Thursday, April 29, 2010


“Love’s like a kaleidoscope” sang the bard, “Every twist reflects new colours… new shapes, mirroring all we hide in our hearts”. On a recent trip to Jaipur, I began to understand what the lines could’ve meant…

Glued to the viewfinder, I shuffled backwards with my camera, trying to get the arches of Amber into focus, when I felt a firm grip on my forearm. Irritated with whoever it was that had ruined the shot, I turned to look at the long sweaty fingers clutching my arm, and followed the hand that led to a lean bronzed arm wearing a bead bracelet that disappeared into the long loose sleeve of a faded once-green tee, clinging with perspiration to his narrow shoulders; the long neck, an anxious Adam’s apple bobbing along its length, emerged from a well-worn collar… My eyes met his… His features were all jutting angles and overhangs, just like the fort. In his other hand, he was carrying a heap of trinkets. He saw me frown. He seemed unsure, but he still didn’t let go. Instead, he said “aap gir jaate, sir!” I turned and saw the ledge I was standing on ended in a short drop just a few feet behind me… He didn’t really save my life but he did save me and my camera from an embarrassing dust bath. I thanked the fellow and he smiled. I got off the ledge and was about to ask him his name when he trotted off behind a group of German girls, pushing and pleading with them to buy his treasures. Th e moment one of them got interested, our friend went from pleading to flirting, or so I gathered, since the conversation happened in two distinct versions of German. Eventually, he made a sale. Then he walked over to me and said, “Sorry sir… business ka time tha…”

I asked him his name. Twenty-two-year-old Shamim was from a village near Jaipur. He’d spent time in a school where he’d picked up some English and then jumped into Amber bazaar’s coterie. He seemed to enjoy what he did. Aft er a couple of unsuccessful attempts with some other tourists, he came over and sat down next to me where I was changing lenses. “Photographer?”, he asked. I shook my head. “Just a hobby”, I replied and started fiddling with an unfamiliar button on the camera just to keep up appearances. Promptly a lens popped out… I hurriedly changed the topic and asked him about future plans. He couldn’t possibly hope to make a living all his life just selling trinkets. “No problem sir… promotion ho jayega!” What promotion? “France sir! I’ll go to France… Germany bhi chalega…” Whoa! But how? “Shaadi karoonga sir… baat chal rahi hai. We met last year. She’d come here as a tourist. We spent some time together. She… er… we fell in love and she wanted to take me back to France… but no passport. I’ll get one soon…” And then? “We’ll live together, get married, and if not… kuch kaam dekh lenge…” Some plan! And his peers? “Sab is umeed mein hain… To fi nd the girl who’ll fi nd them… hamare bhai Italy aise hi gaye hain” And love? “Ho jayega sir… sab achcha hai to woh bhi achcha hoga!” said Shamim as he watched the tourists and nibbled on a blade of grass.

Jaipur’s like Cinderella, plain and unadorned by day, but transforms into a gorgeous damsel in the kohl-lined sparkle of the night. One such evening, I strolled into the glittering chaos along the Hawa Mahal, where, surrounded by touts was this blonde lady in a salwar cradling a baby with rose-tinted cheeks and a runny nose. Her friend, a brunette, was wearing the more tourist-like long-skirt with summer shirt ensemble. The crowd had surrounded her so I proceeded to try and help…

But when I reached, she waved and said, “I’m with friends. It’s ok!”. Uh oh…! She was speaking to them in Hindi. I apologised and while backing away, bumped into her companion. “I’m sorry… I thought your friend was…”, I tried explaining… “That’s ok… happens all the time…” she said with a smile. The blonde, it turned out, was a German, and her name was Radha. Her friend, Ayesha was an Iranian-German. The two of them first came to Jaipur five years ago where they met this guide who showed them around the city. The heady concoction of the riotous colours, the timeless legends of love, intrigue and valour, forever swirling around the ramparts and the chance meeting with this handsome Indian tour guide, pushed Radha straight into the path of Cupid’s flower-tipped arrows. She returned home, packed her bags and rushed right back into ‘her guide’s’ waiting arms, got married and settled down to a middleclass life in a Third World Country.

If you’re wondering ‘why?’, well, Ayesha doesn’t know either. “I’ve known Radha since grade school… was with her when she fell in love, when she got married and ever since… back home we thought that when the reality of life in middle-class Jaipur hits home, she’ll come running back but she’s been living happily ever since and ever after. Rupak’s a nice guy… sure… but that doesn’t explain it. Guess that’s what love is… you can’t understand it till you feel it…”


1 comment: