oke up feeling good (had been wondering if I had contracted Ebola from the New Delhi tap water I accidently swallowed last night). With my guts intact, we packed up and headed out, down the road from New Delhi to Jaipur. On the way, we stopped to check out the Qutab Minar Victory Tower, a huge standing structure made and remade and remade again (they need a lightning rod on that thing). Evidently the firm solid structure inspired my guts because in the rest room nearby I deposited a poop of equal consistency. Yea! So it’s looking more and more like my dose of tapwater will not leave me sweating and shivering. Whew.
After that we hit the road. Headed south in heavy bumper-to-bumper, door-to-door, honk-to-honk traffic, pushing through sound and heat and smog to a Delhi satellite city – a brand new burg twenty years old housing three million people, and they are still making the same mistakes they had before: clusterchunk housing, tight roads without a central plan – it’s like a mini-Delhi. Once we broke out into lighter traffic, we made okay time, but driving in India is something that needs to be experienced.
The new freeway, a heavy–use truck route, runs three lanes each way (sorta) with frontage roads to either side, set apart only by a crumbling curb and a patch of red earth six feet wide which must become a soup when it rains. So you’ve got heavy undisciplined traffic flowing in both directions, using lanes when it sees fit.
The outer lane (to the left – British colony and all that, lad) is the chaos lane – here are all manner of cars, auto rickshaws (three-wheel cabs), milling pedestrians, entering trucks, departing trucks, slow vehicles, impatiently passing vehicles, sacred cows and god knows what else, all making it a collision crap shoot. This being the case, most traffic hangs to the right lane, including the slower trucks (rumbling at about 40mph). And so this leaves overtaking cars to require the center lane, which is also the same lane the chaos lane bleeds into. That Indian drivers honk as they overtake (they even say so with HONK PLEASE painted on the tailgates of their trucks) and so you have massive multispeed confusion, with a dusty haze hanging over it and pedestrians dashing through it. Some cars, needing to go the other way, occasionally run short distances against traffic.
Stopped for lunch at a little midway restaurant, an oasis of quiet where we dined under a white tent, Rajas all. Had a deep-fried sandwich thing, a pakora with a cold, wonderful coke. Traffic rumbled faintly like a demented carnie over the building, dust rising, but here we looked out over lush fields to hazy crags, and watched a faraway herd of camels feed in the brush.
Once we got into the pink city of Jaipur, the driving really got intense. If New Delhi was bad, Jaipur was worse, all manner of cars and busses all bustling about. After we found our hotel, we freshened up (which meant a calming lie-down) and then went out to go shopping in the marketplace. This is an outdoor carnival of craziness, a million little shops all jammed together, all with lights and sleeve-tugging hawking. Pat, JB and I made our way down the narrow aisles, looking for a dress for a friend. Went into one and saw something I really wanted for her, a purple blouse. Crafty bargaining on my side got it for a steal at $20 (the steal was not mine – I am horrible at this sort of thing, trying to determine what I will pay and converting it all over to rupees). Anyway, got that and then continued, only to find a better dress which my sister deftly knocked down to $10. No manhood here. Anyway, then she went on to tear the shop apart, to have dress following dress pulled down until my initial purchase (“May I pay? Hello? Now where did it go?”) was lost. Finally we think we located it but it might not have been the right one (with all those psychedelic patterns my eyes were strobing). After that, a little further – of course, the moment Pat stopped in one shop of bangles, some woman with a baby was tugging at my jacket, yelling up into my face for money. That’s when I felt the hand brush down in inside of my jacket (had my own hand firmly on my wallet in the front right pocket of my jeans). I turned and she was through the crowd like a sparrow, gone. So nice try, ma’am.
After that, a chancy dash across a nighttime Jaipur road, all manner of cars and auto rickshaws and whatnot dashing past, some without lights, all without pity. Got home and retired downstairs to a quiet meal amongst traveling companions.
Sorry, went a little long, but yes, for all my carping, it was a day of glorious fun. India, dusty noisy craziness.