Jodhpur pulsates color. Flower garlands and colorful fabrics dance in the wind against the blue walls of the city. Cows meander down the streets. I didn’t know much about the city; I only knew that I wanted to visit on my second trip to India after seeing the images of life happening against calming blue walls.
Our arrival into the city was easy. Our hotel arranged airport pick-up, so we found someone standing near the exit with a sign with our names. He led us to his car, past all the eager drivers who wait for passengers just outside the airport’s doors. I breathed a sigh of relief as the air conditioning hit my face, and we began our journey toward the town’s center.
Life began to unfold on the streets around us, and I knew we were nearing the heart of the city. We turned to the left, to the right. The driver honked at those in his way, and then he suddenly stopped. He parked the car and got out.
Alarmed. I jumped out after him. “This isn’t our hotel,” I told him as he was putting our suitcases along the side of the road. I had visions of us trying to navigate our way to the hotel with our suitcases.
He didn’t speak English so my words hit him and fell to the ground. Incomprehensible.
A man then came out of a restaurant and explained that the roads are too narrow for cars so we would travel the rest of the way in a rickshaw. He brought our suitcases onto the patio of his restaurant where he welcomed us to sit while we wait.
Our rickshaw honked when he was outside the restaurant. We laughed. Honking is such a way of life in India. We crammed in–our suitcases, Emma, and then me. As soon as my foot stepped up, we were off–the forward motion knocking me into my seat.
The roads seemed to narrow with every turn, but that didn’t deter our driver. He kept on driving. And honking. Sometimes I love the excitement that comes from riding in rickshaws in India. In this instance, I couldn’t stop saying, “oh, shit!” as we narrowly missed cows and people.
My shoulders were tight, hand clenched around a metal bar. I cringed as the driver tried to make his way down a road that had a motorbike parked on the side. It was one of those instances where you try to make yourself smaller as if that is going to help the rickshaw fit through an opening that is too small.
He hit the bike.
“Holy shit!” I muttered as someone came out of a nearby shop and started yelling at our driver. The two of them shouted back and forth, while Emma and I just looked at each other. I was trying to decide if we should get out and try to walk to our hotel or if we should stay put? The bike owner ended up moving his bike, and the driver continued on before I could do anything but sit back and hope we’d soon be at the hotel.
I was relieved when we finally made it to our hotel, but what we quickly learned that walking on the streets comes with its own difficulties. Someone is always behind you honking, wanting you to move out of the way. There aren’t sidewalks, so you’re left zigzagging through piles of cow shit, up on ledges to let the rickshaws by, in the middle of the road so the motorbikes can whiz around you.
The only way to avoid it is to hire a rickshaw driver.
On our way to Mehrangarh Fort, we hit two rickshaws. After walking through the city, though, these minor hits seem insignificant. I like to think of it as a city full of bumper cars.
The fort sits over the city, offering a spectacular view. The blue is prominent–calming, even. The chaos from earlier seems to float away with the breeze.
As we were leaving the fort, there was a rickshaw dropping off another family. I negotiated a price, and we began our trip back to the city.
We didn’t have to travel far for the mood to shift. As soon as we rounded the corner from the fort to begin our descent down, a group of men stopped the rickshaw and started yelling at the driver. Apparently, rickshaw drivers wait just down the hill for passengers. Since we picked our driver at the top, he skipped the line. They were yelling at me about the number system, telling me that I needed to go with them and that they would offer the same price.
Our entire rickshaw was encircled by angry drivers. It was terrifying. I wasn’t about to get out of our rickshaw and go with one of these men who were yelling at us, so I told the driver to go. He hesitated to the point where I had to shout to be heard over the men, “Just go. Go!”
The closer we got to the city, the more relaxed I felt. The commotion of the city paled in comparison to the mob of angry drivers we just left behind.