiden Kulturkreisen durchaus vergleichbar.
Jetzt kommt's aber: Ueberhaupt nicht vergleichbar dagegen ist, wie die Mehrheit der normalen Leute in Europa und in Indien jetzt zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts leben. Da gibt es riesige Unterschiede zwischen Europa und Indien: In Europa (so aehnlich wie in Kanada) lebt die Masse der Bevoelkerung in gut gebauten, ordentlichen und sauberen Wohnhaeusern, groesseren oder kleineren, mit mehr oder weniger solider Installation (Elektro, Wasser und Abwasser, Heizung, Gas, Toilette, Kueche usw.); in Indien dagegen haust die grosse Mehrheit der Bevoelkerung in eher primitiven und verdreckten Haeusern und Huetten.
Was ist hier in Indien in den vergangenen 300 Jahren anders gelaufen als in Europa (oder in Kanada)? Welche kulturellen Unterschiede haben dazu gefuehrt, dass das vorhandene bautechnologische Niveau der Burgen und Schloesser spaeter in so unterschiedlicher Weise fuer die Behausungen der Normalbevoelkerung genutzt wurde? Ich kann da auch nur spekulieren, vermute aber, dass es mit der Arbeitsmotivation und Leistungsethik der Menschen zu tun haben koennte, die nach meinen Erfahrungen weltweit mit der geographischen Breite (latitude) korrelieren. Was Ordnungssinn, Initiativefaehigkeit, Fleiss, Zuverlaessigkeit und Verantwortungsuebernahme betreffen, so setzten die meisten Menschen in Indien eben doch ganz andere Prioritaeten; Ausnahmen bestaetigen wie immer die Regel. - Welche technischen Merkmale Eures Hauses in Ontario sind fuer Euch am wichtigsten?
From India, with Love!

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