Thursday, December 13, 2007

Kota zarur

Nearly a week later. Our state of wandering is going on, moving from place to place (see the newly added map).

On our last day in Bundi we rented a geared motorbike and went around the lake area, which revealed great views on hills and exotic vegetation. We went past a palace where Rudyard Kipling had written part of his 'Kim' book. Not that the lakeside palace was so special, but the lake filled with lotus flowers was. On the way out of town a crowd was passing the road and had to slow down. Only then we saw that the men were carrying a small body wrapped in a blanket. A childlike arm stuck out of it, lifeless and pale. That piece of fray skin revealed more than anything else on that moment, while people silently followed the line.
We drove through various small towns, with kids running out and waving to us and some local people looking flabbergasted at you. We stopped for chai and some fried sweet things and straight away we were surrounded by local boys and guys who were asking our names, our country, profession, age and so on, all with kind and sincere intentions of knowing who you are. The usual, if you ever get used to that (depending of the situation). We were sitting there at ease, enjoying the chatter and activity. I caught the sight of Lohar gypsies on the side of the road (Lohars are a poor caste who are semi-nomadic metalworkers), where the female was slammering down a heavy hammer on a metal piece while her husband held it straight. The kids were half-naked playing around this scene, as one will see with many gypsy families. They posed for us -see photo's below- and as they asked for money we gave them some notes and change. In another small muddy town we had some warm food and sweet coconut ginger mash, which costed us 15 rupees together (just 30 eurocent). Prices are always swinging back and forth, from city to town to village.

Oh yeah, in the early evening we record a session with a local wedding band, especially for the fact that they had a violin player who also was the leader of the band. Mumad kept the band tradition of his family alive that his grandfather started in the 1940's. Islamic by its roots, the band therefore since adapted the use of other instruments such as the violin, which you otherwise don't encounter much. Rajasthani folk and wedding songs while the violin adds a different dimension to it. However he didn't play the violin acoustically, but electrical. Hooked through tangled wires onto a car battery and connected onto a rattling PA system. The levels were way over their limit on the highs and mids, since they just loved to set the echo full on. The recordings sound exactly as ear blistering as we experienced it live, so at least we can share that experience with you all. Whenever we edit them and put em here in a while. In the end, more and more people kept joining in to play. First it was just violin and tabla, then another drum, then some clanging shrutis, then a singer came along with a full echoed voice and soon the keyboard was dusted off to complete the sound overload. What should have been *just a few songs on violin* became a spontaneous session for more than an hour. The guys were all eager to put on their best showcase and giving us more than we bargained for. We had problems getting away from them, rather because they wanted to listen the recordings over and over, see the photo's over and over -even when badly taken- and so on.
We did escape as we had our bus to catch.

After this relaxing small town atmosphere of Bundi we went down to Kota., a big city where no tourists go. Simply because there isn't much to do that would interest the average tourist. Off we went in one of those squared loudly humming buses that you see/hear driving everywhere, filled with Indians and hardly any tourists. The driver and his ticket controlling buddy had taken a fancy to us and we could sit upfront with them (every bus has a vertical positioned 3-seater, facing the driver on the side). Sitting upfront is a good thing, as we heard from other tourists who regularly avoided the luxury tourist buses. Not really for the view -actually, seeing too much of an Indian driver might not be good for your nerves-, but more for the relative comfort that you find in not feeling the bumps anymore on the hard wooden seats elsewhere in the bus. Trust us, if you have to travel for a few hours, you'll be happy to step out unshaken.
For that, you do have to witness all the maneuvers that your designated driver makes or see what's coming at you in a similar fashion. I made a game out of it.

For the sake of fun, let's call it 'Ghostrider', the rules being these: to award points for the driver for every risk succesfully takes in overtaking someone while the nearing verhicle (be it truck, bus, motorbike) has to slow down or back off and therefore bows down to his road rage. Score! But the drivers in the other lane (ie. the opponents) can also score back by intimidating him in the same way and having their risk pay off for them as a team. So, is your driver right up his skill or does he constantly get the bad karma lid on the nose? If you have the willpower for this waste of time, I reckon it can be an interesting match. Especially during a looooong drive over bad roads in the dark. Do get the front seat at least, to become a bemused spectator in this wacky race of life. How's that for anticipating an otherwise ramshackle bus ride?

Kota, unfamiliar and unhyped, our trip being justified because we somewhat had daydreamed to get some recordings of Kanjar city gypsies. A plan made out of notions from a book and nothing else to back it up with. We asked around but in the 2 days we were there, we had no luck in finding the dancing Kanjar. Nor did anyone know about them, or wanted to. We could have asked gypsies and at roadside tentcamps, but it didn't happen. Except for some tapes/vcd's of local Hadoti electrified folk music and some filming Maarten did, we didn't do much. We did feel that the people of Kota were not used of seeing whites, especially the kids. We got stared at all the time, more from a silent distance than in the jeery way that we otherwise encounter in any big city or tourist hub. That felt strange, but nice too as we had less hassle. At some point after we had walked along the dammed river and over an open sewer cascade, we came into a local area where kids where playing some rough form of street cricket. When they saw us, they were allover us and looked at awe at these bizarre white folks. They probably had never seen a white person in the flesh and some were afraid of us, hitting us playfully with cricket bats. haha. The cluster of 20 kids followed us for quite some time, causing a little parade on our heels with other adults joining in while we walked through the islamic area. Bizarre fun, not a feeling of hostility in the air, just plain curiousity.
In Kota our room had a tv for the first time since Ajmer. It's awfull that when we don't miss such a thing at all during our travel, we watched it like dummies because we could. So we saw reruns of Seinfeld and some crazy Japanese game show. It could be worse. Like reruns of Friends that it showed -shudder-.

Perhaps we lost time in Kota for nothing, but we could relax a bit and feel as if we were in a real Indian city that did not fuel itself with tourism. That way we got no bother at all from touts, commission sharks or other folks that just wanted your money, but we were among normal people like as in a small town. A busy small town with too much traffic and pollution that is.

Below pics of Bundi and some last Pushkar pics.

Bhopal looking sharp

Walk with Rampal and Sita to their tent and their family.

Bundi views

Waterfall scenes

the little villages and lands around Bundi

the Lohar gypsy family, some portraits

the Paras New Band, tuning up the violin.


sushilsingh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sushilsingh said...

Bundi is a small town near Kota. Bundi was the capital of Hadoti

region. Bundi is 36 km from Kota is and is one of the unexplored

cities with a rich historical wealth. Once a part of Kota, it was ruled by

the Had Chauhans- an offshoots of the famous Chauhan clan who

ruled Delhi and Ajmer.
Please visit for more detail