It's been over a week since I last posted, and now that I have almost unlimited access to my friend's computer here in England, I will write a few short essays and post them over the next few days.
To pick up where I left off, last Thursday we drove from Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park. Most of the drive was uneventful, until we realized that there were many transport trucks parked along the road, and in fact one large truck was actually blocking the road. It became clear that this was deliberate and not an accident when we were suddenly surrounded by a gang of young men. I didn't feel particularly worried until I saw that one of them was brandishing a large stick... and then fragments of scenes from Indian movies and novels starting to flit through my mind...hmmm....what if this gets serious? Our driver got out of the car to see what what going on. Early that morning, two locals had been struck and killed on the highway. It wasn't clear how this had happened, but the group was pretty riled up. There were no police around. Fortunately, we were able to turn the car around, and our driver found a detour--a narrow and dusty lane that passed through mustard and wheat fields and some very picturesque villages of traditional buildings...round mud brick huts with thatched roofs, beautifully decorated with white figures typical of the local wall art. This was definitely a wonderful aspect of our magical mystery tour! If we'd been on a coach with 15 or 20 other tourists, we'd have been stuck on the side of that road, or forced to drive back and around on the the closest highway.
In Ranthambore, we visited another women's project called "Dastar". Many people are employed at a fair wage stitching by hand and machine. They were working on an order for Ten Thousand villages--tablecloths and napkins (single colour, blockprinted). The napkins are nicely machine finished with bias fabric.
The next morning we were up before sunrise to picked up by a "canter", a large open topped bus cum jeep that seated about 20, for a trip into the park. No tigers were spotted, however we enjoyed the large trees and vegetation. Outside the park boundaries, this vegetation has been stripped for firewood. One of the reasons Dastar exists is to provide alternate employment--otherwise women earn money by cutting wood.
By the end of Friday we reached Bundi in time to enjoy the view of the palace from the road in the setting sun, and then a few hours later to see it illuminated. Our hotel, Katkoun Haveli, was just below the palace, and we enjoyed a great view of it from our window. Vicky took us on a quick tour of the local bazaar, and this was fun. Unlike other bazaars we've experienced, this one is smaller and thus a little more manageable for us! Wendy and I were on the hunt for tiffens--stainless steel containers that every Indian uses to carry their homecooked meals to work or school. We found a set that are a little bigger and also have small plates incorporated--just perfect for packing a picnic to the beach this summer.
So of course, the shopping continued...