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Not for the Faint of Heart – Message #6 – Jodhpur – Take 2 on Wednesday, September 14, 2005

on March 23, 2013
Hello again everyone!
I doubt I will have a chance to e-mail again until Friday sometime, depending on how functional Internet is in Jaipur and since I have been terrible at writing in my paper journal, I figure I will send out this last message today.
Earlier I had mentioned that I had not encountered any beggars in Rajasthan. Well I spoke too soon. Jodhpur is a city of 1.3 million and during today’s city tour, I was approached by half a dozen street people at every stop. It bothered me more today than it did in Delhi, Agra, Gwalior. I think because I was putting Rajasthanis on a bit of a pedestal because to this point their behaviour was so markedly different. But, my guide pointed out that Jodphur is Rajasthan’s second largest city (follows Jaipur) and that begging is very common in this city (and moreso in Jaipur) because both cities are more accustomed to handouts from tourists.
One thing that was different, in addition to the beggars, there were many “street people” who were “street performers” and they would perform tricks, play instruments, sing, dance, etc for money. So, to assuage my “have vs. have not” guilt I decided to donate some rupees to many of the street performers. The problem with this decision is that once people know you are donating to performers, all of a sudden there are more and more performers. I ended up running out of small change and ended up being told to “go home” by one performer that I couldn’t “pay”. Mean man!
Another thing that was different here compared with other cities is that there are a lot of village people (even more than Udaipur, it seems, but then again, Jodhpur is more than twice the size of Udaipur) and many of the villagers are part of the lowest caste (the untouchables). The untouchables are fairly ill-treated and poorly educated in India (even thought the caste system no longer “officially” exists here, it is in reality very prevalent and sometimes suffocating). A lot of the children who were begging were part of the untouchables and despite my guide telling them to return to their parents, we had a large group following us at a Mundore (sp?) Gardens. I felt really uncomfortable about this for a couple of reasons…one, these kids were literally filthy, some of them had open wounds and rashes or warts and although I feel horrible about this, I really did not want them to touch me. (I feel awful writing this and even thinking it at the time but at the same time I was quite seriously concerned about my own health and well being! Justifying, now.) Two, Rajasthan is split into four distinct geographic regions (each consisting of 3-4 large centres; Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur each belong to different regions of Rajasthan). Each of these regions has a unique dialect of Hindi (the rural, local language) and many of the villagers do not speak Hindi. So my second issue was that I could not communicate with the kids to ask them to stop “bothering me” to tell them that they would be better off getting an education rather than wasting their day begging from tourists.
My final stop of the day was at the Sardar market…it’s the local market and is one of the biggest and busiest in Rajasthan. My guide told me that people (tourists) normally spend at least an hour if not two in this market. I lasted for 30 minutes. The market was hugely crowded and quite cramped. Talk about having my Canadian roots reinforced through this experience. I really like my space and do not react well to being manhandled by strangers. The market was so crowded that whether you wanted to be pushed around or not, you were…ack. I had to finally give up on my efforts to experience the local culture and ask my guide to end the market experience way earlier than “normal” people…Vikram, my guide, got a huge laugh over my inability to deal with the crowds, the smells, the rickshaws with which I had repeated near collisions…aaaahhhh (primal scream). So, do I recommend Jodhpur, anyway? Yeah, I do. I think someone with thicker skin would handle it better than I did. But hey, I’m learning tons about myself during this trip and that can only be a good thing, right?
Gotta run…my time is up as there is another tourist wanting to send e-mail…learning to share.

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