Out of Rajasthan

(Photo source: BBC) Well, it's been almost a month since we left India, but after reading about these caste riots in Rajasthan (which N brought to my attention), I feel like we dodged a bullet. The Gujjar tribe has been protesting their position, blocking roads and stopping train service, preventing passage between Delhi and Agra (where the Taj Mahal is), among other places. Oh, and both police and protesters are being killed.

The best Article I've found on the piece so far is from the UK Guardian. Here's a snippet:

The violence began when police shot four protesters dead in running battles with thousands of Gujjars, traditionally sheep-rearers, who had gathered on a main highway and blocked traffic near Jaipur, early this morning.

When the news of the shootings spread, crowds gathered in Bundi, three hours drive from Jaipur, and police again resorted to baton charges, teargas and finally, bullets, to end the blockade. Four more protesters were left dead by the fighting.

In retaliation, a police officer was said to have been beaten to death. Riot police were also kidnapped before being released unharmed.

The caste system in India is a complex, and certainly by most outsiders' opinions, unfair system. The Gujjars are protesting for more seats in University and more government jobs. Indians see that education is the catapult over caste, and the quotas for lower castes for seats in university are (some might say pathetically) few.  And if there's one thing I learned from Edward Luce's book In Spite of the Gods, it's that a government job is the holy grail of Indian employment: job security and plenty of opportunity to skim.

Pair that with what must be 40c-plus temperatures in the area, and you've got, well, this:

What with roads being blocked into Delhi, (as well as two major tourist routes) and over 2/3 of Rajasthan fraught with violence, I could not be happier that we're not there now. Rajasthan was a fantastic place to visit, and our travel hassles there seem very small in comparison to this.


India Day 8: City Palace, yes. Lake Palace...?

I write this from one of India's many internet cafes (roughly 80 cents an hour!), and there is another one right next door...or rather, there was. Their servers were down all day today, and this evening they place seemed to be gutted, and there are construction noises coming through the wall as I write this.

So. Udaipur Day Two started off in a very india-style fashion, with Natacha and I waiting on the roof of our guest house for the yoga instructor who supposedly gives classes there every morning. He arrived 45 minutes late, saying he was sorry, he was out late as his office party was last night. We later found out that he's a government employee who is a friend of the guesthouse owner. Most likely he just does this so he can get a practice in every morning and juice the guests for donations. Which he did. He led us through a practice that was fine for him but too advanced for us, with no instruction but "change" (positions) We have yet to understand why India is the yoga captial of the world, and not, say, Marin County.

After that was breakfast at the guesthouse's rooftop resto, some chatting with the other diners, and off to Udaipur's City Palace. This is the one in the middle of the Old City; we decided to hold off on seeing the lake palaces until the end of day, so we could take a boat around them at sunset.

The Udaipur City Palace was impressive, more so than Jaipur's. plus we had a tour guide giving us the lowdown. Like the courtyard is so big the entertainment there was elephant tug-of-wars. And there is a huge centuries-old tree that seems to be rooted on the fourth floor of the palace. Think about that for a moment. (HInt: the palace is built on a hill).

I know, we've seen a couple of palaces already, and we'll see more before we're done, but Udaipur's was nothing less than sensational. Tiles from Holland. Ornaments from Russia. Gold this, gold that. Humongous courtyards, inside and out. Magnificent views of the city. Complex rope-and-pulley systems that allow the servants to operate (read: pull) the fan that keeps the prince cool in his room round-the-clock. But I guess when you can afford a pair of palaces on the lake and one in the city, a decorating budget is easy to scare up.

Turns out the latest Maharaja of Udaipur is a young man at Uni in Australia. And I understand he's single, ladies.

After that, there was a long lunch at another rooftop restaurant, this one with an insane view of a huge Jain temple smack dab in the middle of the city. And a long conversation with a lovely British couple (he a biologist, she a nurse) on the cusp of finishing a year of traveling. And just in time, as she was pregnant. Planned but sooner than planned. So long lunches were par for them at this point.

(We've met a number of couples travelling for a year or more, mostly european, and while they've all been great to talk to (my faves being Marie and Greg), I'm jealous as hell of them. Compared to them, our three months looks wimpish. I have to remind myself that they are europeans, and as such get tons of vacation time, they get to have "career breaks," etc. Considering we suckers in the USA get barely a third of the vacation time that they do), our three months is comprable--and to Americans, it's HUGE. So there, Ken. Okay, that's my one paragraph of whingeing I'm allowed.)

By the time we get to the boat to the lake palaces, it was POURING rain. in the friggin' desert for frick's sake! So the boat to the palaces isn't going. But we are, out of Udaipur, to Jodphur, the next day. So no Octopussy moment for us.

And Udaipur? Not so romantic. and the heavy foot & rickshaw traffic kinda takes the shine off those narrow european type streets. If I had the choice again, I might just give it a miss.

Ah well. We had an amazing sunset the day before. And there is a lot of beauty here. Gotta appreciate what you've got. And there's dinner with the charming Marie and Greg, whom we first met & dined with in Pushkar and Natacha ran into here later in the eve. Travel, it giveth and it...well, it mostly giveth. Which is nice.