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10-16 November. We visited the Pink City of course – it is the original old walled city of Jaipur, and so-called because of the pinkish coloured stone it is built from. It’s busy and crowded and vibrant, much like any other Indian city. We love wandering around the markets and stores and busy streets as people go about their daily lives. Because it is so different from the west, things Indian people probably think of as normal we find exotic and fascinating, at times funny, at times puzzling, at times maddening, at times heart-breaking. We are curious, and buoyed with excitement at the uniqueness of it all. Everything is worth a photo, everyone is worth a hello.

I never say hello to people when I walk down the street in the west. In India I do it all the time. Ram ram, a commonly used Hindu greeting, almost always brings a smile and a ram ram in return. You don’t get the same response if you accidently say it to a Muslim person.  Namaste works well for both, and usually brings a return greeting and a smile. But my favourite is Ram ram because people seem a bit surprised, and delighted by it, and more than once asked if we speak Hindi. I guess they know that everyone in the west knows namaste, but few know ram ram.

The Indian people are very friendly, love to say hello, love to have their photo taken. Julie is a master at making contact. Any child is immediately worth photographing and she makes contact with mother, and child, and whatever other family and friends are there, shaking hands all round. And in the process gets some fabulous photos. I’m a little more shy about it, but have managed to get some good shots over her shoulder so to speak, thanks to her completely unfettered willingness to engage the people. In the process Don and I become more engaged as well.

At the market at one of the seven gates into the Pink City:

Inside the Pink City:

Kids dancing on the balcony – and waving at us, and dancing even harder when they saw us taking photos of them. Smiling and laughing.

This couple is making bangles. Yes. Those brightly coloured sparkly bangles that Indian women wear just about up to their elbows. This couple is sitting on the floor of their little shop making them by hand. We watched a long while. Still couldn’t quite figure it out. I think maybe the thing she’s holding is some kind of glue. He has a mould he uses to press the shiny bits onto the bangles.

There is little privacy in India. And in true Indian fashion everyone was laughing and smiling at the westerners taking photos of a guy having shave.

We were in Jaipur for Diwali, an annual festival of light, and a bit like Christmas. Much shopping and gift giving happens. Buildings and streets are decorated with bunting and lights. Fireworks are let off all over the city more or less constantly for about three days. On the day of Diwali itself crowds fill the streets and it all becomes a big party. A kind of crowded craziness takes over. Even more than usual if that’s possible. Everyone is out shopping. And letting off firecrackers – anywhere, everywhere. There’s such an excited atmosphere it’s hard not to get caught up in it. Wherever we look people are busy with preparations, and the feeling of anticipation is palpable. I missed the main night out on the town due to having injured my foot, and Don was not feeling well. Mad at myself that I didn’t just take some painkillers and go anyway. Julie said it was wild.

The town lit up for Diwali

Several of these grand temporary structures were built in the Pink City for Diwali. We saw at least 4 of them. They’re huge. Made of bamboo scaffold with cloth stretched over them. Stunning! Don’s photo, or Julie’s – I can’t remember which.

Our next foray was to the wilds of the Monkey Temple. Many Indian cities have a Monkey Temple – devoted to Hanuman the Monkey God. Like cows, monkeys are regarded as sacred, and can be a little scary. You do not want to mess with a wild adult male monkey – they can be fierce. Really fierce. A monkey jumped on Don’s back in the Monkey Forest in Bali. Ever since then he doesn’t like monkeys very much. He declined to come with us. As it happened there weren’t that many around. Not crowds of them like we’d seen in the Monkey Forest, but enough I suppose to justify the name. We walked up the long paved hill to the temple at the top. I don’t know about the others but I love this  – everywhere I look I see something different, exotic, fascinating – people, monkeys, buildings, and in the temple itself, the altars! Truly fabulous! So over the top. So Indian. Nothing is done by half here, whether it’s the tangled terrifying knots of electrical wiring, the colours of the women’s saris, the wonderful purple prose (try reading a description of an Indian hotel or tour on their own website), the number of people crowded onto a bus, or the temple altars. Each altar is so bright and shiny and spectacular how could the relevant God possibly miss it?

A couple of cute monkey pictures.

On the path to the temple

In a small temple on the way up

This is the Monkey Temple. The relevance of the altars escapes me. But aren’t they spectacular!

Don and I have had a completely different time in India this time than we had living in Tiruvannamalai. Travelling around seeing the sights, and meeting the people has been enlivening and fun.

A train trip to Jodphur, the blue city, more sightseeing, Rajasthani villages, and hotel hell, all to come in the next post.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.