We seem to have lost our ability to get up at a reasonable hour. We were set to meet Claudia at half 12, and I foolishly expected that that might mean we had a chance to go and do some sightseeing or shopping beforehand, but I was mistaken. Indeed, some of us struggled even to make it out of bed for 12 o’clock.
Eventually everybody emerged in varying states of sleep-drunkenness, and we headed out to meet Claudia at LMB hotel – which, incidentally, also has a famous bakery attached to it. Yet again I am steering the conversation towards food. After a bit of indecision, we decided just to take autos to the fort, and the guys who had brought us to the hotel were more than happy to take us (funny, that). These particular auto drivers didn’t exactly fill us with confidence: they tended to give the impression that they didn’t know where they were going, and kept stopping to wait for each other, but we got there in the end. All of us agreed that Amber Fort was one of the best things we’d seen so far – there is just so much too it; you could easily get lost in all the different chambers that are all confusingly interconnected (which is apparently because that’s where the concubines stayed, oi oi). We were bombarded as usual with people asking for “one photo please, can I click one photo with you?” and accepted or declined based on nothing in particular. We’ve now started charging for photos as a deterrent, which was working well in that it made most people laugh and then walk away – but then as we were leaving it actually worked: a guy actually gave Claudia 10 rupees for the privilege of being in a picture with her. Claudia also managed to commandeer a baby, the parents practically shoving it into her arms, which would have made for some adorable pictures had the baby not promptly started to cry. It didn’t seem to bother the parents, though.
Probably the best thing that happened to us all day was a chance conversation with a couple of Indian guys which, as with all good conversations, started with one of them telling Dan that he looked like a Bollywood movie star. We got chatting and they told us about this Friendship Day party (which, while it sounds like the dodgiest thing ever, is actually a thing) that we should go to later. We took their number and said we’d meet them later, not knowing whether we actually would do, but seeing no harm in it. The weird thing about India is that if you’re an obviously foreign tourist, there is such a fine line between the genuine kindness of strangers, and the “sure I’ll take you to the Foreign Tourist Information Bureau (but first let’s just take a detour to my brother’s shop).” And you feel horrible for always assuming it will be the latter, but at the same time it’s just the best way to make sure you’re not wasting your time or getting scammed.
However, by now we’ve realised that sometimes you have to just go with your gut instinct, so we trusted Kabir and Suhan, and here we are, two days later, wishing we had more time in Jaipur so that we could spend more time with them.
Since that chance meeting we’ve been to an inexplicable afternoon nightclub, driven round basically the whole of Jaipur in one or other of their cars, browsed a random clothes shop for about half an hour while a puncture was fixed, visited an underground billiards club (we drew at pool, yes Kate we DREW), drunk chai at an apparently famous tea house and eaten at a famous dhabba (sort of like an Indian equivalent of a Wetherspoons), experienced Indian driving at its finest (blast your horn and assume that everyone will probably get out of your way), and climbed onto the top of Nahargarh Fort and been caught in the monsoon.
It’s Kabir’s birthday tomorrow, so who knows what that will bring. I can’t wait. Did I mention that I love India?