Home > Hindu, India, Rajasthan, Travel > Slumming it!

Slumming it!

Carl and I were happy to arrive in Jaipur; if only to get off the small, sticky, hot bus which must have held about 100 Indians and 2 foreigners that day. Our happiness soon faded when we settled into our hotel and started to walk around the mess that is Jaipur. Dirtier than Delhi, the rubbish and cow dung that plagued the streets of Jaipur pushes it’s way to centre stage and leaves the “pink city” (which was in fact more of a terracotta affair) with a foul smell. Whole streets had been cornered off; their only function now was to collect the cities waste and serve as inadequate grazing grounds for the cities livestock. Despite all this there was something about being back in the real India that we found strangely comforting. No rooftop restaurants, big Indian meals for 50p, cheap bazaars selling anything and everything and no protruding palaces or forts. Although we did enjoy our visit to the Hawa Mahal where we climbed a tower to look out over the chaotic old city.

 

Our visit to Rajasthan’s capital was enhanced by an impromptu meeting with a guy called Raj. We got talking on the street and he told us about his work of setting up and running a music school in one of the biggest slums in Jaipur. He showed us pictures from his phone of the school, and also of his travels to Japan and Europe as an Indian musician. His speciality was the Indian Tabla. We went for a beer with him and he invited us to come and visit the school. Going against all advice we’ve ever heard we agreed and got into a car with Raj and his friend who volunteered part time at the school and drove to the slum. I actually felt more comfortable with his friend (whose name I forget) who had a wife, two daughters and an office job, than with Raj who had a Japanese girlfriend and like so many other Indians wanted to prove himself to us by demonstrating his knowledge of Western pop culture.

 

We arrived at the slum which was a jumble of metal, wood and brick all somehow coming together to create homes, offices, shops and classrooms. We walked along a small alley that cut into the slum to get to the makeshift classrooms. We sat in one small makeshift classroom while Raj’s friend told us about the Indian education system and how those who lived in slums are not allowed to attend state schools. Then we met some of the students that lived in the slum and attended the music school. They had had Western volunteers come and work with them before so they weren’t fazed by us. They sang and played the drum, then climbed all over us. Then they insisted on Carl singing them a song by pushing the drum into his lap and pointing. At first he refused but before long Carl was booming out a rather rowdy rendition of his favourite football song ’You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The kids loved it and tried to join in.

 

After a while Raj and his friend told us that they were planning a birthday party for the children and asked us if we’d like to come along tomorrow and maybe bring some treats for the kids. We had already booked our bus to leave the next day so declined the offer. Then the idea of treats for the kids turned into ‘would you like to make a donation?’ and Raj turned a little sour upon asking us. We thought the project seemed genuine enough so gave £5 for treats for the children’s party. You can never be sure in India who is genuine and who isn’t, and whether money you donate will go to good use or not – all you can do is hope. It was interesting to see the slum and to meet Raj and his friend. It was inspiring to meet people who voluntarily set up organisations like this to help the poor, but disappointing that young men like this had to take control of issues the Indian government should really be tackling. We took their e-mail addresses and promised to come and volunteer with them if we ever returned to Jaipur.

 

The next day we moved onto Pushkar for the Camel Mela. The festival was hyped up and prices put up. We’d previously learnt the phrase “how much is that camel” in Hindi which rather than amusing the camel owners as intended, merely served to confuse them. Elaborately dressed and shaved camels descended upon the small religious town of Pushkar. Set around a tranquil lake, the small town hosts many Hindu temples, bathing ghats, and traveller orientated shops and restaurants. The camel mela was a fun few days of music, camel races, fireworks and Indian dancing, but mostly it was a camel trading fair for camel owners. It was fascinating to see all the camels dressed up and on display, but after our camel trek in Bikaner a week or so earlier and a few days of camel gazing at the mela we were all camelled out. It was time to move on. We said goodbye to Rajasthan and its camels and caught a train to India’s number one tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal.

 

 

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  1. cockmans
    April 13, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Note: there are a distinct lack of pictures on this post as our photographer was being a gay.

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