Sreelata shares the trials and tribulations of a short vacation at Jaipur. With her husband and a five-year- old, the bus journey between Delhi and Jaipur began. Read the tongue in cheek, humorous account of what happened in that Jaipur trip, exclusively in Different Truths.
The summer holidays had begun. Delhi was beginning to sizzle and burn and we had our chirpy five years old to wheedle and cajole! He wanted to get out! He couldn’t care less where, so long as we just moved! As five-year-olds go, ours was quite a determined little fellow and adoring parents that we were, we were no match at all. Since father dear had work in Jaipur we thought, why not a weekend there! And so it was decided.
Father, mother and son like the bear family in Goldilocks set sail for Rajasthan on a hot and dusty day in a hot and definitely not air-conditioned Rajasthan Tourism bus! The bus belonged to the era of the Neanderthal! It wheezed and screeched its way, albeit rather confidently if I might say so for not less than eight hours, on a journey that should normally have taken five while we along with our fellow passengers tried to keep our cool in more ways than one.
We were booked in at the Telecom guesthouse and needed to get there before they decided we were a ‘no show’. So, desperately looking for some mode of conveyance from the bus stand, we chanced upon a cycle rickshaw, which I gathered was the most popular method of commuting in Jaipur. Now these little tin contraptions powered by emaciated riders were not exactly confidence – inspiring! Wary in case it collapsed, we nevertheless followed the example set by our nonchalant co-passengers and tried to hop onto one.
Here I must admit that by no stretch of the imagination could we be called small, thin or weightless. My six feet two husband while not exactly a weight lifter looked like one next to our ‘rickshaw wallah’ who for that matter looked as if he had just been airdropped from Somalia. Nor did I in comparison look any less than a sumo wrestler. Each time we tried to get on, the rexine-seated tin can would tilt crazily and I would slip off, bags, baby and all. Now, more than a little embarrassed, but helped and advised by our bus friends, who had decided that a little assistance was required from them, we were eventually made to squeeze ourselves tight onto the pint-sized seat, one on top of each other, in pyramid fashion.
All this, after much haggling and more bargaining, by our new pals, with the half-starved puller. Bingo! The fare was reduced by more than half. Absolutely satisfied with their remarkable achievement our passenger friends now sent us on our way. Feeling like bereft orphans we, with a now tired, thirsty and teary little squirmer all squashed and folded double, tried to cling on to dear life as the ‘rickshawallah’, huffed and puffed and swayed his way through perhaps all of Jaipur’s crowded lanes! Seated awkward and uncomfortable, pretending to be invisible, we were deposited quite unceremoniously at our destination after what seemed like an interminably long ride.
‘Welcome’ read the guesthouse sign as we were registered in by a lackluster receptionist who took his time showing us to our room. And a nice room it was too. Large and airy with a double bed prominently placed, cupboards, a verandah, and a nice clean bathroom .To our joy, it was air-conditioned too. A cool bath, a refreshing nap we thought a cup of tea and we’d be in time to see the sights before they closed shop.
Husband dear who was prone to headaches was all settled after a few painkillers, and to the nearby market did we wander. Walking around aimlessly, looking at this and that, we got into an initially harmless discussion on the price of a pair of shoes for our cherub with the shopkeeper who deciding that we were ripe for the picking had trebled its cost. Soon the debate turned into an argument, the argument into a slanging match and finally into a fight with neither party giving way. Refusing to pay, we tried to walk away to the sound of the choicest threats and abuses we had ever heard. Each time a new one and my dear better half would lunge forward bristling and fuming, while I kept trying to pull him back begging him to ignore it and continue on our way.
So, weary after much ill temper we decided on tea at the five-star Rambagh Palace Hotel to calm us down! The holiday so far was certainly not going our way. Previously owned by the Jaipur royal family it had now been turned into a hotel run by the Taj group of hotels. So a rickshaw to the hotel saw us ride into a beautiful palace with sprawling lawns and driveways. It looked like an oasis of peace. But inside it landed us in the midst of a large group of visitors- tourists from abroad- having tea on the lawns. We made ourselves comfortable at a nearby table that was free.
We sat for a while waiting to be served. Nothing happened. Waiters kept going past us. This way and that! We now tried to catch their eye. No luck. Our flaying arms didn’t fare any better either. We then physically stopped a guy and asked him to serve us …he said that he would be back in a moment and disappeared forever. We then kept bobbing up and down desperately trying to get their attention but again no luck. We then wondered whether we were gate crashing or were in the wrong place, it was perhaps a private party …the steward came along and we pounced on him…he assured us that we were in the right place and that we would be served in a jiffy.
We were kept waiting for more than an hour with no one, absolutely, no one even remotely interested in serving us. Charity, it seems didn’t begin at home. So fed up and unfulfilled we walked out, with the manager’s apologies ringing in our ears, but no we would not turn back nor wait another moment. Now, back to the guest house, we thought disgruntled and more than a bit peckish. Maybe the management would rustle us up something edible if we were to perhaps turn in early?
At least the room was ours for the night or so we thought.
But the door wouldn’t open. It was locked from the inside! Alarmed we tried every which way, short of breaking it down, to open it. It wouldn’t budge. The verandah door at the back finally gave way and we entered to find our bags moved to a side, somebody in our bed, all tucked up and asleep and other members of a family with children going about their business, settling in, pretending we were invisible. Of the receptionist or staff, there was not a sight. Another discussion, another argument. They believed that it had been booked in their name… and they tried to browbeat us into believing it was so, till hubby dear produced the slip bearing our registration done in Delhi. Lo, and behold the tables were turned. We were now asked to please ‘adjust’.
We were tired but adamant. The now visible staff arrived at a compromise. They would get them to leave by the night’s train itself to enable us to use it for the night. How magnanimous. But we should allow them the use of the room till then to get ready. Tired, and in uncertain temper, having no choice, we trundled off again to while away time somewhere else. Our bundle of joy was now definitely not getting any happier. As for husband dear, his headache was back and my feet hurt.
We decided to go for a movie. After another round of wheeling and dealing, we managed to pinpoint a theater nearby, get tickets and were ushered in. This time … someone else had occupied our seats. Another discussion, another argument and while the ushers managed to sort it out, the movie was half over. We didn’t quite know whether to laugh or cry.
Hungry and resigned we then proceeded to dine at a well-known ITC hotel. After much consultation, the orders were placed. And we sat back to soothe our jangled nerves and settle our temper. The dinner was served. Vegetarians that we were, we were now served chicken corn soup and fish moiley. A mix up in the kitchen.
We gave up. It was just not our day.
Well, past midnight we turned up at the guesthouse and found to our relief that our unwelcome guests had left .We didn’t change or unpack; the next bus ride home was at dawn. So, we were back at the bus station well on time …just in case.
Pix from Net.
When computers hit the scene, life changed for Sreelata Menon. A Masters in History (Mumbai University) she was with the Onlooker and world Trade Magazines before teaching History to undergraduates and doing a stint in an advertising agency. A web content writer, she wrote blogs on freelance writing, and current happenings for online and print publications. Author of ‘Freelance Writing for the Newbie Writer’ her books also include Guru Nanak and Indira Gandhi for Penguin-Puffin.