Guarded by the colossal Mehrangarh Fort, the former capital and citadel of Marwar earned its sobriquet as the blue city due to the bluish hue of uniformly whitewashed houses in the town. Remember the fort shown in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, when Bruce Wayne comes out of Bane’s prison? You guessed it right – That’s the Mehrangarh Fort one of the largest forts in India.
Lemme be frank, ever since I watched The Dark Knight Rises, I wanted to visit this magnificent fort. And since I don’t mind travelling alone, all i had to do was to find the time. Being a student sure has its advantage in the form of vacations. And there I was, lying on a sleeper berth on a train from Delhi to Jodhpur in the hot night of the 8th day of October. First thing I did after arriving Jodhpur Railway station was to refill my medical kit. And that’s where I met Shyam, a chemist at the railway station. After a 5 minutes chat with him, I realized that he was no ordinary chemist. I was really impressed with his knowledge and wisdom. I was dumbstruck when he spoke to me about aerospace industries and advanced aircraft technologies as I’m not sure if even my Aerospace classmates would know so much about the industry. He urged me use my knowledge and intellect to solve the Indian common mans problem rather than concentrating on filling my bank balance by working for some Western country. He then gave me all the required information about Jodhpur city. After freshening up at the waiting room, I left my backpack at the cloak room and set out to explore the blue city. The first stop was the Umaid Bhavan – an imposing palace with 90% of it converted into a hotel. The museum is adorned with expensive royal artifacts and vintage car collection. Guess what, you could hire those royal vintage cars for a “mere Rs.50,000 for 2 persons for an hour”. Pretty cheap ha? And there are about a dozen of them to choose from.
My next stop was the iconic Mehrangarh Fort. Massive, majestic and monumental! Oozing the charm and grandeur of a bygone era, this gargantuan remnant of Marwar empire reciprocates its magnificent view from the city by offering a breathtakingly beautiful panoramic view of the city. Built on a perpendicular cliff at a height of 400ft above the skyline of Jodhpur city, this 100ft tall behemoth flaunts the title “the work of giants” conferred by Rudyard Kipling. Now coming back to my story, I found the ticket rates a bit too high for Indian standards. The camera fee is quite high but I can assure you, its worth every rupee. The museum offers a glimpse of the royal splendor that once ruled and thrived within the walls of the fort. After the museum, I visited the Chamunda Devi temple inside the fort. Being the Dussera season, there were 2 queues for men and women, and the mens queue offered no view of the city. The security guards told me that only women and foreigners were allowed up the top wall and that got me furious. After 10 minutes of argument with the guards and their superiors, they agreed to let me go up there. Trust me, even if you have to argue for over an hour, the view is totally worth it. After a milkshake in the royal cafe (just the bill is royal) within the fort, I decided to walk to the fabled blue city. But the scorching sun did not allow me to explore the entire blue city as I was nearly wasted by the time I got to the blue city.
I took an auto from the fort to the town via Jaswant Thada. Jaswant Thada is a beautiful cenotaph built-in intricately carved white marble. Located at a few hundred metres from the fort, it offers a splendid view of the fort. After I got out of Jaswant Thada, I could not find my auto anywhere. So I walked down the steps through the narrow alleys with small houses on either side. It reminded me of the Brazilian favelas I saw in movies except that there wasn’t anyone chasing me with AK 47s. I walked over a kilometer through these indian favelas to the clock tower. Since it was under maintenance, I could climb only up to the 1st floor. After walking for about 30 minutes through the famous old and new markets, I arrived at the railway station.
Since I had plenty of time before my next train, I decide to go to Kailana lake. It took 2 buses to get close to it and then it was a 3 km walk. The whole road looked deserted and I kinda felt stranded. Luckily an old man gave me a lift to the lake. And what I saw over there frustrated me. A very small lake with hardly any water and a puny garden. I just sat there watching the sun hide below the plains. And there was not a single auto or bus or taxi available. Awesome!! Walk walk and walk through the unlit deserted road looking for some vehicle that’d offer me a lift. Finally after some 250 metres, a Jeep offered me a lift to the main road. I made a friend in that jeep who helped me get back to the railway station. The irony is that Jaswant and me had no languages in common. I spoke broken Hindi and he spoke Rajasthani. But as it seems, you don’t need language to communicate ideas.
After dinner I reached back in my waiting room by 8:30 pm. My next train was scheduled for 11:45 pm. Shyam offered me a few novels (He keeps surprising me) which I thankfully turned down. I had a novel with me and I delved into the world of Frederick Forsyth. On my way to board the train at 11:30, I glanced at Shyam’s chemist cum buttermilk shop and found it closed. After wishing him a silent thank you, I boarded the train to Jaisalmer. The red sand stoned fort gleamed in the moonlight guarding the city and its inhabitants as it had done for the last 500 years.
Next stop : Jaisalmer !!
And that’s me trying some Rajasthani music.