Feb 6, 2014

Driving lessons

I'm in Jaisalmer, a small desert city in the Thar Desert. It used to be an important stop on the spice trail, but the only caravans that stop there now contain tourists. 

But before I get ahead of myself again, I'll describe how I got here. I left Udaipur in a car, sharing it with two lovely retired Australians named David and Helen. 

This is our driver Kailash. He looks a bit tired here because he's been driving for seven hours on dusty roads. He's from Udaipur and lives there with his family. He is the only non-vegetarian in his family. He said he sometimes eats chicken and mutton, which his wife frowns on. I asked who did the cooking at home, then? He said no, no! Never meat at home, the kitchen is pure vegetarian. He has to go out to eat meat furtively. 

There was lots to see and do on the road. It's very dry, dusty, rocky country but so odd to see it punctuated by bright green fields of wheat, millet, sugar cane, and mustard. 

We stopped to look at this interesting irrigation pump.

David and Helen (I forgot to snap a pic of them but we are meeting up again in Jaisalmer) have been coming to India for 16 years and have a lot of friends here. They are going to Jaisalmer for a wedding. They suggested we stop at the famous Jain temple in Ranakpur. 

They taught me my numbers in Hindi from 1-10. We saw huge bats sleeping upside down in a tree, and whole tribes of monkeys outside Ranakpur. 

We passed lots of transport trucks on the road. Most are brightly painted like this one. 

Kailash told us there are three things needed for driving in India: a good horn, good brakes, and luck. Speaking of luck, we also stopped at the Om Bana shrine where the deity is an ancient Royal Enfield Bullet. 

The story goes that it belonged to a young Mewar prince who was killed in a motorcycle accident, something like 40 years ago. The police removed the bike but it started up and returned to the scene of the accident on its own. This happened again and again until it became venerated and people built a shrine around it. Kailash asked me if I prayed to the motorbike for anything. After all, he deadpanned, ”This is India. Anything is possible."

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