Monday, October 10, 2011

Jodhpur Tales - Walking Up a Hill to Meherangarh Fort

It was time to see the Meherangarh (Mehrangarh) Fort where the present day maharaja still lives when he wants to. Sometime that day, I realized I didn’t want to deal with rickshaw drivers. Public utility drivers and I almost never meet eye to eye, and I try to avoid them as much as I can unless I’m dead beat and exhausted. It was a relaxing part of the day and I didn’t mind a good walk. I didn’t even consider that the fort stood on a 400-foot hill and the appropriate verb that follows is “climb” rather than “walk”, but the ascent is mild and I had good shoes. Without a map on hand, I knew I just had to follow a certain path that goes up towards the fortress visible from the old city down below.

What followed was one of the most fascinating walks I’ve had from my travels. There was no discernable city planning where their streets were concerned. They were anonymous, uneven, narrow, and crisscross into befuddling directions. But much like the explorers of old, my compass was the view of the fort heading up north. Most of the streets were deserted; people have gone off to work, and I contented myself strolling snail-pace with the occasional buffalos and camels. The ground felt like parched dust and I found the alternate colors of earth and pastel blue hypnotic.

I found a beautiful lady in red saree hitting a blanket with a stick, dusting away its sludge of slumbering memory. I nodded with a smile and she meekly waved her hand to an ascending curb even before I asked for directions. I thought I knew where I was going, but as a habit, I have learned to ask anyway just to make sure I haven’t invested my effort with a hundred of throw away strides. Every so often I would turn around and mentally retrace my path, just in case I needed to use this same route on my way down. And in each turn, I would stare at the harum-scarum box-shaped residential establishments down below. It was an awesome sight; I had to keep my mouth from inadvertent gape. Though there were sprinkles of blue, Jodhpur didn’t seem so “blue” from those vantage points, and I remembered a Romanian traveler curtly offering her observation about Jaipur: “It’s not pink! It’s dirty pink and fading!” I wasn’t sure if it was time to pass judgment on Jodhpur, but I wasn’t at the pinnacle of the hill just yet. Patience after all is a virtue.

By the time I was scaling up the craggy stairs made out of stones clamped together, my back was perspiring and my feet started to hurt. I didn’t know how long it took me to reach the top. I didn’t think it mattered. Just before entering the imposing entrance at the southwest of the fortress, I turned around for the last time. My eyes grew wide and a gasp escaped my mouth as the vista before me dictated why it’s rightfully referred as the “Blue City”. In beautiful patches of pastel blues, the color mystified me like Christmas lights in broad daylight, flickering flashes of what has always been my favorite color.


Not when there’s sorrow or grief,

But blue when there’s tranquility and serene beauty.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Going up a hill on well appointed stairs...

... and uneven steps of stones...

Making it at the top of the 400-foot hill.

A shed just before the main entrance. I wasn't sure if this was the memorial chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot defending the Meherangarh Fort.

How do you get from Sardar Market to the imposing fort above the hill? I walked!

Up next: In and around the majestic Meherangarh Fort Part 1: