An Indian day

I’ve had an Indian sort of a day today. I wanted to go to Osian, an important temple town. I got a rickshaw from the clock tower in Jodhpur to the bus station; having got the driver down from 200 rupees to 50 rupees I then felt guilty because it was further than I expected but he seemed happy enough. At the bus station I located the bus to Osian, with some help. I got on the bus, which showed no signs of departing but had people already on it. The ticket collector arrived and told me to go to window 5 to buy a ticket. There was a little queue but woman are allowed to go straight to the front; unfortunately for me some old women had already done this and were making a tricky purchase which took ages. All the while I hoped the bus would not go without me. When I got my turn I could see why it took so long - the man typed the ticket order on an antiquated computer where several keys clearly didn’t function. He duly printed my $1 ticket and flung it on the counter. I boarded the bus and sat with an Indian girl of 18 who was also going to Osian, with her family, as a pilgrimage. Incidentally, nobody else had pre purchased a ticket before boarding.

So when we arrived in Osian, an hour and a half for 64 km on a decent road with a few cows to dodge and a big bottleneck in one town because the road was too narrow for the bus to get past anything, I got off the bus with the family as I too was going to the temples. I walked with them down the street to the first temple, but unfortunately it was closed today because of something to do with the moon. Shame. A man who was clearly a guide came up to me and told me where the other main temple was. I made it clear I didn’t want a guide and he understood. But for the rest of the morning wherever I went he would mysteriously be there before me! I parted company with the pilgrimage family, who were making urgent phone calls.

On the way to this second, Jain, temple I had a nasty experience: four boys cornered me in the street asking for money and I could not get past them. So I turned back to the small square I had just left where I knew there were other people. The boys walked away.

The temple was good, lots of carving and a tall stupa with an ugly steel staircase to the top, closed to climbers, and a painted story of someone's 26 plus incarnations. I avoided the guide on the way out by leaving via what appeared to be a boys' school.

I returned to the shopping street and stopped for a chai and snack of a sweet pastry thing I have seen in lots of places, actually they gave me four of them. Then I crossed the road to look at a set of temple ruins from the 8th and 9th centuries. They were on plinths and goats were grazing on the plinths. The whole area was a sea of littler. As I walked around a boy came asking for money in a mean way so I backtracked to the road and waited until some other people came to look at the ruins too. From here I got a view of the tops of the stupas of the closed temple so that was a bonus.

After all this work I needed a toilet but could not see one. I went to a restaurant to ask to use theirs but they said it wasn’t working today; however they offered to let me use the toilet in one of the rooms of the adjacent hotel. They unlocked the room for me and I went in, closing the bathroom door. At this point I realised it was the electricity that wasn’t working today. When I wanted to leave the bathroom, in the pitch black, I couldn’t find the door! After what seemed like ages, the two restaurant workers waiting outside the door, I located the door hinges and found the handle. Of course I gave them a tip, which in Australian terms was like $7 for a pit stop.

Then I hailed the bus back towards Jodhpur. My guide friend was sitting at the chai stall by the bus stop. The bus was very full and they motioned to me to sit at the front, in the driver's cabin, where there were cushioned seats. I wasn’t fussed but they insisted so I got in. You need to be a gymnast to get inside but it was great to have such a clear view of the road as we went. The driver was never fully on our side of the road and was expert at avoiding cows.

I wanted to get off at Mandore to visit the gardens. The bus didn’t go the same way as the outward ride but some other passengers told me when to get off, and then I had a long rickshaw ride. 

The gardens, home to numerous cenotaphs for Jodhpur's rulers from the 1500's onward, were amazing. Masses of mini temple-like structures with lots of carving, cool to linger in and surrounded by foliage. Soon I noticed there were dozens of monkeys: climbing the temple walls, swinging from the trees, sitting in a circle on the ground and I saw one eating crumbs from a plastic bag. This place was full of rubbish everywhere except on the cenotaphs. There was an almost stagnant creek, covered with green slime, full of plastic bottles and it actually had ducks in it.

I wandered towards the fort (Mandore used to be the capital here before Jodhpur) and was soon being hassled by a youngish boy. I spotted a couple sitting not far away so I went, boy following me, towards them, because it’s the easiest way to deflect the attention off me if I move to where I’m not alone; the couple looked rather surprised when we appeared near them but at least the man, who had been talking angrily, stopped yelling. Then outside the fort a woman pestered me to buy flowers.

It was very hot. I walked back to the park entrance and saw a minibus waiting. I asked the ticket man if it was going to Jodhpur but he seemed to motion that he didn’t understand. I asked the driver, once I could get his attention, and I took it that his vague head nodding meant yes. It turned out to be an excellent choice because I didn't have to go via the bus station. I was so pleased that I went and bought a kachori and a samosa at the very popular place by the market and sat by a bangle stall to eat them, and then bought some bangles because everyone else was stopping there to buy bangles.

At night I went as usual to the rooftop restaurant at my hotel. There were some fireworks at the fort just as I arrived on the roof so luckily I was able to see them. It was a wonderful temperature and very still. I had a paneer curry with a tomato sauce and rice and naan, and I am getting better at eating with my hands.


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