india, Lifestyle, Personal, spirituality, Stories, travel

A Test of Trust in Rajasthan

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.

Eckhart Tolle

We arrived in the historical land of forts and palaces, otherwise known as the Pink City, to the usual mayhem of taxi and rickshaw drivers outside the train station.

Two charming and well-dressed rickshaw drivers approached us and we decided to catch a ride with them to our hotel. The talkative young men were trying to persuade us the whole way there to use them as our tour guides during our stay but I told them I had a friend who was showing us around, however they insisted on meeting us outside of our hotel in the morning.

Little did I realise, those two drivers would play an influential role during our short time in Jaipur.

Our lovely hotel was tucked down a quiet lane and it became my favourite hotel in all of India. We checked in and the porter showed us to our room, which was clean and nicely decorated, then we made our way upstairs to the rooftop restaurant and feasted on Indian delicacies underneath the night’s sky.

I messaged Sohail to tell him we had arrived and we organized to meet in the morning. I was looking forward to seeing him and being shown around his hometown, naively unaware of what was to come.

With full bellies, we retired downstairs to our room and stretched out onto our comfy beds. Booking hotels online had been a bit of a gamble and I was relieved to find this one had been a good one, it meant for two days I wasn’t going to feel hungry or tired.

I woke up refreshed from a good nights sleep and after a delicious breakfast I was ready to explore Jaipur!

The two friendly rickshaw drivers were waiting outside the hotel for us, so I asked them to drop us off at McDonald’s, where we were meeting Sohail, and they seemed disappointed that we weren’t going on a tour with them but agreed to take us.

We arrived at McDonald’s and I found Sohail sitting at a table inside with his friend. We hugged but it felt awkward and I was unsure of how we would tour the city together with no car. He said goodbye to his friend and then led me to an auto rickshaw that he had pre arranged for us, with a driver who didn’t speak English. Our rickshaw drivers were insulted that we weren’t going any further with them, and they seemed to recognise Sohail, nonetheless, we squeezed into the rickshaw that was waiting for us with Sohail, while ignoring the two well dressed drivers who seemed to be trying to tell us something.

We only had one full day in Jaipur, so I told Sohail the sights I wanted to see and we made our way to Amber Fort. During the bumpy ride through the city I showed him the rings I had bought in Agra and he seemed agitated. Was I supposed to wait to buy better jewellery with him?

Jaipur was breathtakingly beautiful. It was surrounded by mountains and it felt worlds away from smelly Agra.

We finally arrived at the magnificent honey-hued mountainside Fort, which was constructed in the late 15th century, and we rode elephants up to the main entrance. Within the Forts walls contained the Royal Palace which was built from pale yellow and pink sandstone and white marble, and it was divided into four sections, each with it’s own courtyard.

We took photos while enjoying the stunning architecture and views out towards Amber but I still felt slightly uncomfortable with Sohail and I couldn’t quite make out why.

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Riding elephants up to the entrance of the Fort

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Amber Fort

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Views towards Amber from the Fort

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Inside the Fort

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Sohail and I at Amber Fort

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After being harassed by street vendors on our walk down, I was eager to leave and see the rest of the sights as we were on such a tight time frame.

We stopped to take photos of a pink coloured palace that appeared to be floating on top of water and when I turned around I saw Sohail being questioned by the police.

I tried to listen into their conversation but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Why were they questioning him?

Feeling concerned for him, I decided to go over and see if I could help. It then became apparent to me that they were trying to arrest him for operating as a tour guide with no licence. I tried explaining to them that we were friends and he wasn’t a tour guide but they weren’t interested in hearing what I had to say. Sohail looked really nervous at the thought of being locked up in jail and just as I began to feel really bad for getting him into this situation they let him go.

Sohail was obviously quite shaken from the fiasco and he became worried to travel with us any further, so we decided from there we would go directly to all the factories that he promised to take us to then we would continue on sightseeing without him.

I thought the whole situation with the police was absolutely absurd. Was it really against the law in Jaipur for Indians to make friends with foreigners and show them around?

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The floating Water Palace
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Camels on the side of the road

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We met Sohail’s ‘cousin’ at the first factory, which turned out to be just like any other shop. Mum paid far too much for some silk scarves then we went to a jewellery shop where we bought a few rings of dubious quality.

I was disappointed with Sohail, he had talked himself up to know all the best factories in town and for a gem expert, he didn’t appear to have any knowledge of gems. I was becoming suspicious.

After shopping we parted ways and planned on meeting at Tiger Fort at the end of the day.

Our driver took us to a few more touristic spots including the Hawa Mahal, a historical pink sandstone building, constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city.

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Inside Hawa Mahal
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Views from the top floor of Hawa Mahal

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The distinctive five-story high pink building provided fabulous views over the city and after power walking through, we went onto visit the City Palace, which was built in the 17th century by the ruler of Amber. Inside were opulent chandeliers and delicate engravings within the palace’s walls, making me imagine what it would have looked like back in the 1700’s.

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The majestic City Palace
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Restoration in process!
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A ‘holy’ cow outside the City Palace

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We continued on to Monkey Temple, where we were welcomed by a group of opportunistic young boys posing as tour guides. They decided who was going to take us up the hill by tossing a coin. The tallest of the group won, and looking ecstatic, we followed him as he led the way with bags of peanuts to feed the monkeys.

I was surprised by how many monkeys there were. We hand fed dozens of them who were obviously not shy of people and they even climbed up on us. While I was having my photo taken, one took me by surprise by trying to steal my backpack, which almost sent me flying backwards! After the initial shock, I turned around to see its cheeky face smiling back at me and I fed him peanuts.

After our close encounters with the monkeys, our guide told us that they all had rabies, which made me realise the dangers involved. As cute and friendly as they were, they were wild animals, so I tried to keep my distance but I couldn’t help myself when it came to feeding the babies.

We came across a Sadhu and I asked him if we could sit with him for a photo and he was friendly and obliging. He placed his hands on top of our heads to bless us and after smiling at each other with eyes that saw no boundaries to race, religion or colour I climbed to the top of the hill where I found a church perched at the edge of the mountainside.

I took a few moments, breathing in all that I had seen and experienced this far and enjoyed the gorgeous views out towards Jaipur.

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The cheeky monkey who tried to steal my pack!
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The road leading up to Monkey Temple
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The monkeys seemed to get along well with the wild pigs!
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A sadhu who has been coming to the Monkey Temple everyday for a very long time to feed the monkeys
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Our ‘tour guide’
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There were even goats!
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The cheeky monkey in the background who was eyeing up my backpack
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Here he goes, about to give it a good tug
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Friends, all good!
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Getting blessed by a sadhu
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The holy church
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Jaipur

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Sunset was fast approaching and we had planned to meet Sohail at Nahargarh ( Tiger Fort) at dusk so our driver raced us back through the other side of the city towards another mountain. Hurtling up at full speed, and with smoke billowing out of the exhaust, we arrived at the top to the most stunning panoramic views of Jaipur.

I sat on the edge of the wall, and took a few deep breaths. I hadn’t done yoga since I left Kranti’s and all the fast paced travel we had been doing was beginning to take its toll on my body. It was moments like those that I needed. To stop and be still and bring myself back into the present, rather than race around against the clock, trying to see as much as possible in one day.

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Jaipur from Tiger Fort at dusk

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Feeling more centred, I walked towards the restaurant to find Sohail but he wasn’t there so I walked back alone in the dark to our rickshaw to meet mum and Yana, but as I got closer, I saw him and his cousin in the car park.

Wondering why he hadn’t met us inside the restaurant and feeling disappointed to say goodbye after not doing much together, we hugged and I left feeling rather confused.

Was he pretending to be my friend to scam me? Had he lied about the police and was he a known crook?

With my mind racing, trying to make sense of it all, and feeling upset, we drove back towards our hotel and bumped into the two drivers, who dropped us off at McDonald’s earlier.

Seeing that we were upset, they followed us back to our hotel and invited us out to dinner.

Mum and I burst through our hotel lobby, crying, and ran up to our room in shock. We had trusted Sohail and thought he was our friend.

A few minutes later we decided we wouldn’t let what happened get us down, so we went out to dinner with the two seemingly honest and well dressed rickshaw drivers, hoping to make the most of our final night in a city that was fast turning into disappointment.

The cheap restaurant they had promised to take us to turned out to be expensive but we ordered anyway, hoping the food was as good as what we could have ordered back at our hotel. The chatty young men ordered drinks on our bill and as the night went on I became suspicious. One of the guys was being overly friendly towards mum, who was a sucker for charming young Indian men and he was trying his hardest to befriend Yana. Meanwhile I sat back and watched the scene unfold, realizing too late that we had been fooled once again. We paid the bill and they dropped us back to our hotel probably laughing to them-selves.

I lay in bed in a state of shock. How could I have let this happen? First the old rickshaw driver in Agra, Sohail and now the two drivers from Jaipur? We had been ripped off and I wasn’t going to trust another Indian again, I was going to make damn sure of it!

India seemed to be bringing out my trust issues with people and I was trying to search for the silver lining in the lesson, but I was having a hard time finding it.

I now looked at every Indian with different eyes. I trusted no one, I ignored everybody that asked to take me somewhere or sell me something and I walked past all the beggars and cripples in the train station. India had gotten to me and I was tired of being over charged, cheated and ripped off!

We caught a train back to Delhi after getting no sleep and wearily started walking towards nowhere. I was so determined to avoid getting ripped off that in my stubbornness we walked with our heavy packs down a busy street trying to find a place to book a taxi or train to take us to Rishikesh.

Perhaps North India would treat us better?

Long days of rushing around sightseeing, barely any sleep, a lack of decent meals and long travel times took their toll and my patience had worn thin.

After walking around aimlessly for ages, feeling defeated by India and without any luck of finding a booking office, I gave in and waved down a rickshaw driver, who then drove us to a train station.

Once inside, we realised trains to Rishikesh didn’t leave from that station and by now we had missed the last train so our only hope was a taxi.

We were back walking around lost, trying to find a booking office when a guy came up to us and asked us if we needed help. Feeling suspicious of his intentions, I asked him if he could show us where we could book a taxi and he walked us over towards a booking agent.

Thankfully we were able to book a taxi immediately to Rishikesh, so we jumped in the back, relieved that we were leaving Delhi, and made ourselves comfy for the 8-hour journey North.

A few hours into our journey I noticed our driver’s head kept tilting forwards in the rear vision mirror and when I sat up to check to see if he was okay I could see he was dozing off at the wheel. Feeling rather alarmed, I whispered to mum our dilemma and she panicked and began feeding him chocolate while Yana tried to come up with conversation to keep him awake.

The long car ride was tiresome, but we finally made it to Rishikesh in the middle of the night and I was so hoping that my experience there would be nicer than Jaipur.

2 thoughts on “A Test of Trust in Rajasthan”

  1. I’ve never been to India but I’d heard that one should always keep one’s eyes open because of those people’s mentality… The silver lining is you have seen such an amazing beauty! 🙂

    Like

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