After my experience of Eve teasing in Varanasi, my first instinct was to go home and nurse my resentment for India. I thought then that there was nothing that it could offer me that would bring back my enthusiasm for this beautiful but intimidating country.
I was glad I stayed; Jaipur gave me back my love for India and rekindled my respect and admiration for it. Indeed, I sought—and found—solace in the Pink City.
Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan in Northern India. Like any old city in India, it has old forts and palaces, ancient structures whose beauty is evident despite its layers of grime.
I did love the sights of Jaipur; the City Palace awed me, the Nahargarh (Tiger) Fort humbled me, and although the Hawa Mahal was under renovation at the time, I could see why people would travel for hours just to see it.
However, I owe my love for India now to the people I’ve met in the Pink City. And when I say people, I mean men. I saw very few women walking on the streets when I was there. Unlike in Varanasi, though, the men of Jaipur made me feel welcome, a person to be cherished and valued.
Most folks visiting Jaipur stay in the vicinity of the Old City walls, and it was on its edge where I chose to stay. My hotel used to be a residence of an old family, and in fact, it was run by family members.
The hotel manager was extra solicitous to me without being creepy, with always a ready smile whenever I looked his way. I never felt malice coming from him, and it was a huge change from Varanasi that it took me aback at first, but which I later enjoyed. Every time I was in the hotel, we would talk, and it was his company that started my growing appreciation of Jaipur.
The hotel was walking distance to the Old Palace and the Hawa Mahal, so every single day that I was there, I walked.
I walked to get rid of the feeling that Varanasi left me. I walked to prove to myself that not all of India is like the Holy City. I walked because every town and city I’ve traveled solo since I was 11 was always welcoming to me.
And finally, I walked because I wanted to get back the control that Varanasi took from me.
At first,the dingy structures in the Old City didn’t register with me. They were just there, old and grimy and full of people. Later on, however, I learned to appreciate them—the stunning architecture and amazing colors shone through despite the dirt.
I took picture after picture, wanting to always remember the Jaipur that opened my eyes again to the beauty of India.
On my second day of aimless wandering in Jaipur, I finally gave in and responded to a guy stationed in front of Hawa Mahal. He was one of the numerous shop owners on the street who approached walking tourists and offered them all sorts of things from jewelry and scarves, to their first-born children. (Joke)
The previous day, I ignored him twice, but he finally caught my eye. He said he was 21, seemed genuinely friendly, presentable, and not as annoying as the others on the street. We talked for a bit and he bought me a couple of cups of chai from a street vendor nearby. When he invited me to his shop, I said yes, knowing I have no money anyway.
His shop was in the second floor, directly in front of Hawa Mahal. It was their family’s and it was chock full of silver jewelry and other seemingly luxurious items.
After some small talk, he went back down to the street to get customers and left me on the shop terrace, sipping my chai and looking at Hawa Mahal as the sun set, pondering on the meaning of life and ending up just wanting another cup of tea.
For most people, Jaipur is the City Palace, the Tiger and Amber Forts, and the wonderful shopping experience.
For me, however, Jaipur will always be about redemption, about getting back the love for India that I thought I had lost forever.
I sought solace in Jaipur, and found it in the company and the friendliness of the young shopkeeper and the hotel manager. Because of them, and because of the Pink City, I have my sense of control back, and for that, I will always be grateful.