First 1.5 hours in Barmer, Rajasthan
Now I could say that I was picked up and put in a hotel because my accommodation wasn’t ready, after which I went for an hour walk then went back to my hotel room and ordered some food and then rested. But that doesn’t nearly tell the story.
The train pulled into Barmer Station and gentleman opposite me, who hadn’t said a word for the whole trip, helped me with my bags as I set off down the narrow corridor of the train, often getting my overstuffed pack stuck. Within 30 seconds upon hitting the station platform a young tall man approached and asked if I was Mark. Let me jump ahead for a moment, I think I’m the only white person in Barmer. I’m virtually a one man parade, so it was not too hard for him to identify me, but more on that later. The man introduced himself as Anil and in English as good as my Hindi told me to wait. He then went off to fetch Lata Kachhawaha, an elderly lady with a very pleasant smile who welcomed me to Barmer. She explained that this was a holiday and my accommodation (which she said was a house, but house home apartment all mean the same thing so I won’t know until I know) wouldn’t be ready for two days so I would stay in a hotel. Then the beggars came and even Lataji (her first name is Lata but you add ji to show respect, so for instance Katie becomes Katie-ji) had trouble keeping them away. Then I was ushered into a big jeep-like kind of vehicle, of which there’s lots of here, and driven to the K.K. Hotel on what I can only describe as main street. The room they assigned me was small and similar to the one I had in Delhi, except it had a TV. There was no shower head and the toilet was western style but the seat was lying beside the porcelain. The room was hot and later when I picked up my water bottle the water inside was not warm, it too was hot. I was not able to sleep that night as I felt as if I was in an oven.
First impressions of Barmer: It’s India inside of India. It’s a whole new place with some similar aspects but many more differences than what I had just experienced in Delhi. Ok, let me start with the way the women dress: to colours are so vibrant and mixed you almost feel like you’re staring into the sun. I learnt that very bright colours are worn by married women and the darker colours by unmarried woman. The married women also wear while arm bangles. The teekha (red dot between the eyebrows) are for decorative purposes only but a red colour at the top of the forehead at the hair line indicates a married woman as well. And the sun by the way was intense. The heat difference was immediately felt, but it was also a pleasant dry heat and the pollution was noticeably missing. However, I feel intensely hot without my hat on.
I headed up the street, a bustling avenue with lots of small open faced stores. I thought I’d see if I could find an internet store but no such luck. I was already used to be stared at so I was not uncomfortable walking around. At times someone (always a man except in one instance) would try to tak to me: where am I from? what am I doing here? what’s my name? In any case that’s about as much as I can reply to right now. Many people from their stores nodded and I would say Namaste and put my hands together in greeting. I had walked off the main drag and down some industrial type street. You can’t even imagine these so there’s some pics on the links to follow. I was signalled into to talk all along the way. The signal they use looks more like go away with the palm up and the fingers waving downward. I went into one place and a young man about 18 spoke to me with his little English and we did the formalities. He invited in to meet others in the shop, or whatever, I’m not quite sure what the place was. There was a Rajasthani man there in white turban. He was introduced to me as a Rajasthani so I assume he is from a local tribe. The next question that was put to me was what my caste was. I told them I have no caste but that didn’t seem to go over well. One person showed me the signing of the cross and I understood he was asking if I was a Christian and I had to disappoint him. The Rajasthani man allowed me to take his picture and then gave me his turban to try on. Pictures on the web: Mark’s first turban.
A young girl, I’d say around 12 said hello and asked my name. But it became evident that that was the only English she spoke. So she ran ahead and gathered up about 8 of here friends who all yelled out to me: Hello, what is your name? Parents in the background smiled. Many others looked my way and said hello. I started to feel very welcome here, everyone seemed so friendly.
Back at the hotel I asked the front clerk if he could get me some food, some rice and dhal which he did get some sent up with all sorts of spices and onions about ten minutes later. After lunch I brought the tray back down along with some clothes that I needed ironing for tonight I will be picked up to meet my employer and have our first interview. Wish me luck.
The simplest questions are the most profound.
Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What you are doing?
Think about these once in a while, and watch your answers change. (R. Bach)