Our next stop is Rohet
Rohet is just like all the other dirty one stop towns we have driven through on the way to somewhere else. It is hard to imagine why we are stopping here, but we are. Joginder turns off onto a dirt track and we bounce along for a mile. We are getting a little concerned, but then we turn into a driveway
Oh dear! More Fabulosity!
At this point I should perhaps mention, if you haven’t caught on, that the faded debt ridden gentry and aristocracy of India have gone the way of all good capitalists. They have turned their homes, palaces, forts, and lodges into hotels for the ever curious tourist, often keeping a quiet corner for themselves. These are known as heritage hotels.
We pass through the lounge with silver furniture
and into the garden
and finally to our room
How much fabulosity can we stand? In case you think I am expecting an answer, I am not. It is perfectly obvious that I have not reached my capacity for fabulosity, nor am I likely to any time soon.
The main attraction here is to take a jeep safari. A rather glamorous name for what it is, but it does involve a jeep and one animal, the beautiful black buck, a shy antelope found only in this part of Rajasthan
We have arranged the jeep safari through the hotel and they tell us we will be joined by one other couple and the trip starts punctually at 9am. We arrive a few minutes early and the guide is ready. The other couple are not. It is almost 15 minutes before they appear, with no apology, nothing. We are thinking, Germans, but no. They tell us they are from Switzerland. The jeep seats six. The driver/guide asks if anyone wants to sit in the front. The husband, with a remarkably fast reaction time, pushes his wife aside, pushes us aside and grabs the front seat.
Bingo! He is German Swiss
To go with his obnoxious behaviour, he also has an obnoxiously large camera, in a huge carry case. He removes the camera, and passes the case back to his wife to stow somewhere in the back with us so as not to disturb his leg room. On top of the camera is a big black furry thing, that may or may not be for sound. We think it is just for show, or he needs it to entertain his wife.
We leave at 9.15 and it is bitterly cold. The driver gives us blankets which to start with keeps Gordon happy
But after 20 minutes in the back with a blanket, looking at the husband in the enclosed front cabin, no doubt with a heater, Gordon is not so happy
The main purpose of the safari is to meet two different sects who live nearby.
The first is the Bishnoi who believe in protecting all animals and plants. They live very simply
They scratch a living from farming the small acres of land that they own. They have no water line, or power and draw water from a nearby storage tank.
Our guide asks us to sit and meet the head of the family. Three of us sit, while the husband continues to wander round the village. The guide asks him again to sit. It is a courtesy to the chief. He begrudgingly sits and then sticks his big black fluffy thing in front of the old man.
We had heard from some people who visited this village yesterday that the chief is 82.
Today he tells us he is 78.
Maybe he is confused or maybe he woke up this morning feeling great. Either way, it seems like a great policy and I am now going to be 45. Ed. be quiet
However old he is, his wife is one hot babe, with a plunging neckline that Sophia Loren would be jealous of
Our next stop is a small village that is much more advanced with electricity and water. This village is for the Brahmin who are supposed to be the most revered sect of all in India, although this village is hardly a shining light for the country to follow.
We have been invited to come here and share in an opium ceremony. We thought at first this must be a rather special occurrence, but we discover that the elders of the village partake of this ceremony twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. These Brahmin are some of the lucky people who have been granted permission by the government to grow opium (see my recent blog in Jodhpur)
They have to sell all the opium to the government, but it is apparent that not all of the pods leave the village.
We are invited to sit before the village leaders, who it must be said looked stoned out of their tiny minds. We are asked to take off our shoes, enter their home and sit cross legged across from the elders. Three of us do this. The husband does not take off his shoes, searches outside for a plastic chair, pulls it inside and sits down. He then points his big black furry thing at the elders.
They show us how they make the opium tea
Two of the elders look rather happy (and why not) at the prospect of their first daily dose of opium tea, but the one on the right doesn’t seem to know why he is there.
After they have made the noxious brew they show us how it is drunk. A cup is never used. Why would it be? It is just one more thing to wash and as it looks as if nothing gets washed in this village, it is pointless. Instead one drug addict offers it to the next. We presume the offering is also pointless as we are quite sure no one ever refuses it. When it is accepted the offerer pours it into his hand and then the offeree noisily gulps it down. It seems a particularly unhygienic way to drink, especially when you consider the state of the room we are in and the people who are drinking the tea, but presumably one of the fortunate side effects of opium is that it kills all known germs
It is an important part of the ceremony that each person gets three drinks from the proffered hand, mainly because one hand can only hold so much. We wonder if we come back next year, will the ceremony have been changed to four gulps?
Just as the last elder is taking his tea, a fourth appears. Tea is offered and greedily accepted. He seems barely able to wait for the tea to be poured
He looks as if he has been going from village to village sharing in each ceremony
Finally the elders offer our guide some opium tea. He tells us that he doesn’t normally accept, but occasionally he has to because it is rude to turn down their hospitality. We get the distinct impression that our guide is very rarely rude.
The guide then offers some opium tea to the husband
He offers tea to the wife
He offers tea to me
He offers tea to Gordon
He goes for it, presumably attracted not only by the health benefits of opium, but by the very large hands of the guide offering it
Once the ceremony is over, the elders move on to another addictive substance. Our guide tries to tell us that it is untreated tobacco leaves, but the look on the elders faces as they deeply inhale the smoke from these hand rolled joints, suggests there might be more to it than that
The ceremony over, we return to the jeep. Our guide seems to have a broad happy smile on his face, and we return to the hotel at a much faster rate than we left it.
Once back, Gordon retires to one of the wonderfully comfortable garden chairs, sits back, smiles broadly and stares vacantly into the middle distance.
I leave him there to recover, hoping that he won’t want to go on the afternoon safari.