Jaipur in 96 hours: Through arches and coloured glass

A trip to Jaipur was made in a rush, but I was too happy to go there for the umpteenth time. So we were ready: with bag, baggage and a baby. We arrived at the Jai Mahal Palace on day one, dinnertime. This gorgeous property welcomed us with gorgonzola stuffed olive martini and boondi kadi for dinner. I was already in vacation-coma 3 hours post the arrival.

On day 2, we enjoyed the resort and head out for a healthy organic Thai Bean Salad at the Anokhi Cafe. The healthy spell broke soon enough as expected and we tried onion Kachoris and Milk Ladoos on the recommendation of our local chauffeur. We thought the day wasn’t going to get any better, but Jaipur is as much a surprise the first time as it is on the tenth. The traditional and the modern in Jaipur are as much a juxtaposition as royalty in the palaces and the poverty mostly everywhere else. We visited the artist Kripal’s blue pottery studio at his home followed by a fun cotton-wear shop Soma. Little did we know that the best was yet to come.

Day 3 had to be spent with the elephants. We woke up early but the thought of reaching Amer Fort at 9AM didn’t spell vacation. We set out for our elephant search in the evening and drove around Amer Fort hoping to find someone who could take us to these majestic beings, someone who could transport us back in royal times. There are many (expensive) elephant villages that seem very exciting to visit with children. There is an entry charge for the village where you can bathe, ride and paint the elephants. I decided to take that up once my son was slightly older. Today, we were lucky to visit the elephant keeper’s home.

There is something so romantic about courtyards. I photograph them all the time. I hope to learn to photograph them well one day. From the arched gate of the old courtyard we saw a little kitten which my son promptly meowed at. Little did he know that once we entered the gates, six enormous animals awaited us. Our expressions were priceless and we all looked child-like in awe. The forgettable village street transformed into a magical place we’ll fondly visit in our memories. We rode the elephants and fed them rotis proportionate to their own size. We ended all this excitement with a chai late at the quaint organic cafe and bistro Taruveda.

Day 4 began pretty incredibly. Work led me to meet the amazing Chhavi Rajawat, ex-LSR and the sarpanch (head of the village) of Soda in Malpura tehsil, Tonk district, Rajasthan. Chhavi has the most beautiful smile that’ll make India-cynics think twice and break all notions of how you imagined a sarpanch. She is cheerful with fierce and profound eyes, she is effective and precise yet has a casual demeanour. Chhavi is testimony to the contradictions that make Rajasthan, and perhaps this country unique – kindness and strength, vision and tradition, practiced all at once, seamlessly. The lovely meeting was followed by shopping around the local market where I picked up a kutch embroidery jacket for my son, a pair of mojaris and some kantha work bedspreads. The tedious drive back home that followed isn’t worth elaborating!

I would have loved to attend Dr.Smita Kulshreshtha’s cooking classes but was unfortunately unable to find the time. Jaipur is amazing not just because it is so vibrant. It is a glimpse of how far we have come from the recent past and how we can visit this historic jigsaw again by putting together the precious vintage and new pieces this city has to offer through its food, people and places.

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