This is my third general mailer. Thoughtzine Vol. 2 Issue 1 so to speak. Some of you in your replies or in subsequent conversations have told me that you enjoy my mailers; none have asked me to shut up; at least not yet. Some have referred to them as blogs, one as a page from a “Prison Diary”, but I liked the term thoughtzine the most. It gives you a freedom to write what you want to, yet the reader would expect and settle for a certain framework as far as the table of content goes.
So, to maintain the continuity, I am happy to report that I continued to catch up with some more friends. One of them is Shankar whom I met after thirty odd years. After earning degrees (or should it be learning by degrees) from five countries he now fixes spines of his patients who come into Delhi from all over the world. No wonder he gets to sleep for five hours a day and has to work seven days a week. God knows the number of people in this world who have some problems with their spine. Anyway, to get back to the story line, I met Shankar on my way back from a vacation in Rajasthan.
Meheran Garh of Jodhpur is managed well buy the trust that runs it. It is amusing that it is referred to as the “Meheran Garh” Fort. It is like saying “Meheran Fort” fort. The “Maharaja” of Jodhpur was educated in the west. He has been able to transfer some of the packaging that you would normally see in a museum in the US. Things like the elevator to take you to the main level, the audio tour that has the “extras” thrown in, and the souvenir shop that concludes the tour.
The fort is worthy of such packaging. I wonder though why only one part of the city has indigo painted houses. Or should I be wondering how is it that one part of the city still has indigo painted houses? Cynics might say they get paid to keep it that way.
No one, though, would describe the hustle on the narrow lanes of that lead to the Tripoli Bazaar as managed chaos. It might sound a bit romantic but I believe that you can feel the pulse of a city or town in such narrow lanes. I have always felt nostalgic about the lanes and alleys of places I have been. Be it Asansol where I grew up, or north Calcutta where I migrated to, or Assan in Kathmandu where I went on a project.
The snaking lane in Jaisalmer also threw up surprises. The shopkeeper who sold me a camel skin hat for eighty rupees (when the market rate seemed to be a hundred to one fifty) handed over a silk carry bag worth five rupees when we asked for a poly-bag. Then there was this terrace restaurant on the first floor that offered a wonderful sunset view of the Golden Fort.
A well in the fort is supposed to date back to the time of the Mahabharat. Legends apart; this fort is perhaps the only one in the country that housed the civilian population besides the military establishment and royal family. Real estate deals still take place within the fort walls. The houses are repaired with stones of the antique buildings supplemented by new blocks made from the same material. I saw the house of Mukul of the film “Sonar Kella” being repaired.
Jodhpur might have some industry that is independent of the tourist traffic. Jaisalmer is however totally dependent on tourism. And “Sonar Kella” it seems to have helped to generate a lot of domestic tourism.
The sand dunes that suddenly appear in the barren land about forty kilometers off Jaisalmer also seem like a make believe desert that has been planted there for the benefit of the tourists. It does give you a taste of the desert. You can use your imagination to extend the experience on the dunes to visualize the desert that you see on TV. But somewhere at the bottom of your heart you feel that this is not the desert that you had hoped to see.
I went as a tourist so I could excuse myself gaping at a lot of things. But there were a few feelings, realizations and observations. Commonplace experiences that made a mark: after all that is what travel is all about.
I used to swear by Lonely Planet. It is a great piece of work. I remember the advice to avoid a hotel in Benaras because all the rooms open inwards on to the staircase and that somehow make the hotel very noisy. It is a meticulously researched guidebook that is meant for visiting tourists. Domestic travelers should not plan village safaris in Rajasthan, for example, because the Book advises you to do so.
Then there is a section of the population in popular tourist destinations that are out to fleece you. Be it the “panda” population in Orrissa or the “tribal” population in Rajasthan, or the travel agent who will sell you one backwater trip while promising another. It is always a challenge to enjoy your vacation in spite of these fellow countrymen.
We people of India have a bad sense of history. A young nation with a rich past has complicated matters. The cannon balls on the bastions of the Golden Fort co-exist with the laundry that has been laid out to dry. Unfortunately we are part of the history. The non-western world perhaps remembers history perhaps in a different way too. In the movie Sahara someone says, “We use events to find dates, not dates to find events.”
So what else did I do in that quarter of the Christian calendar year when I went to Sonar Kella?
On the job front I mentioned a transition in my last mailer. I am trying out how “business operations” taste; what the war for talent really means; living the headache of managing young talent, or resources; the trick of housing members of the of the same project in the same work area. I could describe this job as “managing demand and supply in the space-time continuum.”
I have been active in the cyber space too. I have started using an e-mail it that says firstname.lastname@example.org. I have booked the http://www.thoughtzine.com domain – haven’t yet figured what to do with it. I have also started writing reviews at mouthshut.com. In case you want to have a look at the reviews of the hotels I stayed in during the Rajasthan trip (or the other reviews on Airtel or Pench) you are most welcome to visit http://www.mouthshut.com/user/Saumya.Ganguly.html. If you want to sign up please use the link http://www.mouthshut.com/SIGNUP/Register/register.php?ref=Saumya.Ganguly&rid=R9F1R2.