Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wandering Through Johri Bazaar.

Chantale leading the way.  Does she know where she's going? :-)

From Hawa Mahal, Chantale, Simpy and I made our way to Johri Bazaar. By tuk-tuk of course.  Good luck brought Simpy into our lives that day because with her, we had a native Hindi speaker by our side.

We easily flagged down a tuk-tuk and Simpy immediately talked with the man about where to take us based on the information in the map that Manisha had given us.  There was a bit of back and forth talking and then Simpy turned to us to tell us the man wanted 100 rupee.  I know she was expecting us to negotiate the fare but 100 rupee is barely $1.50 USD so how much could we really save by haggling?  Besides, I'm sure the driver could use the money so both Chantale and I agreed to it. 

Based on the map that Manisha had drawn out, it seemed like Johri Bazaar was *just around the corner* but the ride was a lot longer than I had expected it to be.

We got dropped off on some street and there was a bit more talk between Simpy and the driver that included some fingers pointing - he was giving her walking directions.  So, Simpy was the guide and we dutifully followed her having absolutely no idea where we were going.  The place was noisy, congested, dirty, packed with people on the move.  There's stuff everywhere.  It's full of daily Jaipur life and here and I absolutely love to be immersed in places like this.  The sights, sounds and smells are sensory overload but I would not have it any other way.  Is it any wonder I love old cities?

Chantale pretty much immediately started taking photos.  She is in her happy space here!

Simpy had to ask for directions a couple more times and then we arrived to a narrow street filled with jewelry vendors.  Aha!!  Smart girl.  I finally put two and two together.  She had basically asked the tuk-tuk driver to take us to the part of the bazaar with the jewelry shops and he dropped us off as close as he could.

We veered off the main road down a narrow alley that was too narrow for vehicles other than motorbikes.  We had to be mindful of them as they would often zoom by us at a speed faster than I would expect given how many people are also sharing the same pavement.

Every which way we turned our heads, there were shiny baubles in sight.  I was certain that somewhere, in this narrow alleyway, would be the gift that Chantale was looking to get for her friend in Nepal.  Hopefully, with Simpy's help, she'll get a good price for it as well.

We noticed a woman working on putting together a bracelet.  I was curious to see what she was doing so I walked over and peered down to watch her carefully picking up beads with a pair of tweezers and attaching them to a form of some sort.

She didn't notice us until she heard our voices and then she looked up.  With Simpy translating, we told her we were just watching and so she continued to do her thing.

Of course, she knew we were also potential customers so she brought out a tray of her bangles for us to look as.  Oh, how pretty they were.  I asked Chantale if she thought her friend would be interested in something like this and she thought about it.  I pressed on with a suggestion to get the bangles because they are easy to carry.  Neither of us has much luggage space and who knows what else she will buy while she's in India.

Since I wasn't interested in any jewelry to let the other three women talk it out.  More samples of the woman's work came out for Chantale and Simpy to look at.

As incentive for us to buy something from her, the woman pulled out a newspaper article mentioning her name.  Apparently, she has won awards for her work!   She also told us she has a daughter in college.  How can that be?   This woman barely looks older than a teenager herself!  Well, they do marry young here so it would not surprise me if she had her child when she was in her teens.

I don't know if the article sealed the deal or not but Chantale did buy a few bangles from the woman. 

We spent quite a bit of time her and the woman was more than happy to chat with us but we had to move on so Chantale pulled out the map and somehow, Simpy managed to get walking directions from the woman.  Next place was our lunch stop.

We continued what I would describe as our meandering through the backstreets of Johri Bazaar.  Personally, I could have cared less whether or not we made it to the restaurant.  I was just happily enjoying my time.  Some people would describe this place as a hovel because it's so full of squalor but I have long learned to see beneath the facade.  To me, this was a fascinating place.  My head was spinning in all directions trying to take it all in.  I have no idea where we were exactly but here are some of the photos I took on our walk.

It's a tradition for some Indians to hang a strand of chilis and limes over the front entrance to ward off evil spirits.

There were a lot of street food vendors here.  Most were cooking up food items that I could not identify.  I think the fried stuff would have been okay to sample but not anything else.  It's just my second day in India and I do not want to get Delhi belly in Jaipur so I refrained even though there were somethings I would have at least nibbled on to have a small taste out of curiosity.

I took this photo of the pretty marigold necklaces and then my battery died.  How could that be?

Stupidly, I had forgotten to check battery life before leaving the apartment this morning.  Chantale offered for me to use her spare camera but I graciously declined as I didn't want to leave her without a backup.  So, I switched to my Samsung Galaxy which has a pretty camera for taking photos in daylight.  I did miss out on having a real zoom lens but I could make do.  Minor inconvenience over and it was back to taking in the sights and sounds of Johri  Bazaar.

It's hard making a living in India.  I looked at these two women selling what looked like naan and dal and wondered just how much money they would take home at the end of each day.  I cannot imagine it is much....probably just the equivalent of a few US cents.

Indians are deeply religious.  There are altars everywhere. Even at the base of a tree.

I love the old, crumbling buildings here.

The concept of privacy is so different here than in the US.  No way in the US would someone be getting their haircut in plain sight of passersby.  Okay, some hair salons do have big windows that you can peer into and see what's going on but nothing like this.

No surprise given the narrow alleys in Johri Bazaar that motorcycles are popular form of transport here.  In India, I've seen entire families making their way around on a motorcycle!  Where there are motorcycles in Jaipur, there is a lot of motorcycle honking going on to warn someone they are about to be run down if they don't move out of the way!

Somehow, we managed to make our way to one of the main streets.  We were still following Simpy who was still occasionally stopping passersby and asking for directions to the LMB Hotel.  That was the place that Manisha had recommended we have lunch at. I had only glimpsed the map so I was pretty much clueless as to where it's located within the boundaries of Johri Bazaar or if it's even in Johri Bazaar.

Having left the jewelry section behind, we were now in a general shopping area - you can get clothes, textiles, home goods and all sorts of what nots here.

Indeed, it was the colorful dupattas hanging above one shop that caught Simpy's eye. She had planned to buy a couple while she was in Jaipur - one for her mother and one for herself.  Knowing that, I naturally began keeping an eye out for her.  I don't know if it was because she was with us or not but whenever she stopped to inquire about price for something, the vendor hiked it up very high.  I made a mental note to physically distance myself a bit from her in case she did see something she liked.  I didn't want the vendors noticing me or my expensive dSLR and artificially inflating the price for her because they think she's bargaining for me.

The items in one store did catch her eye and we stepped inside.  I was grateful to just be able to sit down and relax a bit in the comfort of the airconditioned room.  Simpy immediately went about shopping and in no time, was left in the company of one of the salesmen.

I don't know what it was about me versus Chantale.  Perhaps, she had taken interest, albeit even the slightest of one, in an item but another salesman soon latched on to here trying to sell her a large piece of cloth that you can either hang up to display or use as a bed cover.  I just kept to myself, not uttering even a squeak of a word that would give even the teeniest hint that I am interested in something.  In fact, I had no interest in any textile.  Not that I don't love them.  Au contraire as a matter of fact.  I just don't have any space in my suitcase for anything large.  And I was in no mood to have to work to fend off a persistent salesman.  So, I let the two girls have their time.

I watched the very patient salesman take down one dupatta after another for Simpy to look at.  She even called her mom to make sure she was getting the right thing.  Eventually, she bought two dupattas.  After we left the shop, she told me that she had paid more than she had expected.  My heart sank a bit as I still suspected they had deliberately jacked up the price before negotiations started and so they ended at a higher point.  But Simpy was so sweet about.  She said that it was okay because she was treating herself.  I told her that as over her years, she needs to remember to occasionally treat herself - that it's okay to sometimes put herself above others.  She aslo told me that she is getting married in February and I could see just how excited she was about it.  I am happy for her.  I wished her well and who knows, maybe I'll get a wedding invite?   I would most definitely come back to India for a wedding!

 We walked a short distance, continuing on the path we were on, passing by more shops selling this, that and the other.  By now, no one was interested in shopping.  I had cooled off inside the shop but that did not last long.  I was beginning to wilt under the summer heat of Jaipur.

Thankfully, we soon arrived at the Lakshmi Misthan Bhandar Hotel, popularly known as just LMB.  We were greeted by a very tall Sikh manning the door.  Inside was a sweets shop - two glass front counters filled with all sorts of Indian sweets.  It would be nice to return to a place like this with someone who knows what all the things are and to sample a few.  Today was not that day.

Adjacent to the sweets shop is the restaurant.  It wasn't busy so we were seated very quickly. 

The waiters here speak good English so we had no problems ordering our simple meal - some rice, dal, and chicken curry.  I love just plain white rice and any sort of dal so I am happy with just that.  Chantale and I share an obsession with garlic naan.  I am already realizing that is a *must have* for our table and that I might have to fight with her for it.  I will win!

Chantale and I had agreed that we would treat Simpy to lunch.  She ordered a different dish than we had which was more than fine with us.  I am happy to let her enjoy whatever meal she wants to eat.  As expected, the final bill did not come close to breaking the bank book.  Even at a nice restaurant like the one at the LMB Hotel, cost of meals is very reasonable.

The meal was okay.  It was nice to chat, as best we could, with Simpy.  Before lunch was over, we were friends on Facebook.  It will be nice to keep in touch with her, especially to see photos of her on her wedding day 😁.

Simpy had told us that she was taking the 4p train to return home so we didn't linger long over lunch. 

Here's a narrated video of my walk with Chantale and Simpy.  You can hear all the incessant noise of the motorcycle horns!

The only break we took on our walk was for Simpy to get a cup of freshly pomegranate juice.  I would have indulged but again, a bit leery about drinking the water or drinking from the glass that was washed in who knows what water.  In the past, I have had juice vendors poor the juice into my water bottle and that has worked but today, I wasn't craving pomegranate juice badly enough to do that.  Maybe next time.

The last photo I took in the backstreets of Jaipur was to these two young boys who came over to stand by the door jamb to look at the two Asian women walking by.  They look happy and very much at ease.  I love the simple photo.

By now, it was time to hit the road - for us to head back to the apartment and for Simpy to go to the train station.  From my trip planning, I knew that our apartment was close to the station so I offered for us to pay the tuk-tuk driver not only to drop us off first and then continue on to the station with Simpy so she wouldn't have to pay anything.

We got dropped off near the Government Press Office, our landmark for where to tell tuk-tuk drivers to take us to.  We wished Simpy well and said our goodbyes.

Back in the apartment, I took a nice break while poor Chantale continued to follow up on issues with her daughter and Dad.  I really hope things clear up soon.

Next, it's a visit to a temple and dinner with new found friends.