“Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.”
– Walt Whitman: “Song of the Open Road”
I travelled the open road. On the 19th of May, 2008, I left for Jaipur – the capital of the state of Rajasthan. Jaipur – a city reeling from the aftershocks of serial blasts, a city striving to get away from the distinctions of caste…a city that is the capital of my native state. This travelogue, hence, is not a list of what is worth seeing/visiting/buying/eating/etc/etc in the city – but is an account of what I saw, smelt and felt in the city.
Situated on the eastern frontiers of the state, the ‘Pink City’ – with reference to the excessive use in the city’s monuments of pink sandstone – is one of the most visited cities in India. And it is hard to miss why – the city’s draped in grand palaces, huge gardens, magnificent temples and majestic gardens. Legend has it that the use of the aforementioned pink sandstone was in accordance with the Indian belief that the colour was one of welcome, and the Ranas – the erstwhile rulers of the kingdom – wanted to welcome the visiting Prince Albert in a suiting way.
Jaipur is named after its founder the warrior and astronomer sovereign Sawai Jai Singh II (ruled 1688 to 1744). The decision to move out of his hilltop capital Amer was compelled by reasons of growing population and paucity of water. Moreover in the early seventh century the power of the great Mughals was dwindling with its aging Monarch Aurangzeb and after several centuries of invasions the north was now quite and the wealth of the kingdom had become greater than before. Seizing upon this opportune time Jai Singh planned his new capital in the planes. Jaipur is a corroborative
effort of Sawai Jai Singh’s strong grounding in sciences and astrology and a Bengali architect Vidyadhar with a strong instinct for planning.
The City Today:
As I said, I left for the city on the 19th, and was promptly, thanks to the Indian Railways, in the city on the 21st. The purpose of the visit was strictly personal – I was there to attend a Prekshadhyan camp. It is a form of meditation stipulated by the Acharya of my sect, and I was there to somehow salvage and repair the thrashed pieces of my life. Upon landing at the station, the first feeling I remember is of chaos. Now, generally, that is a good thing – a sign of incessant activity. But there, it was of decay and destruction – maybe that was due to the blasts that had wrecked the city a couple of days before, maybe that was just my state after having travelled in a non-AC compartment across the searing heat of the desert-ish plateaus of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Honestly, amongst the three, I am not sure which is worse – a desert state, a bomb-wrecked city, or the Indian Railways.
So, I landed in the city, and proceeded towards Malviya Nagar – a corner of the city named after a college, which in turn is named after Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. The location of this camp was dead opposite a certain Gaurav Tower – which, judging by the number of people flocking it – seems to be the only thing akin to a shopping mall seen by the city of Jaipur in its entire history. I must say that even in the wildest of my dreams (of late, thanks to the likes of Upen Patel winning the ‘Best Newcomer – Actor’ type of awards, they’ve been pretty wild fearing such prophecies of the End) I could not have imagined that the organisers have had the audacity to locate a meditation camp bang centre to a (actually three – one called Crystal Court, and the other’s name I forget) shopping mall – that too one which has a giant TV screen attached.
However, knowingly or not so, they did seem to have created a perfect analogy of the world. The spiritual and the material – side by side, close enough for one to leap into the other – and yet, both divided by a thin line!
The next week I spent in meditation – the details of which are so boring that they hardly merit mention. However, in conversation with my guru during the week, I realised that most concepts associated with the technique (Prekshadhyan) are similar in spirit to what Coelho writes in his works. Both talk of the necessity to forget what we are to become what we can and ought to, that we must let loose of the ghost of the past, if we are to eat the fruit of the present. Slowly, as the days got more cumbersome, and the food less and less similar to what is normally called food, I appreciated this truth greatly, and realised that I’d been an ass to waste such a lot of time and resources to have come here, and should have rather spend the time at Crosswords and read the Brazilian. However, once the delusionary effects of heat had passed, and I was back in my senses, I reached the conclusion that I had been as ass in thinking like that regarding the meditation (which is generally the conclusion I reach after making an irreparable mistake) and that this was better than reading a mere book.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crazyegg95/5655763/]