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The Pink City

After leaving Agra we spent one night in a nearby town of Fatehpur Sikri, which has a beautiful palace complex erected by Akbar the Great. The town was plagued by water shortages and thus abandoned shortly after Akbar's death. The site is impressive, but what makes the trip worthwhile is the enormous gate leading to the Jama Masjid mosque, if it weren't for all the postcard sellers we would have spent the whole day sitting on the stairs watching people climb up to the mosque. We left Fatehpur Sikri early in the morning and actually hailed a bus from the side of the highway to Jaipur, and, more importantly, paid the correct fare! Jaipur, the Pink City, was our first stop in Rajasthan. It is known as the Pink City because every single building in the city was painted that colour by order of the Maharaja in order to welcome the Prince of Wales on his visit. Not much of the pink remains today other than the older buildings, and to be picky I think its more coral than pink.
Jaipur's big draw is its shopping potential, apparently it draws buyers from all over the world. The big three: jewelry, textiles, pottery, are all incredibly difficult to resist, what makes resisting easier are the constant calls from vendors asking you to "just look" at their shop. We spent most of the time in the shopping district with our eyes firmly fixed on the ground and Yann muttering underneath his breath "don't do it, don't look up". We (inadvertently) avoided much of the trouble by visiting the city in the early morning, when none of the tourist shops were open.

Other than shopping, the huge Amber Fort outside the city is the most interesting of its sites. We timed our visit perfectly arriving at high noon in 40+ weather. Consequently we moved extremely slowly and drank lots of water, but were alone for most of the visit (other than Indian tourists who seem immune to the heat). One afternoon in Jaipur we fell victim to a tout, actually I shouldn't say we fell victim, because its my own damn fault for getting into situations like this one. Leaving the City Palace, we were approached by a jovial rickshaw driver who offered us a ride to a nearby village, luring us with the prospect of watching elephants bathe in the sunset at the Lake Palace. Once he mentioned elephants bathing, I was sold, even though Yann questioned the accuracy of my mental picture. Our tour consisted first of driving to the Lake Palace, which was comletely under construction, covered in scaffolding and, since its the dry season, the Palace, usually completely submerged in water was sitting in a pile of mud. Where were the elephants promised? Upon returning to the rickshaw I asked that we be brought to see the elephants. We were lead to a warehouse where a few elephants were tied up (three our of four legs shackled), looking fairly miserable. When we left the elephant keeper demanded money from us, for the "special experience". Next, our tour of the village consisted of being brought to a textile "factory" where a smooth talker tried to told us some story about being a "cooperative with all the money going back to the community", while trying to sell us overpriced goods. To make our tour even more fantastic the rickshaw driver made sexual comments about women including describing Swedish womens' breasts and laughing at Indian prostitutes. He then stopped for a shave before dropping us off at our hotel. Yann had his "I told you so" moment yet again. Our third day in Jaipur, Friday night, Yann promised to take me on a date, Indian style. We got tickets to see Vivah, a popular Bollywood new release. Before our movie, we splurged on dinner, opted to forgo our usual thalis and order a la carte. Our dinner included our new favourite Indian dish: paneer butter masala, the poor man's butter chicken, where the pieces of chicken are replaced with huge chunks of cheese. If that wasn't enough, we went to an ice cream parlour and ordered chocolate sundaes. It was then that we noticed a young street girl who sat outside the parlour watching children enter and exit with their families. She watched our sundaes until we finished the last mouthful. Whether it was strategic or not, she got herself a large strawberry ice cream. We were grateful for her presence, it brought us back down to planet Earth.

We waited outside the giant Raj Mandir Cinema for the doors to open. I found a 100 rupees note on the ground which covered the cost of our tickets. As we waited we were of course swarmed by little street boys who found us very entertaining and more potentially profitable than non-tourists. If they had been a little bit earlier then they might have picked up the rupees instead of me. They left us after about half an hour when another group of tourists showed up for the movie.

I will now give you a plot summary for the movie, from the internet movie database, followed by my own plot summary. One should note that Yann and I only made it to the intermission (after almost two hours of movie watching) and we may have missed some plots subtleties due to the fact that the movie was in Hindi, but I seriously doubt it.

Vivah Plot Summary
Pooja is an orphan, having come into her uncle Krishna Kant's household after her parents' death. He considers her a "gift", speaking of his aim in life being to nurture this daughter and to marry her off. Pooja lives with her Chacha(uncle) and Chachi(aunt) and their daughter Choti. The aunt doesn't love Pooja much, because Pooja is prettier than Choti. However the loving Chacha arranges a match for Pooja with the son of a wealthy, industrialist family from Delhi. Where Prem is the magnanimous bride-groom, who decides that he will spend a month of each year at his wife's parents' home, well-brought up Pooja is the perfect shudh Hindi speaking addition to the clan. The marriage day draws closer, but a fire in Krishna Kant's house will put Pooja and Prem's well-behaved love to the test

Vivah Plot Summary/Review (Emilie)
Pooja is an orphan, but luckily for her she is damn pretty and also extremely subservient. Her adopted sister Choti actually has a personality, she is funny and independant but she is damn ugly and thus an unlikeable character. Prem is a cool dude from Delhi who likes to speak in both Hindi and English as well as play racket ball, he is also unnaturally beautiful. Did I mention he is also extremely rich. Pooja and Prem are to be married, Prem doesn't seem too excited about this, until he is given Pooja's photo, she is hot. Prem's family arrives to Pooja's village driving a Mercedes. Prem and Pooj are both attractive so all goes well and they agree to be married after their ten minute exchange. For the next hour and half of the movie they exchange glances and try to sneak moments together while vacationing with their families, never would they exchange a kiss though, Pooja is well raised! They are so in love and Pooja is such a good woman, she serves tea extremely well and doesn't speak up too much, unlike Choti, she is just too loud if you asked me.
Moral of the story: it sucks to be ugly, it rocks to be rich. You might scoff at this, but really when you think about it, its pretty true in the world we live in. Bollywood has got it right, the underdog never wins unlike what Hollywood would like you to believe.

Note: Take a look at the reviews of this movie, it seems extremely well-liked, we even met a man in line who told us he had seen Vivah 7 times and that it was a "social commentary". Yann and I obviously missed something.

5 comments:

mom said...

Graham's movie has a Bollywood theme.Mom

Fred said...

I love those pictures guys. You always capture the essence of the moment....if that makes any sense :). A particularly like the picture of the driver being shaved....he looks soooo sinful, like he just took advantage of two sucker tourists :-)

2par4 said...

In case you were not aware...

Gillian's grand-father (Andrew Taylor) was Mountbatten's personal physician. He experienced India's transition years (Gandhi, independence). Emilie reminds me of Gandhi's friend/photographer Margaret Bourke-White in a few of these shots.

Namaste.

par.

Jean said...

Émilie tu commençes à parler comme moi. Tu es trop jeune pour abandonner ton idéalisme vis-à-vis la vie, la laideur, l'argent et la beauté . Vous prouvez tous les jours , avec peu de dollars ce qu'on peut accomplir.

Papa

Geneviève said...
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