Getting to know India a little better, one day at a time, one conversation at a time. The people, the food, the vibes, the filth, the pigs, the cows and bulls, the street dogs and cats, the camels, monkeys, birds, the painted houses, the temples, the fortresses on hilltops, the trees, the rain and dryness, the desert, the stars, the views and sunsets…
Getting to know Jaipur through the eyes of the one who is called Samir Khan. He is the one who is the youngest of eight children, the one who drives a tuk-tuk for a living, the one who listens to Akon, the one who is a Muslim, the one who has a bright light in his heart that radiates abundantly from his eyes, the one who showed me love, respect and a stunning view of the city. He is the one I call “Maharajah”, which means king. He is the one who affectionately calls me “Maharani”, which means queen. He takes care of his parents and his sisters. The unfortunate fate of one of his sisters doomed her with a good-for-nothing drunkard as a husband, so my Maharajah and one of his brothers also take care of her and her children. The money they owe with driving around a Gora (white person), like me, directly goes to their parents, sisters and cousins. They seem to be completely fine with this. There is no trace of greed in their hearts. There is no dissatisfaction with their fate. Instead, they are extremely proud of their city, their culture, their customs, and they absolutely love sharing it and talking about it.
Samir Khan has a subwoofer in the back of his tuk-tuk, through which we blast songs by Nahko Bear and Medicine for The People, while we drive uphill to Nahargarh Fort (also known as the Tiger Fort), to enjoy the sunset. On the way there it is time for the Muslims to go to Prayer, so we can hear the Azaan (the call to prayer) coming from one of the mosques. I silence the music and ask my friend the tuk-tuk driver to go closer so we can listen. He parks his tuk-tuk next to the road, so we get the front-row seats to listen to one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. The voice of the Muezzin fills my whole being with melancholy. I close my eyes and tears roll down my cheeks. As if a long-lost memory of a past life comes floating to the surface of my consciousness, shuddering me with the remembrance of, and a strong longing for a home I have never seen before. When the call to prayer has finished I open my eyes again, just to look into two amazed staring eyes, filled with awe and love. He tells me I have a beautiful heart and that this makes me a beautiful person. That evening we share conversation, laugh together, drink and eat together and when the sun has sunken into the horizon and a starry night sky has covered his beloved city, he looks at me and tells me, with all the love in his heart, how happy he is that I want to share some time with him. I tell him it is my great honor to be in his company and that all the gratitude is mine, for he is so generous and kind. He asks me what “honored” means and I explain that it means that I am very much lucky and very much happy to be in his company. He smiles a smile so radiant it lights up the entire city.
After three days and four nights, we leave Jaipur by bus, heading towards the Desert City, Jaisalmer. There’s something deeply peaceful about the desert and one can witness this peace on the faces of the city’s inhabitants. The city center is located inside a fortress, which is decorated all over with beautifully sculpted balconies, walls, and window frames. At every corner turn, you can find paintings of Lord Ganesha decorating the walls. We roam through the fort for a while when we walk into a place where they advertise camel safaris through the desert. The man behind the counter is called Laxman, but everyone affectionately calls him Lucky. As I do not believe in coincidence it quickly becomes clear to me how the universe has led me to this place, so I could admire the beauty of Jaisalmer through the eyes of our new friend Lucky. He is the one who has pure, bright, starlight in his eyes, that never ceases to take my breath away. He is the one who had just traveled to Germany, where he had hardly the chance to make acquaintance with people, for he was treated coldly and kept at arms length by the locals. Something one would rarely ever experience in India. He is the one who makes a lot of jokes and takes pride in all the foreign friends and acquaintances he has. He is the one who lived as a shepherd for some years. When I asked him if it never got lonely, he replied he had all the animals for good company. When I asked him if he never missed talking to people, he replied he could sit at night and talk to the moon and the stars. After these words I felt my eyes light up, I took his hand and stated “we are the same, we are the same my friend”, he agreed with a broad smile and a nod.
The next day we explored the Thar Desert on camelbacks. At the end of the ride, we were welcomed with iced Mojitos and freshly cooked food. We ate, drank, smoked and laughed together amidst the sand dunes. Lucky and I sat chatting on the dunes as the sun was going down, coloring the sky in glowing orange light. It was such a delight to share energy with this beautiful soul in a place so magical. When the night sky fully covered the desert and billions of stars twinkled above our heads, we listened in silence to Pink Floyd and Funkadelic, letting ourselves dissolve in the high of life, charas, alcohol, and newly made friendships. I closed my eyes and rested my body against Lucky’s, a tear of pure joy rolled down my face, as I filled my whole self with gratitude because my dream of a starry night in a desert had come true and even exceeded all my expectations.
“Sir, this is glass. Sir? This is glass…” – The Temple Guy