Where I've Been

Friday, February 08, 2008


Part 4: Jaipur to Jodhpur

Bombay had been a blast but we couldn’t stay. The draw of ancient fortresses, vast deserts, nuclear-backed border tensions, and cities named after colors pulled us to Rajasthan: the westernmost state in India. First stop: Jodhpur, the blue city. Then to Jaisalmer, the golden city. On to Jaipur, the pink city, with no time unfortunately to stop in the white city of Udaipur.

We started by flying Deccan Air to Jaipur and then immediately caught a train to Jodhpur. Immediate is perhaps too strong of a word when referring to a train station in India. Indian Railways spans the country and is generally quite reliable when you can obtain a ticket. Being in India over December and January is not the time to easily obtain a ticket as Indians love to travel and can be found all over their fair country. A few years ago, the Rail Authority began holding back a block of tickets to be sold the day of travel. These tickets can be found at a special counter labeled “Foreign Tourists and Freedom Fighters”.

I never recognize myself as a foreigner, being that I seamlessly assimilate to any culture I enter. However, as an American, I am the living embodiment of freedom, and following the admonition of my buddy George to “take the fight to them”, I proudly approached the ticket line to lay claim to my ticket. We were told that all such tickets were unavailable, but that we might find a ticket at counter 16, just a vague gesture away. Following the indistinct direction, we searched, couldn’t find the counter, asked a conductor, were led to the foreigners counter, explained we’d already been there, left again, asked another conductor, were led wordlessly back to the foreigners counter, left again, asked another conductor, left him as he started walking back to the foreigners counter, and finally had a guard guide us across the station to counter 16, about half an hour later.

I assumed my place in line and waited. I found the line to be an excellent place to view the futility of a line. A steady stream of ticket buyers would walk immediately to the front and pass their forms to the ticket seller directly in front of the person at the front of the line, thus, in effect creating a separate line for the line cutters. Finally the guard, seeing my dilemma, pulled me to the front of the line, barked at the queued mass to let me through, and had me give my form as they glared balefully. After correcting the form twice after being told it was inadmissibly incorrect, I was instructed to stand in another line to pay my fee and then, incredibly, to come back and wait in the same line to have him put a stamp on it.

An hour an a half later we finally boarded the train to Jaisalmer. Ominously enough, this guy was staring at us as we left, as if to say “Your train trip has and will suck more”.

We sat down in a comfortable seat and found a secure place for our bags. “Not bad”, we said. Ten minutes later, we were escorted out of that car to the “bad” section. Seems that we had our seat number correct, but the wrong Indian word beside it. It seems we also didn’t know what class we bought. We found a family sitting in our seats with whom we made friends by not kicking them out. Here we are being friends.

These teenagers then proceeded for the next few hours to inform us which of us was cuter, funnier, nicer, and most serious. This last honor was won handily by Brian.

See? Dude just doesn’t smile.

Jodhpur however, was worth all the travail. A destination which is to be described in the next post.

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