While Gordon lies in bed I tour Alsisar. It is little more than a village. It has a few shops.
There is the grocery store:
There is a village square with toilet
A sewage system
A large delivery truck
Two smaller delivery trucks
I return to the Hotel for dinner and Gordon manages to accompany me. We discover that there are only two other people staying in the hotel and they happen to be a gay couple. Sam, who runs the place, and has been taking wonderful care of Gordon, is very amused by the fact that there is not one woman in the hotel.
The enormous restaurant that looked so beautiful when we first saw it, now looks a very sad place with just four people in it – and it’s freezing cold. Sam fusses around Gordon and brings him a blanket which he arranges Indian style over his head, and a tiny electric fire. The other couple demand the same treatment
The next morning a revived refreshed and almost perky Gordon, sticks his head out of bed and announces he is ready to start exploring.
Alsisar is in the middle of nowhere. In this case, nowhere is an area of Rajasthan know as Shekhawati. Shekhawati is an area mostly missed on the regular tours of Rajasthan, but we have come because it’s one claim to fame is the wonderful Havelis found in the region
Havelis are the houses of merchants and the earliest ones date back to the 17th century when the silk road came through. Silk was being brought into the area and traded for spices. But most of the Haveli’s that remain are from the 19th and early 20th century. The local merchants helped on by the British Raj thrived , prospered, and in the way men all over the world do, they wanted to show off. So they built themselves grand new homes, and they adorned these homes with frescoes which depicted the local flora, important people and scenes from around the world.
The more they prospered the more they wanted to show off and the grander the homes became. These are a taste of the Havelis of Shekhawati.
The person who showed us these Havelis is also decorative and likes to show off
He tells us his name is Vicky. I am sure I can’t be hearing this correctly. Many of the people we meet give themselves English names for the tourists to remember – but VICKY?
Yet I am hearing it right – he wants us to call him Vicky. I wonder whether he has another career and that this is his stage name, but he is so rampantly heterosexual that this seems highly unlikely.
Vicky is just eighteen. He left school at fifteen, perhaps because he wanted to be called Vicky! But somehow he manages to speak fluent English and French plus some German. He also has a great grasp of history and the Havelis, and a natural way of imparting it in an entertaining and understandable way. He takes tour groups on trips all round northern India, but his home is in Shekhawati so when he is not working with a tour group he does day tours of the Havelis. He is a remarkable young man and very entertaining.
When he is not talking about the Havelis he is talking about his two obsessions. Himself and his girlfriends.
This area is still old time India with its strict class system. Vicky is a member of the Brahmin caste, which is the highest caste and so it is very important that he marries another Brahmin. The marriage will be an arranged one. When I ask him what he thinks about this he repeats what his parents must have drummed into his head over the last eighteen years. An arranged marriage is for life, a marriage of love is for twenty years. He doesn’t mention that the main reason an arranged marriage is for life is that it is extremely difficult to get a divorce from an arranged marriage.
But Vicky is eighteen and despite his name, his male hormones are running riot. Every attractive girl we pass gets an admiring look and a thousand kilowatt smile, while his eyes sparkle with promise and desire. It makes me go weak at the knees and it clearly has an effect on the young women.
He says he has four girlfriends. He has never had any physical contact with any of them. He speaks on the phone with each one every evening. Each one thinks she is the only one.
How can he possibly handle that I ask.
He tells me he has three phones, one for each girlfriend, so they each have a different phone number to call him on. But you have four girlfriends, I say.
Well there is always one that is out of favor he replies rather nonchalantly
But trouble lies ahead. He has just bought himself a motorbike and is dreaming of sneaking out of his parents house in the middle of the night to see the girlfriends.
Gordon puts on his teacher voice, and tells him that he should be good and stick to the phone calls.
Vicky just looks at him with an expression which says it all. There is only so long a magnetic young man with a libido of an eighteen year old can be satisfied with phone calls.
At the end of a fascinating day we return to the hotel where Sam’s concern for Gordon seems to have blossomed into a life long friendship. He tells Gordon he has a gift for him and presents him with a turban – a turban that only maharajahs can wear.
(Ed: The question is rhetorical)