Day 128 – Jaipur, the pink city

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The centre of the city is comprised of red ochre coloured buildings. The City Palace lies in the centre of a mass market place and stands out in light sandstone colours. The walls are painted with intricate floral designs and at the centre, the hall of mirrors sparkles in the sun. It looks as though it has been mostly restored. There is a museum that holds the glittery outfits of the former Maharajas in glass cabinets for viewing. We begin the morning of sightseeing at Ahmer Fort, just outside of town. Pri, who is the master of haggling, manages to get us a 20 minute elephant ride for 900Rs ($18), so we do a lap of a small street, seeing more of the black faced monkeys than the actual elephant we are on. Our elephant’s name is Rani. His truck is painted in bright colours and he nudges at us affectionately as we take photos beside him. I love elephants. Ever since the first time I got to touch one up close in Bali, to the magical jungle rides in Kanchanaburi, Thailand and now, I will never pass up the opportunity to wrap my warms around the trunk of one of these amazing creatures. Eventually, we have to move on to the actual sight seeing and say goodbye to Rani. He has already made himself busy relishing the flavours in a pile of rubbish. Opting out of the guided tour, we wonder around the incredible ruins making up our own stories. Ashley, Pri and I tell each other our own versions of the history; arrows dipped in buckets of poison frogs, makeshift hand grenades thrown over the fort walls and conch shells blown to sound the alarm of attack. Who needs a tour guide when you have imaginations like that? The long guard wall extends far into the distant mountains and from the corner towers of the inner palace the dry scrubland makes me feel like we have stepped back in time. We go on to the Amber Palace, which is just on the other side of the hill and shows the whole of Ahmer Fort in the distance and most of Jaipur. We stop briefly at the lake to take a picture of a palace girt by water. (Forgive my pompous use of the word girt but I only found out a few months ago that it means ‘surrounded by’. I have been singing our national anthem in ignorance for all my life, and only just understood the meaning of the line, ‘our home is girt by sea…’) There is no access to this floating palace so we move on instead to get something to eat and go shopping.


The Bapu Bazaar is one of the more famous market places for clothing and materials in Jaipur. The haggling is tight in most places but some of the clothing shops actually have signs that say FIXED PRICE. It is beyond cheap anyway. Pure silk scarves cost us 150Rs ($3 USD) and printed skirts are only 250Rs ($5). On the way back to the car, Pri shows us the full extent of her bargaining mastery and manages to get 4 wooden puppets for 150Rs! I am amazed but I don’t stop to buy any for myself… those puppets kind of freak me out. I have never been fond of dolls. Actually, they scare the s*** out of me. As far as I am concerned, they are all Chucky, even and especially Cabbage Patch Kids.

We are running late for my meeting with the folks from I-India. When we finally find the office in one of the backstreets off Ajmer Rd in West Jaipur, Mr Prabhaker and Mrs Abha Goswami greet me with a warm hug. I immediately feel at ease with these people. They run us through the basics of their program, the three nearby shelters they have in Jaipur and what kind of contribution I can make in my next ten days here. If I were staying for a month or more, it would be easier to offer up skills in teaching English but since I only have just over a week, they said they will keep me busy with whatever they can find. Mr Prabhaker arranges a room for me at a nearby guesthouse that I will see tomorrow. It is late in the evening but since the Boys’ home is only one block away, we decide to take a brief tour at the Child’s Inn. There are currently about 50 odd children staying there, only about half of which are permanent. They say that only 70% of their children are orphans, the rest of which are missing or runaways who don’t feel safe at home. They youngest of the children are seated on a mat, giving feedback to the teacher. Their gorgeous smiles and waves sing a chorus of “Hello!” as we walk in. We are shown the call centre room where children from all over India can free-call 1098 if they are in trouble and will be provided with emotional support or even rescue, if needed. Upstairs, some older boys are watching traditional Rhajasthani music videos. On the top floor is a room for vocational training. If they want to, the boys can learn how to do block printing and sewing. We are shown the range of bags, keyrings and pillow-cases they have all made for (All the money from the sale of these items goes back into the project). The master who teaches the block printing proudly displays the wooden stamps they use to print the materials. On our way out, we wave one final goodbye to the children and I am left with the warm excitement of their voices following my heart as I walk away.

An enormous black buffalo watches as we pass, calmly chewing at nothing in particular. I become aware of how normal this has become to me and I wonder if it will seem strange in a couple of weeks when I return to Sydney and find streets empty of bovines.

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