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Bring On The Blues

Dining at his rooftop restaurant overlooking the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, you have to work hard not to fall under the spell of the multi-faceted Bablu.

Monica Bathija

It’s not as blue as I thought it’d be,” I say to Doris as we look out at the city of Jodhpur spread out in front of us from the terrace of our hotel. “It’s not quite Mykonos, is it?” she replies with a laugh, reminding me of my observation when we were looking at pictures of the ‘blue city’ online.

The magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, which appears to rise almost organically from the hill, looms on one side, while Umaid Bhawan Palace, now a hotel, sits regally at some distance. The rooftop has a few tables, some chairs, a filthy, stained sink and a small, red refrigerator the inside of which looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since the day it was bought. Doris pulls back a makeshift cloth curtain next to the refrigerator to reveal a small, grubby kitchen.

The hotel, we find, is essentially a home stay. The owners live on the ground floor while the upper floors have rooms to let. As we make our way down to our room, we meet a man going up, carrying bananas, coffee sachets and a mug. We mumble hellos.

Jodhpur is not a place people usually linger in. They pass through it on their way to and from various cities in Rajasthan. Think cities like Udaipur, which boasts beautiful palaces, or Jaisalmer, with the lure of the sands of the Thar. Jodhpur is wonderfully blue, of course, the reason behind its blueness perhaps that the lime wash inhibits the growth of insects and termites. And it has its wonderful fort. So considering we were on a leisurely trip, we had booked two days here.

Our room, with bright pink and blue walls, is clean enough and while I take a shower, Doris heads out for a walk to get her bearings. But it is possibly just pure luck that she finds her way back, because each time we negotiate our way out of this tiny Mehron Ka Chowk, the square where our hotel is located, to go anywhere—whether it is Sardar Bazaar, the city’s main market, or the fort or the coffee shop by one of the magnificent gates that fringe the old city—we walk round and round through the maze of streets and side streets, go up and down slopes to ascertain our position with reference to the fort, and every single time return by a different route.

When we are both ready, we head out for the Clock Tower, a century-old landmark, to check out the streets radiating from it. The market is colourful and crowded, the lanes narrow. Two-wheelers honk incessantly and after a couple of hours of constantly jumping out of their way, and of the steady assault on the ears, we ask for directions—to the nearest beer shop. There is one on Nai Sarak, the new road, across from the bazaar gate that opens to a wide road lined with shops selling everything from teas to curry powders to spices. A bottle of beer each stashed in our backpacks, we head back for our hotel rooftop. .

The man we had met in the morning is already there, drinking beer, and we exchange pleasantries. He’s been here since a week, but is still quaffing the beer provided by the hotel because he has not been able to bring himself to venture out to find anything better. We offer him some of ours and he asks for directions to the shop.

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January/February 2017