Sunday, April 03, 2011

New Year's Eve in Mandawa

For New Year’s Eve, we decided to stay at a beautifully restored haveli in the town of Mandawa. The main courtyard was particularly ornate – a feast for the eyes. After dropping off our luggage, we walked into the main part of town. Soon a small group of local kids followed us, with more offering their service as guides. The golden late afternoon light glowed on the outer walls of the town’s many havelis. Here we saw frescoes of the Wright Brothers, chauffeur-driven cars, trains, and the usual Hindu scenes. Far more of Mandawa’s havelis were in rather poor shape or had their murals painted over. On a remnant of one wall, a peacock stood proudly in the afternoon light. Donkey pulled carts competed for road space along with camel-pulled carts and buses. Revealing its more frequently visited tourist destination, the main street contained souvenir shops and touts requesting tourists to “come look into my shop.”

Although tired from the long day, we went to the New Year’s celebration taking place at the hotel. Guests donned layers of clothing as they watched the dancers and musicians, with some later joining in the dance. Finally, a meal was served, including both veg and nonveg Indian specialties. Absent was alcohol, but some guests did get some from the upstairs restaurant. At midnight, firecrackers were lit on the street outside the hotel.

On our way back to Jaipur, we passed through the town of Fatehpur and visited a few havelis there. The market area was quite active. Cows, busses, and donkey carts all contributed to traffic congestion. My friends were getting “haveli-ed out,” so we moved onward. Along the road we passed by a group of Jains on a cart, wearing white masks over their face to avoid accidentally ingesting any insects. Camels hauled gnarled wood on crude carts and straw on others. Alongside the road in a few spots we saw dead cows, apparently victims of traffic. Colorfully decorated tractors puttered along, with bran names including Mahindra, New Holland, and Massey Ferguson. As we neared Jaipur (143 km – 3hrs away), yellow mustard fields became more common, replacing the more arid fields of the Shekhawati region.

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