As I left the palace behind my rear mind mirror saw its grey and white peeling plaster, the crevices of damp black where the concrete resurfacing had long since died, I still heard the chanting of the previous night. The song poems of the Hindu scriptures and because I didn’t understand what I was hearing, became immortal. Songs sung at night are about a beauty that is past and sad. It’s all a passing reminder, a voice of isolation, a voice of calling because every day I am always leaving. Always catching up with the next moment having lifted firmly in the one that has passed.
This sense of loss having arrived in a place you've just found was mirrored by the lake mimicking the sky it was so calm. There was me cycling and women in bare feet collecting wood to carry in bundles on their head. As the palace receded further from my view and I was still fresh and lively enough to think, I wondered how many ways there are of being a person, and winked to myself as I rode away on a simple vehicle that carries me vast distances so far I could never walk.
Adventure has hope and forward motion built into its strategy otherwise why start but there was also a muddledom of understanding why I was here. I supposed it was about the amazing things that never surface on time. You expect from such a magnificent background, the palace, the lake the fisherman as iconic as you can imagine that something big would happen to alert me to the answer I was seeking, but it’s never quite like that. Instead life is mostly quite dull and as I cycle along nothing can be said of it and adventurers like me have to exaggerate to justify being here.
My legs hurt sometimes and when I stopped for chai I can register pleasure and pain. I think about the freedom and the strange sweetness of being alone, the fulsomeness of trying to be different, but other than accepting the smells of a dusty road, the sounds of musical tractors passing and the bumps along the way, there had to be a simple acceptance of what I was doing that got me through the day.
I was off the main arterial highway 52 and now cycling along a gentler back road, the 37a to Malpura. There were no banks or businesses of any size just strips of villages barely a building wide on the edge of broken tarmac. Small stores sold everything a tractor driver and farmer could want so as to process crops in fields that lay in every direction as far as you could see. The countryside to the horizon held no repositories for culture, stored books, libraries just a deep spiritualism within small temples and alcoves dressed with figurines of Lord Rama and burning sticks of incense. There are surely a hundred Indias and maybe I only see the one from the roadside but highway India transects the length and breath of this boundless continent. For knowledge of India's vast cultural history the city is where you need to go but it's the thrilling days I'm looking for where nothing really happens and a t 116kms to Jaipur I stopped at a village for chai and had only 200 rupees (£2) in my pocket for the day.
Typically a village chai stall would have a stone table stood on bricks, an ageing gas bottle, sometimes clay cups or glasses not yet replaced by cardboard cup - which are all the rage on the highway - a rusty wind shield stood around the burner, glass box full of bread pakodas and vadi pavs - coarsely ground dal battered in small dumpling sized balls. Steel pits of ash from an early morning fire and always strips of puffed rice, corn flakes, nuts and spices hanging on a line. The chai man would look after me, he would see me as his until I got up and paid and then I would belong to someone else.
Without the trucks you hear quietness and birds, not quite singing but chatting across the street. There is a chai culture, no coffee, teachers and motorbikes, plastic chairs. Everything is old, or at least looks it with the stained concrete and cracked walls, just like the palace and its fight between village life and nature. Every village would be a jungle in months without the tilling and hoeing, the scraping and painting and the footprints of people going about their business stamping down the weeds.
At Malpura I stopped for a bowl of vegetable stew with sweet chutney. Beautiful steaming mound of yellow chick pea and lentil mash, chilli’s standing like sentinels on the top. As the man served the boy at the back was hand forming balls of dough that are fried in the blackened pan.
Map of the Day