The Christmas Gala ended late, so the normal staff was not there for the morning shift – and that did not help improve our impression of the place. Poor breakfast service and bad (instant!) coffee set the stage for our drive to Jodhpur. Iain is also really tired and we all need a day’s rest at this point.
There is a truly unbelievable amount of building work going on in India, and the infrastructure is clearly being expanded and improved on very quickly. At the same time, it is chasing a rapidly moving target as the population continues to expand very fast. I looked up the figures, and between now and when Mamta was in India, the population has increased by around 50% – by 400 million people! That’s the equivalent of dropping 50 entire Londons into India; a staggering figure. And while population growth is slowing, it still means that 25 years from now the population is likely to have another 400 million people, to reach a truly staggering 1.6 billion in 2040.
No wonder it feels more crowded now than it did 23 years ago.
It is interesting to look at the billboards next to the road; there are many, and there are just 3 main themes they advertise: Cement, Cellphones and Luxury. The cement ads are the most common and all talk about strength and engineering, whereas the cellphone ones (all Vodafone and Airtel) just show the brand name – clearly everyone knows them already. The Luxury ads are for a variety of expensive, aspirational products out of reach for 99% of the population – such as luxury homes, luxury cars, spa treatments and dream holiday resorts. It makes me wonder who the target demographics are.
That everyone knows the names of the cellphone providers is hardly surprising; there really has been a revolution here and it looks like it’s complete. Everyone, literally everyone, has at least one phone, from the women tilling the fields, to the nomads in the desert, to people in the slums, to people talking or texting while riding a clapped-out motorbike. Coverage is good too – even in the most remote areas, there is coverage, often even with 2G or 3G data access, and the 3G speeds are at least as good as what I get in London.
The road to Jodhpur is pretty bad in most places; patches on patches try to cover some of the potholes, but largely fail. It is a truly terrible road, interrupted by long stretches where budget was allocated to make it better. Mr Prakash tells us that this road is much better than some of the ones we’ll be using later, so I’ll perhaps get back to this when I see what he means 🙂
One thing that strikes me is how well-groomed almost everyone is; from young to old, rich to poor, the hair is neatly trimmed and combed; all of those street barbers are clearly doing brisk business. Some of the guides and driver have expressed surprise that Iain is “allowed to” have long hair; it clearly is just not something that boys do here. Not that his hair is particularly long, but it might explain why he’s been mistaken for a girl a few times 🙂
Jodhpur has a very different feel to it from Jaisalmer, perhaps because it is less dependent on tourism and actually produces something – both sandstone from the numerous quarries and high quality furniture. The roads here are also wider and there is less garbage lying everywhere; the air is even a lighter shade of brown. I think a big contributor to the smog that is here are the auto rickshaws, which clearly run on something stinky like diesel – many of them are very old and emit huge plumes of foul-smelling black smoke when chugging along.
We meet our guide at a lovely restaurant in Jodhpur where we have some great food and exchange experiences with another UK family that are on a similar trip to ours – except that all their travel is by train, that they have arranged it themselves and are going the “other way” so we could share tips about what to see and do next. I really look forward to the more nature-focused parts of our trip that are coming up!
The fort in Jodhpur is huge, imposing, impressive, and is much nicer than the one in Jaisalmer. It is quiet enough that we can take in the sights and enjoy the carvings and museum, and there are no street vendors to harass us. Instead, there is a beautiful, no-pressure gift shop where we pick up a few bits. Lovely.
As we are tired at this point, we thank and drop off the guide – a very nice man with some of the least accented English we have come across yet, which is also a relief.
Speaking of accents, the Indians obviously speak English very well and do so with a very characteristic accent that can sometimes be hard to understand, but mostly is not a problem. After 10 days in India, my ears get tired of it though, and I sometimes feel like telling people to “just speak properly, please!”. Grossly unfair I know, but hey 🙂
A short drive to our hotel called Rohet Garh is quickly done as it’s just 40km south of Jodhpur, and it is a relief to find that it’s absolutely lovely. We are met by friendly staff and are shown our large, luxurious suite, containing a big, raised 4-poster bed. The bed is so high a little foot stool is necessary for Mamta and Iain to get up on the bed – but it’s soft and cosy. Dinner consists of an excellent buffet and it is with great relief that we retire early and find that even the muslim calls to prayer are far away and do not unduly bother the peace of the place.
We’ll stay here for 2 nights and have a relaxing day tomorrow, refuelling for the next leg of the journey. I have finished my books (Daemon and then Freedom; great reads) and we’re all playing Candy Crush together – lots of fun 🙂