Michael Karlo Lim
ON LONG drives in between cities, our driver would recommend stops along the way. We found ourselves in the middle of nowhere at a roadside chai wallah’s. It wasn’t an all too unfamiliar provincial scene with folks sitting in the shade on more recliner versions of the “lantay,” whiling away the afternoon with small talk and watching cars go by. VJ bought us cups overflowing onto their saucers with delights ever so subtly more spicy than usual with freshly crushed ginger. Masala potato chips on the side.
Of the list of many location options, we made for the Mehrangarh Fort. Incidentally, we found the League Of Shadows’ stronghold or, at least, the temple where they shot those iconic scenes in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. Mehrangarh is not quite unlike the many forts of Rajasthan with massive walls and towers. What really sets it apart is it being a great vantage point to get a great view of the famed blue houses of the old sector of the city.
There is no story behind the blue houses of Jodhpur that locals would unanimously confirm. Whatever the reason may be, the atmospheric perspective sure makes them all look so pretty. While no law was passed to impose a single color, most houses are in that hue out of tradition and the availability of the pigments from minerals in the area.
At Maharani Textiles & Handicrafts you’d enter what used to be a pawnshop, which, over the years, became a massive collection of antiques and a sprawling curio shop. Randomly arranged furniture and knickknacks, if not haphazardly categorized, make a veritable maze which leads to an equally massive subterranean cave system of a textile factory and emporium below. There you’d find traditional embroidery and quilts to pashmina, silk and vicuna scarves and blankets subcontracted for major luxury brands.
Our first stop towards the city center’s famed clock tower was the Shani Samosa shop with a crowd at its storefront open counter as its easiest locator. Deep-fried pastry pockets burst with the generous chicken curry filling with each bite both savory and spicy. The veg version with aloo masala didn’t at all disappoint with its substantial, almost meaty toothsome.
Further towards the square, we detoured into the popular Makhania Lassi & Rubri shop. The shop was pretty much the town’s watering hole packed with tourists and locals alike. The lassis had the texture and mouthfeel of extra heavy blended cream, its sweetness balanced by the natural tang from the homemade yogurt base and topped with a generous dollop of creamy kheer where you’d have whipped.
One of my travel must-haves is local headgear. I’ve long fancied fancy turbans and I just had to have my Mickey Mouse ears here. We made our way down the street to a turban shop located in the bowels of a costume jewelry shop. Niche shelving upon niche shelving of pre-tied turbans in vibrant hues and different regional styles greeted us at the underground room. I made a beeline for the fancier Johdpuri variant with a folded-fan plume and a tail in orange, pink and yellow. The shop also sold RTW kurtas and dhotis, which, of course, I picked up to complete the cultural theme.
We were dead set on a rooftop dinner at the Kharni Bhawan, but a quick back stretch on the sheets left us dead until the end of the night’s service. We made up for supper with heavy breakfast at the hotels all-day café the next morning. The buffet spread had more continental options of toast, jams, butter, cereals and yoghurt but we ventured into requesting our breakfast staples of parathas. The reply,“Sure, why not?”, to note, is yet another hallmark of this trip and one to support another that now held very true: everything is possible in India.