(note: this post may be light on photos since the only internet connection I’ve got here is a WiFi setup reliant on a Linksys router from 2006. No shade, just fact.)
Where are we? Noon, Jaipur. Our driver takes us to a small printmaking and carpetmaking operation outside a store.
As we learn how to make woodblock prints on fabric, a traditional craft of the Rajasthan region, we assume this is just another tourist destination where people get a cursory summation of a centuries-old creative practice and then shell out some cash for a souvenir. We then observed a husband and wife team knotting a beautiful silk carpet at a furious pace, with a similar feeling.
We reluctantly walked into the carpet showroom, and our expectations were completely shattered. We were shown a huge variety of silk, hand-knotted carpets, as well as thick, plush carpets made from camel hair. Amazing handmade craft work, but not for my budget. Then we were led upstairs to the fabric showroom and my entire perception of fabrics and clothing was changed.
There were sample clothing pieces and patterns in Indian and western styles all over the store. Along the walls, columns of locally-produced fabric from their proper factory just outside Jaipur. Most of the fabric came in variations of silk, cotton, and silk-cotton blends. Four columns of hand-painted Rajasthani cotton: my personal heaven.
My mom had a full, silk brocade skirt made for yesterday’s wedding dance event (we’ll get to that soon!)
I selected two dresses and a blouse in the Rajasthani cotton, correctly assuming cotton would be better to sweat through during the Mumbai heat. I then met with the shop’s tailor, who took my measurements and allowed me to specify deviations from the original pattern, such as the depth of a neckline and the length of a hem.
All of this activity was done by 2:00 pm. Our clothes were delivered to our hotel at 10:00 pm by one of the shop assistants, who made me try on the clothes immediately and said he would wait. When I came downstairs and gave him a tip, he remarked that the money was going to the tailor, who would be so happy everything fit well. No child sweatshop labor required. Also, please ask me the price of my dress when you see me in person. I have been told an Indian woman would bargain more, but I left thinking I had gotten the best deal of my life, and the tailor was glad to have work on a day when we were the only people in the shop.
I don’t care if my memsahib privilege is showing, but I don’t know how I will ever purchase clothing off the rack again. I’m hoping to have a few more items made before we leave India, but I had a few Indians at the wedding tell me that my experience in Jaipur is unique to the city. Unfortunately most places that make clothing to order (and quickly!) are not as good quality or made from such fine fabrics as one finds by visiting the factory showroom.
Eventually we leave the store (after our driver Mr. S. comes upstairs to approve — or more frequently, disapprove — of my fabric selections) and we are in the car en route to the Hanuman temple. I’ve seen city monkeys scrambling across metal fences in Delhi, but now we get to visit their spiritual home.
The temple was once a place where sadhus gathered to live and pray. At some point it became a haven for monkeys, and an icon of Hanuman was placed in a small shrine near the entrance.
As you walk through the courtyard, monkeys begin to appear: on fences, emerging from holes in the structure walls, skulking around the path. They are adorable, of course, but they are also fairly aggressive. Somewhere along the way, the monkeys began to identify purses and bags with food. Usually Hanuman worshippers leave them food offerings in the mornings and evenings, and I can only imagine that dumb tourists have reached into their bags for bananas.
As we first approached the inner area, my mom tried to get her camera out of her bag. Big mistake. Monkeys started to stalk us, looking for something more exciting than a camera. She closed the bag and several minutes passed uneventfully.
Then, as we attempted to head toward the stairs leading up the hill, an aggressive male monkey raced toward us. Well, raced toward me. He grabbed my skirt with his left (and only!) hand and began to climb my leg. I screamed and moved away from him and our poor, gentle guide Mr. S. attempted to shoo the monkey away, even though he had admitted only moments earlier that the monkeys also made him nervous.
Later Mr. S. told me that the monkey was just blessing me — perhaps with a lifelong terror of one-armed primates. I’ve been told this means I have good karma now. I don’t know about the monkey though.
It began to rain as we left the Hanuman Temple, unusual for this time of the year. Perhaps you can see the massive balls of hail hitting the windows of our car as we attempted to drive back through the city:
We had a few more eventful occurrences, and in rich white girl fashion, I had a small diamond stud made for my nose. I mean, I think it’s small, but I was told by many people, including driver Mr. S., that it is insignificantly tiny and an Indian woman would never wear such a small diamond. I definitely don’t own the gold jewelry that was de rigueur for the Indian ladies at yesterday’s festivities.
This post is quite long now, so I will finish up by saying that Jaipur is a fantastic, wonderful city and I hope to visit again soon. I could easily spend four or five days exploring the city, but even a rushed day of touring, shopping, and exploring was worth the trip.