Jaipur, in all its grandeur, isn’t just for the affluent traveler. Shubham Thakur has a few humorous anecdotes, that will help you get by on low-budget travel to Jaipur with just about enough
Jaipur, as I have always incorrectly believed, was just some six hours away. My perception was severely altered last week; so much so that, it drove me to start writing a blog entry after almost six months.
So, it came to me one Friday evening, when I returned to my messy room in an empty hostel, owing to the Holi holidays after the mid-semester exams. One of my friends had left last week to stay at a backpacker’s hostel in Jaipur on my recommendation, and he had sent a text message to express his gratitude. Having stayed at a backpacker’s hostel before in Kochi, which was the first of my many solo trips, I had a great experience, and hence suggested the place to him.
Having the whole weekend to spare, I called up my friends Rohan and Atley, who appreciated the idea. Then with the Hostelworld.com website open on my laptop, I went from room to room looking for likely candidates for the trip. I don’t know whether it was my convincing technique learnt through the advertising course I’m doing this semester; or the recurrent images of ‘firangi’ (foreigner) women posted in reviews by travelers that made Gaurav join the pack (he should pray his girlfriend doesn’t read this). So, the four of us were good to go; with the night stay bookings done, and the Batman vs Superman movie tickets bought over Bookmyshow.com, our schedules were pretty much set. The excitement-time graph, if ever plotted, would show an exponential rise with every minute nearing our departure!
I had suggested we take the earlymorning bus so that a considerate part of the travel time wouldn’t be as much uncomfortable, owing to the not-so-amazing perpetually forlorn desert landscape. Like always, I was clear about which one out of the many unread books on my bookshelf would get a free Jaipur trip – I picked Makers of Modern India by Guha. But, Rohan and Atley had a paper collection at 8am in the morning, so it was decided to take the earliest bus post 9am from the bus station. We were now good to go!
After some quick phone calls, I managed to get the squad ready by 9am at the Ram Bhavan gate. Somebody had suggested poker, so the chipset was also included in the baggage. I had a feeling that I’d have to compromise on my strict anti-gambling policy for this sojourn. The auto dropped us off to the bus station just in time for a private bus leaving for Jaipur. It was finally happening.
The six-hour journey time was bipartitioned into sleeping and chatting. The legroom of the bus was about half as much as a coach-class seat on a low-cost Indian carrier. Still, I shouldn’t be grumpy because the weather God had been especially kind to us, as we witnessed pleasant weather after a week of the scorching Rajasthan summer. True to the conductor’s word, we did reach in exactly six hours; with equally high spirits, but with grumbling bellies and cramped legs.
It had been decided on the way that pizzas had to be devoured the moment we reached. A nearby Pizza Hut had been confirmed by Rohan, who had previously visited Jaipur in January for a half-marathon, which he completed in an excellent time of sub-two hours. The 8 minutes walking route ETA by Google maps verified the fact, and the road was full of street hawkers selling every eatable from pooris to parathas, and burgers to bhaturas. I don’t know whether it was the hunger-inciting smell, or the attractive prices ranging from 20-30 rupees a plate that had a greater share in making us walk faster towards our destination.
The dilemma was to dine-in or to get take-away and eat at our hostel. To save on the service charge of 7%, we zeroed upon the take-away option. So my friends enjoyed free Wi-Fi while we waited for the order to be ready, but the Wi-Fi lasted only as long as the gentleman sitting on the corner table had his meal.
We cracked jokes and Rohan got his phone recharged using an obsolete currency note I possessed. It was a creepy underground market which seemed to sell stolen/resold mobile phones, not much different from the Palika Bazar of my homecity, New Delhi.
With the pizzas packed and stacked, extra oregano sachets bargained for, we set out to find an auto. When we did find one, we started off at once only to reach an intersection where the left turn was the bone of contention between Google maps and the auto-driver. Unfortunately for us and worse for the pizzas, we followed the maps, only to reach a disrupted end due to some pipeline laying work. The auto driver was compensated, and we walked through a narrow street to bypass the disrupted road and took another auto, an open-air one this time! The ride was memorable, as we crossed the famous Hawa Mahal,dodging paan-spits simultaneously. Now following G-maps with extra caution, we reached our destination and bought some coke (cola) to accompany the pizzas.
The excitement mushroomed the moment we saw our place: Zostel, after the travel through the polluted and crowded streets. But lost in the excitement, apart from Jayant, all of us forgot our ID proofs. After a brief, but heated argument, the receptionist let us in on the condition that we presented soft copies of our ID proofs.
Finally, it was pizza time! I quickly microwave-heated the pizzas for my friends, who arranged the glasses and poured some coke in the mean time. The kitchen was a fully-equipped one, stocked with bread, milk, sauces, cheese spreads, gas stove, and even a coffee vending machine. Following the ‘each bite – half slice’ policy, the 5 medium pizzas, minus Jayant’s rubber Margherita, stood no chance of surviving more than 10 minutes. So much was the aroma, that it drew an Australian twenty-something female backpacker Lise, to join us for a bite. Lise was traveling solo and had come from Agra. Almost everyone who was lodging at Zostel was a foreigner, exactly as the reviews had suggested. We were so satisfied.
Though our movie was at 7:20pm, we couldn’t wait to check out the foosball facility they had for the guests. After that, we left for the movie. Travelling again through the dense traffic, we barely made it there on time. The movie was disappointing, everyone agreed. Jayant’s jokes about Superman being a dog and Batman a mosquito during the show transformed an all-serious movie to a comedy film. More often than not, the people sitting around us shared a laugh too.
So the movie was done. Next on our agenda was to find a Dunkin Donuts cafe and score some donuts, as they had a buy-3 get-3 offer for students, but on the condition that one must hold the promo-SMS. So we reach the shop and my phone battery is dead. Running around for a charger did yield results. I was just telling my friends why an android phone is better than an iPhone – the micro USB charger is universally available. My happiness was short-lived, because my phone decided to optimize apps at the donut store at thirty minutes past 11pm. Android users will sympathize with me here. I knew it was time to stop bragging about my ‘wise’ choice to go for an android handset. We had almost given up on donuts when Gaurav recognized one of the people behind the counter- he had come to Pilani during the sports fest with his donut stall! On the condition that the SMS would be WhatsApp’d to him, he let us have the donuts. Rohan and I ran helter-skelter looking for Maggi around the area, covering almost 2km. We succeeded in hustling 6 packets from a paanshop nearby.
I offered to take the lead and cooked three packets of fried Maggi. Oh! I can never forget the compliments I received from my friends, as well as the people around. Gaurav suggested I quit my degree of Mechanical engineering and become a housewife. I believe the compliment was genuine, for he didn’t say chef. Then I would know it was flattery, and he simply wanted me to cook the remainder three packets as well, out of laziness.
So after playing poker the whole night, we came back the next morning by a Volvo bus that cost almost thrice that of a standard roadways bus. But since we had the last row seats, with almost zero recline, it didn’t make much of a difference, apart from the air conditioning, of course.
Volume 5 Issue 12