India Part 6: Smiles from Salim

The 6 hour, class 2A, sleeper train from Agra to Jaipur was a blessing in disguise.  We stretched out, and slept comfortably after pulling our all-nighter, Anne Frank experience.  We were greeted by the smile of  man named Salim.  He graciously took our bags, as we explained to him that we all needed to use the restroom A.S.A.P and in no time he put the metal to the pedal, completely concerned with Aimee and Lisa’s sick, green tinted faces.  We checked into the Explorer’s Nest and were greeted by Arvind, who contagiously caught the concern for us and from that point on was a slave to our sickness for the next 24-36 hours.  His antique filled, award winning hostel was soon to be the infirmary for four, feeble, feverish, girls.  We were soldiers up until that point, strong and proud of our fight against the contaminated food and water, or what some like to call the Delhi belly, until we started to drop like flies.  I guess it was inevitable, but we didn’t want to admit it.  Salim tolerably took us all over to try to find food that was acceptable for our suffering systems.  We were wounded warriors, struggling to gather the strength again to dive into the war zone of curry and paneer, while dolefully admitting to ourselves that we could only handle the battle field of  bananas and bread.

The Peacock Gate

When we recovered and mustered up enough energy to leave the sick bay, sadly leaving Melissa behind, Salim and his smile were waiting to take us on a tour of the famous Pink City.  After getting pulled over by the police and getting corruptly cheated by the officer for pulling over and waiting in a red zone, Salim was still smiling.  We visited the superb City Palace with the well known Peacock gate, took a look at the Jantar Mantar or the Jaipur Sundial observatory and finished up at a smaller, abandoned palace that was perfectly picturesque.  Salim and his smile always waiting, just bopping away while blasting the bass filled soundtrack from a Bollywood feature film, The Dirty Picture.  A whirlwind of feelings came about, as we passed each unpredictable series of scenes of the “real” India.  It was no Bollywood film passing the neighborhood of the Untouchables, or driving by children frolicking playfully in piles of trash, but every time I looked over, Salim and his smile were there despite the troubled world we were zooming by.  We ended our tour with nothing but the best for his customers…a true shopping experience and of course, after a googly eyed gander at all the flashy fabrics in his brothers shop (with the help of his friend “Wasbi”), I purchased a hand made patchwork quilt, that was packed and shipped to the Vineyard in only 4 days!

Wedding Crashers

We checked up on Melissa’s status, who was keen to keep sleeping, then back out into the night for some wedding crashing.  Salim, wanting to fulfill our dream of going to an Indian wedding, was determined to cruise around the city until we found one.  “Anything is possible,”  Salim would say repeatedly.  First, we entered a baby’s birthday, next, an engagement party.  Third times a charm I guess because we stumbled upon the Dangayach family wedding adorned with a welcome banner, catered snacks and cocktails and a fancy, bedazzled stage with a live band.  Stares and glares greeted us as we set foot inside, feeling like an outcast clothed in rags compared to the guests gold glorified costumes.  After a short five minutes, we had seen enough, checked it off the list and moved on  to our very final stop.  Salim’s plan was to sneak into the Jaipur Palace, the city’s most extravagant and expensive hotel, with rooms starting at $1,000.  Salim appointed me to tell a white lie to the security guards and say I was meeting a “friend”.  But Salim’s saying “Anything is possible,” proved to be fictitious as we were denied and asked to leave the property immediately!  But in spite of the failed finale,  Salim’s city tour was deemed a huge success as we accomplished it all in one day! The next day we were off to Ranthambore National park.  Read below.

[AM train to Ranthambore National Park->walked around the deserted town->Woke up at 4am->waited for 2 hours in the freezing cold for our safari truck around a fire with locals->froze our bums off->spotted a tiger on the safari->left with satisfaction from the tiger sighting, which was extremely rare->Train back to Jaipur]

Tiger in the distance!

Salim and his smile had waited over one hour for us to arrive back to Jaipur!  No complaints, no questions, as he responded to our apologizes with “No problem,” and of course a smile.  With garlic bread and gnocchi on our mind, Salim choiferred us to Little Italy, where we were invited to the Jaipur Literature Festival’s after party at the grand opening of a “recycle” bar.  Closely similar to a bar you would find in Boulder or Denver, we pushed through the fatigue and danced (I only swayed actually) the night away to a band called Rajasthan Roots.

Jaipur Lit Festival

We learned that Oprah Winfrey would be speaking the next morning, but then told that it was merely impossible to get a ticket, we decided to make our way over to check it out anyway in the afternoon.  We waited outside the gates of Digi Palace and scoped out people leaving in hopes to swipe their pass using our outstandingly good looks and charming smiles.  We were given three passes and made it in just after Oprah left the grounds.  We took the opportunity to walk around, meet people, escape the budget life and roll out the red carpet again.  If only we had more time, it would have been a great place to indulge in what some say is “The Greatest Literary Show on Earth,” but the cities were starting to get the best of us and were all ready to move on for our final 4 days in Rajasthan.

Salim and his smile, Wasabi and the staff at both the Pearl Palace and the Explorer’s Nest were a big part in making Jaipur a special visit.  The people in India have made a huge imprint in my heart and I will never forget their smiles and friendly services!

“A smile is the universal welcome”  ~Max Eastman

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Your Dad
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 04:34:03

    Reply

  2. Your Dad
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 04:42:12

    Your photography has risen to another level!! The subject matter and shots really tell the story. And love the colors of clothing, etc.

    Reply

  3. Momma Wooden
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 04:44:38

    What an entertaining blog. Puts a smile on your face everytime. You’ve captured some wonderful pictures. Well done!………………Mom

    Reply

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