The Hawa Maha, Jaipur, India

Hitting Rock Bottom

| India

If a Psychiatrist examined me right now, he would take one look at me and tell me that I am Bipolar. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming, it snuck up on me and took me by complete surprise. It wasn’t until I saw myself snapping at locals for little annoyances and crying if anyone didn’t understand me or flatly said no. In the few days before arriving into Jaipur, a few things tested me way beyond my already spread thin personal limits, which I think pushed me over the edge to the state I’ve found myself in.

Leaving Bhuj at the crack of dawn, as I had a 400 kilometre ride to Mount Abu in Raijestan. It wasn’t going to be a particular technical day, as there was only one road to take, which happen to be a large state road. At least once a day, I get a car load of people pulling up next to me and matching my speed and within a few minutes they get bored and move on. When a Jeep pulled up next to me, nothing was out of the ordinary, until they slowed right now to make me pass them, then they would speed up to pass me. This game was repeated about five times before the driver slammed on the breaks only much too late and crashed into the back of parked 50 tone truck, which was conveniently sitting in the fast lane of the state highway.

I watched the impact through my mirrors as I rode away. Normally in New Zealand or Australia, I would have stopped to offer assistance to the victims, but in foreign countries you have no idea how they are going to react or blame, therefore you must just keep on driving despite your feelings. I couldn’t help feeling completely shocked by what just happened all because they were looking at me.

Later that day, I eventually arrived into Mount Abu and found a nice guest house which for once had a great place to hang out and meet other travellers. My plans were to move on the following day, but as soon as I arrived I didn’t budge from the court yard talking to the other fellow tourist. Later that evening, I was asked by a local if I wanted a guide to see sun set point. Frowning, I said no and asked the two Canadians I had befriended what that was all about. They told me, apparently there has been reports of people getting mugged or worse. I couldn’t believe it, it was meant to be a local attraction, and it was unsafe to visit by your self.

The following day, I set out for a walk around the towns other attractions. As I walked down to the lake, I had Indian men asking for my photo. Declining and holding my hand up to my face, I carried on. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t want this, but if you get photographed every day you soon realise that one photo isn’t enough for them. They take one photo with each one of them, until everyone in the group has had their turn. I have also been told that some pictures of ‘white’ women sun bathing on the beach in their bikini’s end up in Indian porn magazines.

I find the narrow over grown steps to ‘Frog Rock’. As its called it’s a rock that looks like a frog jumping into the lake below. I was feeling uneasy, the only thing that kept me for turning around was hearing women’s voices. I past two men sitting on the side of the path drinking cans of beer at 10 in the morning. As soon as I pass, they start calling out to me. I ignore and carry on up the stairs hoping I will catch up with the women’s voices. I pass a family also sitting on the side of the steps in the shade catching their breath. Disappointed I pass them and climb higher. Eventually I arrived at the top and was slightly disappointed at the rock, but I took photos anyway.

Frog Rock

Turning around I start to walk back down the steps. Stopping at a viewing platform, I take a photo of the lake. A young boy of about 15 years old, bounds down the steps after me. He stops next to me and demands my name. ‘Mickey Mouse’ I reply as I didn’t like his mannerism and I walked off down to the next platform. Once again, he runs after me and demands my name. I turn and head further down the steps, when he runs after me. I stop and step aside to let him pass, as I wasn’t going to play this game, but he stops in front of me, demands my name and grabs my left breast.
I found myself staring at him, regaining his footing after I had punched him in the face. He grabbed his jaw and I thought to myself, good, I’m glad it hurts. At the same time I couldn’t believe that was my instant reaction. As he started to walk away, rage took over. I ran after him and while yelling at him I punched him again then proceed to kick him hard where ever I could make contact. I had him squatting on the ground with his palms pressed together in the sorry / thank you position. I then realised what I was doing to this young boy of about 15 years old and felt instantly embarrassed.

Turning to walk off, I had second thoughts and asked for his photo. He stood patiently waiting for my camera to be ready, just as I pressed the button, he realised what I wanted it for and he turned away. I didn’t tell him I captured him, I just yelled ‘I’m taking your picture to the police, never touch a women like that ever again, you bastard!’

Here is the little boy… well the back of him.

Tears of embarrassment and shock streamed down my face. I’ve been grabbed before on previous trips, but this time I wasn’t taking it well. I half ran down the steps, when I reached the two men drinking on the steps, I stopped in front of them and gave them an ear bashing about bantering white tourist, we absolutely hate it, and this is the reason why women hate travelling though India. Gulping down the tears, I walk back into town, knowing full well I need to calm down before I start getting shop owners hassling me to buy their goods.

When I stopped for a pee, I found this staring at my bottom!

By the time I reached Jaipur two days later, I was a mess. It was Sunday and I had arrived in the middle of the day, so I thought I would walk to a famous block printing shop that was close by. On the way, I noticed a man in a yellow shirt walking towards me chatting on the phone. As soon as I passed he turned around and started following me. At first I thought, we must be heading in the same direction, so I crossed the road, he also crossed. I crossed back and so did he. When I turned a corner onto a busy road, I was surprised to find him also turning the corner. It wasn’t until I started approaching traffic police, I saw him turn hisheels and head back the same way we had just come from. I couldn’t believe it, I was now scared to be walking around this city in broad daylight let alone going out for dinner at night. Luckily for me my hotel had a roof top restaurant, which meant I didn’t to go out of the hotel compound at night.

Even after a good night sleep in a beautiful room, I didn’t snap out of the depressing mood I was in. I walked to the ‘Pink City’ where I would see some of Jaipurs major tourist attractions. I was a wreck walking the two kilometres towards the city centre, jumping at every man’s possible touch, getting upset when a scooter cut me off. I saw a young girl walking in front of me, I walked up to her and asked if she was on her way to do some sight seeing, she wasn’t but she was walking in my direction. I was embarrassed as I was a good 10 years older than her and I was acting like a child. However, I relaxed and was able to carry on feeling a bit better.

The painting on my bedroom wall

Later that day, I was approached by a man who started the conversation with ‘Can you please tell me why all tourist hate talking to the locals?’ I wasn’t the right person for them to be asking, plus I smelt a scam or a mugging opportunity. With a quick look around to see who his friends were, I carried on walking while the guy kept in step with me, yelling ‘why are you all like this? If you hate talking to locals, why don’t you just go home… I stopped and losing my temper I said ‘I hate talking to people like you – this isn’t a normal conversation and I do not feel like talking to you’. As I walked off, he yelled at me ‘Go home, just go home then!’ I felt really bad, as he caught me at a bad moment in my trip, but shortly afterwards I was approached by two more men in a similar manor.

The Hawa Maha

These windows were designed to allow the women to watch the daily activities on the street below but not be watched themselves.

The street view of The Hawa Maha

I needed something fun to do and as I am interested in block printing. I booked myself into the block printing course at Anokhi Museum out in Amber. The only problem was the printer had to go home to his village unexpectedly for family reasons, so I was only able to do the block carving section. I arrived and was introduced to my ‘master’. I chose a design and was shown the process from transferring the design on to a pre-painted block of wood to actually carving the block. At the end of the day, I was able to take home a paisley block!

First step was to choose a design

Then to trace it out with soft punch marks to the piece of wood.

To create the circles you use this hand drill which is actually really hard to manage with only two hands!

These are the carving tools made from harden steel formed into different shapes

Its taking form!

Every now and then you check the original piece of paper to make sure you still following the right pattern.

I got to have a go at everything, but im not as fast at my master!

Finally you cut the patten away from the rest of the block.

Then cut the block down to size.

Mine took only one day to complete (with the help from my master!) The one he has in front of him took him 10 days!

I was in Jaipur for at least a week. Four days into my time there I felt the mood lift and I felt like smiling once again. On the sixth day I actually felt completely ready to hit the road. As I walked around town on the last day, I was stopped twice by the ‘why do all tourist act like this?’ guys. The first one I recognised, having been yelled at by him previously on my first day, but he didn’t remember me. I calmly talked to him, still uncertain if this was some sort of scam, but today I had patience. I managed to get away from the grumpy man only to be stopped by an older guy dressed in a suit asking the same question. I stopped and told him the truth, what had happened to me during my two and a half months stay in India, hence why sometimes I don’t want to talk to every Indian I see on the streets. He actually looked shocked and quickly apologised then asked me out for chai. I still couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling so I declined a hundred times before just walking off as he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The following day, I rode out of Jaipur with a huge smile on my face, ready to tackle anything once again.

Amber Fort