I have so many pictures in my head of the sights we’ve encountered on our week-long car trip from Agra to Jaipur, Pushkar and Udaipur – the tiny twin temples in vivid pink and purple in the middle of nowhere, the intense rainbow of saris as women work in the fields, the huge multi-coloured flags we assume are for Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. In the palaces and forts we visit, there are curious young boys and shy school girls wanting a photo with me. The countryside is a feast for the senses with an endless variety of roadside shops in small villages, herds of goats, camels, donkeys and cows, incredible numbers of motorbikes and trucks, as well as the low greenery that covers this desert landscape, and of course the sound of horns.
In Delhi there is a law prohibiting cows to roam free but here in Rajasthan we find them eating in the median on the highways or sleeping in one lane of traffic or sauntering across as vehicles honk and brake to avoid them. They also wander the markets in villages leaving generous piles of excrement for people to avoid. Some are so thin their bones protrude dangerously and we wonder who feeds them and whether they are actually able to produce milk.
We have discovered truck art! Most trucks are beautifully decorated with colourful graphics, leaves and flowers, fretwork and sanskrit. There must be a huge business for truck painters! Added to this are the riot of bright pompoms and shiny tinsel tassels sold all along the highway in eye-catching arrays that look like Christmas trees run amok. Then, to top it off, many have vases with plastic bouquets attached to their driver-side windows. I especially liked the one with a single red plastic rose.
We had a bump from one of them in a tollbooth. Our driver, Mr Makesh, got out but the driver of the truck refused to come down. When he finally did, he accused our driver of backing up! Yelling ensued, a crowd gathered and gave opinions and finally the police were called. They arrived quite promptly, heard both arguments given in loud competing voices, and asked us too what we had witnessed. At last, Mr. Makesh got back in the car with a smile, saying he had been paid 1000 rupees for the damage. Justice was done.
This is a desert so there is sand and dust everywhere, the garbage piles up in dumps with nowhere to go, litter abounds, and women are constantly sweeping, sweeping, with their long horsetail brooms, trying for some measure of cleanliness. It is poor but very alive with commerce and community. The people we meet are friendly, eager to help, proud of their heritage.
It has been a wonderful way to experience this historical part of the country.