It’s a five hour drive to our next stop, Jodhpur.
Joginder has decided to make it a personal hygiene day. He has a little array of cotton buds (Qtips) on his dashboard and begins to meticulously clean each ear with them. And when he feels they aren’t doing the trick he resorts to the end of a pen and then to his finger.
When he has finished with his ears, he moves on to his teeth. He adjusts the rear view mirror until he can see his face. He pulls out a tooth pick the size of a small pneumatic drill and proceeds to use it accordingly. He digs, prods and spits until there is not one bit of last week’s meals left, periodically baring his teeth and checking them in the mirror. We might not find this quite so bad if he waited until there was no traffic to do the mirror work. But he doesn’t. His teeth seem to be far more important than the on coming traffic.
Next he works on his stubble. He hasn’t shaved since we left Delhi and his stubble needs grooming. This he does section by section using his finger nails, first scratching, then pulling and tweezing.
It is a long and rather unpleasant process to watch. To be fair to Joginder, although I must admit I have no desire to be, he goes to some length to explain that while we are staying in a nice hotel he is either in his car or some cheap hovel. “I am not a rich man” is his refrain. He explains that every morning he always showers before meeting us, which is nice to know. But that morning was bitterly cold, and he had to shower with cold water. He is not happy about it.
“I expect your hotel was nice and warm and you had hot water” he says
I refuse to feel guilty.
After a couple of hours we stop at an old fort. Joginder tells us that very few people come here.
We can understand why.
He tells us to take our time wandering around the fort as he is going to have lunch.
The fort commands very little of our time and when we return to the car we discover that Joginder hasn’t been having lunch at all. Instead, he has taken the opportunity to wash some personal items. His underpants and a small towel are hanging from the car drying in the sun.
He hurriedly throws them into the back of his bedroom and we continue on our way.
When we arrive at Jodhpur we realise why Joginder has been cleaning himself so thoroughly. Jodhpur is squalid.
I tried to think of another term for the city, as squalid is such an unpleasant word and carries a taint of criticism with it. But squalid is the perfect word to describe Jodhpur. It is the second largest city in Rajasthan. The old town just seems to be one huge market, lined with tiny streets. Every building is a shop. Those that can’t afford to rent a store, simply throw a filthy blanket on the street and tip their merchandise on top. The streets are jam packed with people, dogs, cows, motorbikes, crows, Tuk Tuks, pigeons and still more people And all of those things produce either noxious fumes, noxious odors or excrement. Some of them produce all three. Navigating your way through the streets is a constant hassle
Everywhere you look there is cow dung, bird droppings, dog excrement, litter and unimaginable filth.
And the people chew betel nut chewing gum and periodically produce huge quantities of red spit that they eject into the street. It is an unpleasant habit and one more more thing you have to avoid.
There are little side streets where the people live, but they are just as depressing
Open drains run down the narrow streets and children play in them bare foot. The poverty is heart wrenching. Our first reaction is to wonder how they can live like this. However the truth is there is no garbage collection and no street cleaning. Most homes that we are invited into are very clean. The problem is where should they put their rubbish, and sadly it seems that the only answer is to throw it out on the streets.
But however poor the people, and however filthy the streets, all the shops seem to thrive. Show me a good fabric shop and I will show you some happy shoppers:
Despite everything it is still a fascinating place to visit. We spend several hours wandering the streets. Gordon tires of it before I do. I am still having fun when a huge amount of red spit catches me on the leg and runs down my trousers.
The fun is now officially over. I can’t get back to my luxurious room fast enough. I hand over my clothes to the hotel laundry and jump in to a hot bath filled with aromatic bath salts.
I wonder how Joginder is doing?