It was eight in the morning and the peering sun had not begun its heating up act so the Car’s heater was a very enjoyable feature, in spite of the mechanics warning that if I were to put on the heater the entire coolant would drain out. So faced with the choice of either having my extremities frozen off and the car running without coolant, I settled for a sensible compromise. Thus, stopping every few minutes to see if there was still any fluid in the radiator and warming my freezing toes, I jerked my way Jodhpur.
I was now concerned with finding a place to park my self, which did not prove to be a major problem. At first I had thought of parking in the lot of the local Youth Hostel but that did not work out. The idea of hiring a bed in the dorm for a 100 bucks did not work out either as there was no place. A room was available for 500/- but I did not even consider it. So I drove off from there looking for a nice shady tree which was just a hundred yards from my lawyer’s office,
in some vague part of some equally vague colony. Fortified with a cup of not too poisonous a cup of tea I was ready to face the lawyer and will mercifully spare you the gory details of what transpired there.
Suffice to say I spent two very comfortable nights in the car parked in front of a hole-in-the-wall ‘Kerala Hotel’. Its USP? It served some wonderful Idli’s at 15 per plate. So with two plates in the morning at 30/- and a plate of rice n vegetable curry supplemented by a couple of slices of bread for dinner, I was on cloud nine. Part of a bottle of rum that I had taken from here provided the necessary narcosis for the night and I was home.
The third morning, four plates of Idlis packed in polythene bags, I was on my way to Bhadrajun and well settled on a good road by 10 in the morning. It had warmed up so I did not have to play tidily winks with the car heater and all was well in the House that Jack built.
By twelve I was half way to my first stop. Bhadrajun. On the way I stopped at a few places where we used to stop for rabbits and partridges and Sand Grouse. From the photographs you can see that this is ideal terrain for rabbits and sand-grouse, which used to be there in their hundreds. That day all I saw was just one flock of barely 8 to 10 of them. What a shame. I could not get them on camera as they were very shy and were off well before I could get any where close to 50 yards.
There used to be a small village where the Thakur of Rohit used to stay. I tried to locate it but with no success. All that an old-timer could tell me was that the old man had died many, many years ago and now he had no idea where his sons stayed. So just with some old memories and recalled scenes of Indian bred Whippets charging through the open spaces between clumps of isolated bushes playing tag with poor frightened rabbits, literally running for their lives, I got into the car, raised a silent toast to days gone by and drove on with a slight sense of sadness and vagueness. That all things pass and that nothing is really real.
A solitary tree close to the road provided a lunch break.Fortified by half the packed lunch/dinner I continued along this flat country side.An hour later and a few scattered hills in the distance told me that Bhadrajun was up ahead and not too far off.
A short nap in the bedroom and feeling refreshed started off to pay my respects to the departed king of Bhadrajun. The second wealthiest man in Rajasthan as also the stingiest. I believe that till his last few days on earth he still drove a second-hand jeep that he had picked up from an Army disposal depot some fifty years back.This kind of parsimony beat my line of thinking and living. I spoke to him very often about it but he always replied, or rather did not, with a silent chuckle that I presume was supposed to sound very mysterious and loaded with some kind of significance which I was not supposed to grasp. In any case, I never really even wanted to – sounded stupid and still does. If he was happy living in a pig sty, that was his problem. I am sure his sons must be glad he did, because now they can race Mercedes through dirt tracks not concerned if they left half the car strewn all over the roads.To Each his own.
5 kilometers short I parked the car to take a few shots of the hills inside which his little fort lay snuggled in a deep valley, invisible from the road.
Looking at the hills brought back a lot of memories about coming in from the West, hugging the ground, screaming in nice and low, pulling up sharply only to wing over into a steep dive that took one right over his fort. Then screaming down at 500 knots and shaking his little fort to the core and with a tight turn tearing out of the valley almost at deck level and then doing a half loop to see the damage done. That was my way of getting back at him for his parsimoniousness, to see if the blast from my exhaust had knocked down his citadel and if nothing else, to imagine his imprecations and waving of his fist from his ramparts.I never did bring his fort down, but his threats to report me to the authorities for shaking the very foundations of his fort always provided us with mirth and vicarious pleasure that made up for all his peccadilloes. No, for all his faults, and they can hardly be called that , he was a decent human being and a sincere friend. I am sure that if he was around he would probably be reliving the good old days too, just as I was. The road to his place was a dirt track leading off the main road. I asked an old man if he could show me the way up to the fort, but he said that there was no point in going there as the new Raja sahib and family were now back in Jodhpur. And that put paid to my idea of gong up to the fort. So a few snap shots to take back home, I drove off. After spending some time looking back and recalling many of the things that we had done around this place and drinking a final toast to his memory and the bygone days, I got into the car with some reluctance and set course for my next destination-Ahore, some 60 kms away.
Ahore, famous for its tradition of revellers throwing stones at each other instead of color during the festival of Holi. I remember having witnessed this bizarre spectacle way back in the early 70’s along with Panchi Sidhu and Gopal Singh, who had invited us to see this unusual way of celebrating Holi in this part of Rajasthan. I had never heard of it let alone seen it and was all for it. Panchi was not really keen. But the fact that booze and opium would be flowing freely mollified him considerably!
To be continued……..