Friday, January 16, 2009

Jaipur: Kite Festival

The kite festival was exactly how I imagined it to be. Absoltely magnificent. I could not have asked for a better festival. Honestly.

On my overnight train to Jaipur, I read half of the Kite Runner and finished it the next day. The book is 100x better than the movie.While and after reading that book, I got extremely excited for the festival coming up. Even though the book takes place in Afganistan, its almost identical to how it is in India. The book fulfilled its purpose, I could hardly sit still and sleeping was a bit of a challenge knowing I was so close to expierience this.

I arrived a few days before the festival and spend the first two sleeping, eating, and reading. The hotel I stay at in Jaipur feels like a second home, I know everyone there and they take good care of me. Varun met me the day before the mini kite festival and he showed me how to string my own kite and how to fly.
My phone rings, I pick it up, its Varun.
"Cody I am here"
"Ok Ill be right down"
I go and meet Varun outside the hotel and he goes,
"Here I have a present for you." He pulls out a box of sweets, one of my favorite indian sweets I have no idea what they are called but they are orange balls and taste like heaven.
"Varun, these are my favorite sweets!"
"I know that why I got them for you."
"Thank you so much Varun, but you know this will be the death of me..." as I start eating them out of the box, Varun pulls out my second gift. Kites.
"Now lets teach you how to fly Cody, you ready?"
"I am more than ready, lets go!"
After flying kites on the roof of the hotel for about 4 hours he helped me find some clothes for a wedding I got invited to in Delhi by Dhiren. Dhiren was my neighbor at the ashram in Rishikesh. Dhirens brother is getting married and invited me and Rory. Stoked! Thats another thing I wanted to do in India, but was highly skeptical about crossing it off the list because I thought "I dont know any indian people, especially ones thay live in India!"
"So Cody what are you going to wear for the wedding in Delhi?"
"I was just going to wear what I have on.."
"Cody...No...we need to get you some nice clothes to wear, you are also going to need to get some shoes."
"These are not allowed?" pointing to my flip flops
"Are you kidding me?..No Cody..."
I thought indians lived and died by their flip flops, Ive never seen them without them on unless they are bathing or in a temple.
So I hop on the back of Varuns motorbike and were off. I find a nice shirt, pants, and tie for less than $20. What an expierience, I shopped in what woud amount to Target in America but it was in India. Huge departmental store with three stories selling anything from clothes to toys to toiletries. Varun didnt understand why I was so excited to be there, but I was. I got excited to try on clothes in an Indian dressing room (same as american but it was in india!) and look around (same crap, but I was in India!) because it was like doing these things for the first time because I was in India doing it, not america. I bought what looks like what I would wear to work. Black pants, black shirt and a red, and silver tie. It feels like an unneccesary buy because I have a million shirts like this and a million ties, and Im just going to mail it back home to me, but its going to be worth it to goto a Indian wedding. After we went shopping I bought another book, "A million little pieces" its a memoir about a drug addict who gets checkecd into rehab and is about his struggles and triumphs being there. Ive heard many mixed opinions about the book so I will find out from myself about it. Ive also heard its true and Ive also heard alot of it is lies. ALOT of mixed opinions so Ill find out for myself. I also bought a deck of cards, because after playing them in Rishikesh and with everyone in Jaipur, its a good buy for whereever I go, i can play with someone. We spent the rest of the night up on the roof of the hotel with the hotel staff playing different card games and having a blast doing it.

The next day was the mini kite festival, the day before the main kite festival. Varun picks me up from the hotel in the morning and after playing cards (I got Varun addicted to blackjack) we went to his friends house. On opur way there I notice someone stumbing in the middle of the road with just a shirt on. I immediately thought that kid should get out of the street, and within 20 feet from him, I realize it is a grown man stumbling with just a shirt on and his body goes limp and his face goes straight into the ground. I hope no one hit him...So we arrive at his friends house and went to the rooftop and there was already music blaring and food ready with 4 of his closest friends. They all immediately befriend me, and take an intrest in my life in america and ask me lots of questions. Within minutes we join the 30 kites in the air and start battling. I lost lots of kites ahah but I had so much fun doing it. Several hours later, we needed food, we are all hungry, so we go to a local market and order a bunch of food to take back and eat. They wouldnt let me pay for a cent of it. Even when I tried sneaking away to buy something to contribute they would follow me and wouldnt let me buy anything.
"What are you doing Cody???"
"I wanted some fruit..."
"No you dont buy. What do you want I will buy it."
"No its ok, I changed my mind..."
fighting with them is useless, I gave up.
"Bananas and papaya......Thank you..."
"Its my pleasure Cody, but please, stop trying to buy things. If you want something just tell us and we will get it for you. This is Indian hospitality." I am forever in debt to them, their kindness I will never be able to repay.

We get back to the house and the food that they ordered was delicicous! One of the best indian dishes Ive ate. I devoured that food so quickly and kept eating and eating, they all looked at me and I look up with my hands full of food, mouth full, and I see everyone has stopped talking and are all staring at me with their eyes wide open and jaws dropped,
"You are a savage Cody...Where does all that food go?!?!"
"Its the 9th wonder of the world, I have no idea..."
I stop talking and keep eating, it is soooooo good.
After lunch, its more kite flying until dark. So much fun, but it wasnt anything like how it is going to be the next day everyone tells me. We fly til nightfall than we head back inside and take a group photo then its back to the hotel.
"Cody you know what I would really like to do right now?"
"Let me guess...Does it involve cards and the number 21?"
"Yes Cody, a few games yeah?"
"Im dealer, your goin down!"
We played cards for a bit then it was time for bed for the big day the next day. Rory and Tara are coming in tomarrow morning for the festival as well, so we will have our own little party going on!
I get a call at 530 in the morning,
"gettaday mate!"
I mumble
"Whats the name of your hotel, I just got to Jaipur"
"Haardik Palace"
"....Hard dicks please?..."
"Nooo...(We both chuckle) Haaaardik PALACE...H.A.A.R.D.I.K. PALACE"
"ooooooh ok, see you in a bit mate"
A bout 30 minutes later I hear Rory's and Tara's voice asking what room I am in. I get up, walk to their voices with my blankets wrapped around me and say with a smile on my face, sleep still in my eyes and mumbling,
"come on people are trying to sleep around here"
"Hey!!" Rory and Tara shout out and we immediately start catching up from the past few days of not being around each other. They talk to me about the sexual tension between certain people in our ashram group, whos getting on their nerves and funny stories of funny expieriences theyve been in with other people from our ashram group. We talk until Varun calls and tells us we are meeting at the same place around 12. We start to get ready go have breakfast at the rooftop and Varun comes to the hotel. He meets everyone and what do we do. Ill give you a hint, it involves the number 21... After blackjack we end up talking to a lday that arrived last night and was up on the roof with us. Her name was Sohpie and she too, was from Australia. She was a blonde short woman in her mid 30s who works as a film editor. Awesome job! She was just gonna sit up on the roof all day, so we say screw that! Come with us! And she does. More the merrier.

After that we went to his friends house. There were 4 times as many kites as yesterday. So many!!! Kites were stuck in telephone poles, telephone lines, scattered on the streets, in the trees, ontop of cars, on rooftops, they were everywhere. Pinks, blues, greens, blacks, all colors of kites everywhere in the sky and scattered about. Everyone was ontop of their rooftop with food and music blaring. I literally mean everyone. Every rooftop had friends and/or family on top and atleast 50% of the people were flying a kite, eating, or dancing. Amazing. It didnt matter if you were 3 years old or 70. Everyone flew kits. I really felt like being a local being in a indian neighborhood on their roof.

This time when we were hungry Rory and i were sneaking out to get food to suprise them that we bought the food but they caught us and we all went out together. We all hopped on the back of bikes and me and Sophie get on the back of the craziest driver of them all. Once again by the grace of God I lived to tell you, that was the fastest craziest ride I have ever been on. Tears were streaming from my face we were blaring so fast through the streets. Sohpie was holding on to me, I was holding on to her and we were both screaming to the top of our lungs the whole way there. When I got off the bike my legs were like jelly. I could barely walk. We went to the same market and bought 4x as much food. On our way back everyone stopped to buy beer. I thought they were taking them back to the rooftop but they went to a nearby park and drank them. I walked away, bought bananas and a Thumbs up (its like coke but way tastier) and I sat alone in the corner while they all drank, which was fine despite their remarks of me being anti-social, but I just enjoyed my company alone and sober than with them. Once they were done, they get on their bikes and I ask,
"How far is your house from here?"
"Its a few kilometers, why?"
"I think I am going to walk there, how do I get there?"
"Are you mad? That will take you over 30 mins"
"Its early, I have time. I dont mind."
"Just get in the car or on a bike lets go, the food is getting cold"
"Then let me be late and eat cold food, I am not getting behind the wheel with any of you, you just drank"
"Dude it was only this much (measures with his finers), thats nothing. What is your problem"
"My problem is whether if is this little or that much, it makes a difference to me. I would much rather walk please."
After going back in forth with everyone I had no choice but to get in the car, they wouldnt let me walk, and it was starting to blow up into something that was compltetly unneccesary. Drink if you want, ill tell you not to drive, but ultimately the only person who I can have control over is myself. But here, I lost my battle. I sat in the shotgun seat, put on my sunglasses and fastened my seat belt. I lost my cool under my sunglasses, but they hid my tears well. For years I was like them, its just alittle bit, theres no harm, get in the car. But I think the part that hit me the hardest was now the tables have changed. I know now what situation I put people in was exactly the same. Now I am the other person and it sucks. If I remembered who I put in these situations, I would forever be asking for their forgiveness. Up until recently, I have ALWAYS the designated driver for my friends so they would not be subject to this bullshit and endangerment. If people drink thats fine, thats your choice, its when you get irresponsible and your choices determine the outcome of other innocent peoples choices where I get pissed. Also,i respect that they want to drink, no harm no foul. But be smart about it. Also, when I practicly get alcohol shoved up my ass when I am trying to remain sober I get pissed. Even more so when I get scolded for looking out for myself because I know they wont. Here I am, doing what I can to stay sober and I get to where I need to go safely, but I couldnt. The one person I could count on to get me out of situatuons like this, was backed into a corner by 8 people telling me to get behind the wheel with them. If I was back home, I could easly just walk to whereever I needed to go but I dont know where I am, I had no other option. If I cant depend on someone to get me somewhere, I will get there on my own, but I couldnt, and realizing this I lost my cool. Good thing for my sunglasses.

I regroup myself in about 15 minutes and just let it go. Fighting the situation just creates an inner termoil that I cannot let be inside me. Just let it be. Just let it be.

We get back to the house and its time to eat. We sit the food down on the ground and gathered in a circle we eat like ravenous pigs! We were all tearing at the chaptis, drenching them with paneer, and scooping up rice like its a race to get the most in your stomach in the least amount of time. Im not even sure we chewed the food that we gorged carelessly in our faces. The food was like yesterday, very similar. But it was one of the best meals Ive had in India (how many times do I say that? But it WAS) There was paneer sauce on my clothes and in my beard, rice in my hair, and a huge smile on my face. After eating the indian dishes, we had fruit. Bananas and papaya. Then after that we had dessert, chocolate biscuits (cookies) and chai. Oh man, I was so full and so content. Once I was ready to move, it was time for some kite flying! I tied up my kite, got it in the air, and challeneged a nearby blue kite to fight. I had no idea what I was doing, but one of Varuns friends was instructing me what to do.
"Just so you know a 12 year old girl is flying that blue kite, you dont want to loose to a little girl Cody"
"Ill do my best"
I lost to a 12 year old little girl. Within 30 seconds she cut my kite out of no where I scream,
"What happened?!" as I pull viciously on the string noticing that my kite isnt going anywhere...
"That girl kicked your ass, thats what happened."
"Oh man..."
Once nightfall hit, fireworks were going off all around us. People were setting them off near and far away on their rooftops. Huge fireworks that boomed in your chest like on 4th of july back home. This went on for about 30 minutes. Our host brought up fresh chai and we sat talking amongst each other, watching the fireworks and drinking hot chai. Excellent. Then it was time to go back to the hotel, and I pack my bags and get ready for my bus that leaves for the state below Rajasthan called Gujarat. I arrive in a town called Ahmdebad, the capital. I had an overnight bus and got a decent nights rest.

I arrive in Ahmdebad, and there are no signs in english and no tourist around ANYWHERE. The weather here is alot warmer than north, and there are ALOT of mosquitoes. I am getting eaten alive here. My feet are so swollen from the many bites on each. Hardly anyone speaks english, but there really isnt anything to do i this city so I get on a local bus to another town called Jamnagar. I spent like 21 hours almost straight on a bus, my butt was aching to say the least...I arrive in the night and getting a hotel is a challenge. Especially a hotel that is within budget, after walking around for an hour I settle for an overly priced room just so I can have a cold shower and sleep. I didnt really eat anything that day, I was still full from the night before and everything was wayyyy overpriced.

The next day I check out, and goto the main attraction of Jamnagar. The only reason why I came to this city. I checked out this temple where they have been keeping the same chant going for 45 years straight. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They hold a pace in the guniess world book of records. I bought bananas on the way to the temple and arriving to the temple I am swarmed with kids without pants or underwear on asking for money, I give them the rest of my bananas and they fight over the bananas.

In any case, at the temple they obviously have people in rotation but when I was in the temple, I looked at the person working the harmonium and the leader of the chant and he looked like he hadnt slept in a very very long time...He looked drained and even sounded drained. Inside the temple was a few shrines to different gods, LOTS of flowers, incense, and pictures of some bearded man who I am assuming was the founder of the temple? I dunno, everything was in Hindi around the temple and no one spoke english to answer my questions. There were a few trees outside the temple grounds and people would touch the trees and pray next to them. I wish things were written in English, I wanted to know so much more about this place. After being there for about an hour it was time to get a bus to another city. That was the main attraction, and I didnt want to spend another night in this OVERLY priced town, so I hop on yet another bus to a town called Junagadh.

Here I found a cheap clean room with internet not too far away. Once again no tourists, no signs in english, and no one to speak it. In a way it is quite nice, I feel like this is how India should be.

Today I am going to go check out some ancient buddhist caves and tomarrow I go check out some muslim mosques where I have to walk up 10,000 steps to get to them. Yes, 10,000 steps. I am very excited about this. I plan to start it at 4am so I will be just about finished or close to when the sunrises. I am very, very stoked about that.

After two more days here I head to a island nearby called, Diu. The main atttraction there other than the loungy beach life, is fishing. I wanna hop on a boat, take my shirt off, and sit back with my fishing pole drinking a chai with the sun upon on face and the wind in my hair.

I hope you are all doing well. You all are always in my thoughts and prayers.
Be Happy!