We had one of the best experiences on our trip so far – a 12 day tour through the Indian state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is slightly south west of New Delhi, borders Pakistan, and is mostly desert. It’s a not a big state, it’s about the size of Montana. Despite this, at different points in history, very large forts and palaces were built; forts and palaces that are indescribably huge and opulent. It’s like having a huge fort and palace built in Helena, Bozeman, Missoula, Billings and minor forts built in lots of other cities across Montana. Kind of hard for my American mind to comprehend.
We hired a car and driver to shuttle us about, it was surprisingly cheap. Our driver, Bhupendra (boopy), was a stand up guy. He was from Rajasthan and was able to share a lot of his culture and history with us, we were very fortunate to have met him.
We only traveled a few hours a day so we had quite a bit of time to talk to the locals. We learned a lot about Rajasthan and its people:
* By and large, we were treated very well. Much more friendly and laid back compared to Delhi / Agra.
* Super hard working people. It seems like life is easier for a select few but for everyone else it’s extremely difficult with really long hours. At our hotels, it was really common to see the same staff every day no matter what time it was
* We met some incredibly good business people. We took a cooking class with a woman who had never worked until her husband died. She had zero schooling because she lived out in the desert. She moved into a city to find work and, over time, she found she had a penchant for cooking and started a cooking class for tourists. She learned English, French, and Spanish from tourists. Her class is the #1 activity in her city on Tripadvisor and she now has enough money to build her own cooking studio. She’s grateful Tripadvisor helped her move from a life of squalor to something much better.
* Tripadvisor seems to be very important. Like usual, we found lots of activities through Tripadvisor and thought nothing of it. Talking to business owners, they remember who helped them set up a Tripadvisor account and a lot talked about how their business and lives changed for the better.
* People spoke a lot about their caste. In the US I had learned that the caste system no longer existed and was surprised to hear people talk openly about it. It was very interesting and educational!
* The wages are not high, we found out that our driver’s salary is about $100/mo or about $3/day. He said his wage is OK compared to other jobs.
* We hadn’t seen other Americans for about a month until we ran into a couple who ‘outsourced’ their retirement to India. They left the US shortly after the Affordable Care Act was passed because ‘the US is no longer the land of opportunity’. Both were still pretty riled up about US politics even though they’ve been gone for awhile. Until that point, Jacquelyn and I hadn’t thought much of politics and after the conversation we realized how little we missed the political scene.
Sadly, our time in India is ending. We are in Goa (a hippy’s paradise!) and will be leaving India from here. We missed a lot of the things we wanted to see (Darjeeling, Varanessi, Kerela, Chennai, Amristar, just to name a few) but we’ve decided that after nearly a month here it’s good to move on.
Enjoy the photos :).