2005 #10: Of Pigs, Kids, Monkeys and Crrricket

We spent a relatively pleasant night in our room – particularly pleasant for me because I had a full-on, raging bout of Delhi Belly by now and having our own bathroom was vastly preferable alternative to the public toilets I have seen in India so far! Well, when I say pleasant, it’s all a matter of perspective really, isn’t it.

We had breakfast (plain rice for me) in the lovely little garden outside our room and chatted with Ragoun and met his gorgeous little nephew, Kush. Kush is about 18 months old or so, with big brown eyes, curly hair and a lovely toothy grin. I never laid eyes on his mother all the time we were there, but we did see a lot of Kush with his uncles. They obviously adored him and carried him around so much his feet hardly ever touched the ground.

We then went for a wander out into the streets and alleyways of Bundi, which is a very old town, part of which is surrounded by an enormous ‘city wall’. Right up behind our guesthouse is a fort (Taragarh) and Bundi palace, perched on the side of the hill – a past Maharaja of this reputedly having been friends with Rudyard Kipling.

Of course there are cows all over the place here, but we also noticed that there is no shortage of street pigs either. We even saw a doorway in the side of a house, and upon perusal discovered that the pigs had a room of their own! They looked pretty happy about it too. There was initially cause for alarm when we had to squeeze past some of these creatures in very narrow alleyways, but they took no notice of us, so in the end we all got on just fine together. Paul even took a photo of me chatting to some kids while a pig walked between me and an awning post, an inch or so from my legs. I’m quite glad I didn’t know about it at the time. Who knows what sort of effect jumping out of my skin might have had on my Delhi Belly situation….I’ll leave it to you to fill in that particular picture.

Some of the kids – generally the ones in school uniforms – were very nice and we had great chats with them. Then there were the other ones. ‘One photo, one photo!!’ ‘One pen, one pen!!’ Paul soon had that sorted though. When they did their ‘one pen’ bit, he’d put his hand out and say ‘Yes please’. Or if they asked ‘What is your name?’ he’d answer ‘One Pen’. They’d look at him for a moment then crack up laughing. And after tiring of their smartarse antics (which didn’t take long) I said to a bunch of them ‘Tum bahut sherati ho!’ (spelling?). This means ‘you are very naughty’ in Hindi. Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads – they didn’t expect to hear that from a white woman! It was well worth the days it took me to learn that sentence to see the looks on their faces. Funny the little things that amuse us, isn’t it?

We wandered down the road and through the town and watched a man making the lovely round metal pots they carry milk and stuff in. How amazing – they use only the most basic of equipment and tools and do an absolutely lovely job of these round, shiny pots. I could have watched this artistry for hours! We stopped and visited with a jeweller in his ‘shop’ – again more of a hole in the wall than the kind of shop we know. And amazingly, we saw some guys sitting across the road listening to New Zealand play Pakistan on a radio! How about that – we never watch the cricket (or any other game) in New Zealand, and then we go to the other side of the world, travel to a little town out in the wop-wops of Rajasthan and hear our own country playing on a radio a few feet away! We yelled out to them that NZ was where we are from and I stood up and did a bit of a victory dance, because our country was winning. All of us were grinning our heads off with delight. One of those fun moments that life gifts you with every now and again.

Now apparently in Bundi, if you keep still for 5 minutes or so, somebody will paint you. There are paintings everywhere around here – around the doors, up the alleyways, on the sides or houses, etc. We stopped to take (yet another) photo of a painting on the side of a house when a young woman leaned over the balcony above and yelled out to us to come up and see her house. At first we were a little hesitant at invading her privacy, so she came downstairs and almost pulled us in physically. Up some narrow steep steps (naturally!) we went and were introduced to her sister, her sister’s baby, her brother, her other brother and his friend, her mother and her grandmother. We were then treated to a look at her wedding album – a very colourful affair indeed. She was a very proud young bride and was particularly chuffed with herself because downstairs she even had a laundry room! She decided that she was going to gift me with some of her art, and proceeded to colour in the embroidery on my shirt with gold paint. I thought that was rather sweet and giving of her, then she held her hand out and said ‘Now you give me gift”. They’re not backward in coming forward, these people, as I was rapidly gathering. All I had to give her was a postcard of our ‘village’ Waihi, back in New Zealand. I’m not sure if she was very impressed with that – perhaps she expected a gold-plated pen and a few hundred rupees, but she was just plain out of luck. Nevertheless, she still seemed to enjoy our company and wanted us to stay for chai. But we wanted to go, as we didn’t have a lot of time on our hands and this was all getting a little overwhelming, so we took photos of them, them with us, etc, showed them the photos and made our way back outside. Having first been given a grand tour of the laundry room.

We wandered through the sabzi bazaar – the vegetable market – and then over to a local ‘baori’ which is a step-well, about 46 metres deep. Apparently built in 1699, it has beautifully ornate columns, carvings on the walls of god scenes and many many steps down to where the water is. Well, more like green slime actually with objects of dubious origin floating in it, but I don’t think they really use it any more.

Wandering back through the bazaar, a woman came up to me and pointed at my anklet with great concern. She didn’t speak english and I didn’t speak her language, but it was obvious she was greatly concerned that I only had one anklet. I had actually tried to find another to wear, but there were none that appealed to me at any of the shops, so I just had the one. I think she was convinced that I had lost the other one. We gesticulated at each other for a while about this and then she wandered off with a frown on her face. I was quite touched though at her concern and her efforts to let me know.

We wandered back to our Haveli, hot, tired and dusty, and on my part a little concerned at the increasingly urgent need to visit a clean toilet. A nice luke warm shower and a bit of a rest later, and I wandered up to the rooftop to take photos of the sunset and the Palace. I was cruising along quite nicely, getting some good shots and leisurely watching the monkeys on the roof next door, when I heard a shout. “Get down, get down!! Monkeys!!!” It was Ragoun’s father-in-law, and he looked so upset that I looked back at the monkeys to see what he was on about. There were a couple of big males that had been bossing the females around rather nastily, and in the few seconds I had been looking away had started to edge towards me with their mouths open and their fangs showing. Well, I think I broke a world record for climbing down that ladder. I did 2 stories in about 4 seconds flat! Ragoun then came up to me and explained that the monkeys around here had no problem with mugging human beings and I was wise to use more caution than I had been. No need to tell me twice!

After my heart rate recovered we sat down in the courtyard and had dinner. We chatted with Ragoun again and the subject got onto snakes. He said how he and many Indians were very scared of them and was telling me a story of how there was one in his room one time, when I saw a movement on the ground by my feet. Once I was safely standing on my chair (again, another speed record), I looked down and saw that was just a toad hopping by. It did, however, spur me on to go and get my jandals (flip flops). As though that was going to be protection from snakes! But it gave me the illusion of being safer and I guess that was the main thing.

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