Letter From New York 04 02 15 In the shadows of the Maharajahs…

It is sunset time in India. The bright, sunny, hot day has ceded to a grey and hazy time. My friends have gone out to dinner tonight; I chose not to join them. I had a restless night last night and woke with a sniffy nose and a scratchy throat. Discretion seemed the better part of valor.

With a guide and driver in hand, I ventured out into Jaipur and visited the Amber Fort, arriving just too late to take an elephant up to the Fort.

Youssef, the guide, took me through the corridors of the palace, which are actually three palaces in one huge building – one for summer, one for winter, one for the monsoon season.

Next door is another, smaller palace which can be rented from the Royal Family for about $50,000 a day.

We then went to the City Palace and wandered there where I bought a few gifts to bring home. Next door to the City Palace Museum is the seven-floor palace that is home to the Royal Family. The Princess sits in the legislature and the family is involved in raising and donating money to charities around Rajasthan. The next Maharajah is now sixteen and will be installed when he is eighteen. He has no power but he’s got prestige and money. The Royal Family of Rajasthan is the richest of India’s Royal Families.

Then we went on to the famous Jantar Mantar, the astronomical observatory build by Jai Singh II in the first half of the 18th Century. He built five of them in his territories but this is the largest of them. I’ve seen pictures of it and was suitably impressed with the real thing. There are fourteen giant instruments. The Samrat Yantra is a giant sundial that can tell time within two seconds of accuracy in Jaipur. I was amazed and humbled by the sight of these giant tools built two and a half centuries ago.

While we were there came the haunting call to prayer though no one in the observatory observed the call to prayer. Indian Hindis, Germans, French, British, Americans and the occasional Muslim Indian surrounded me. Jaipur was a capital of the Moghul Empire and they were Muslims.

While the city is called “The Pink City” it is actually more amber/orange in color. When Edward VII of England was still Prince of Wales he visited Jaipur and the reigning Maharajah had the city painted pink in his honor. And it has stuck.

It is so hard to describe the riot that is India; the clash of colors and smells and the intensity of millions of people going about their business is inescapable and indescribable.

For a half hour I watched a tiny man do a block print on fabric that would then be sold in the store next door. He moved with speed and precision, never missing a beat, never screwing up. I went in to the store and purchased a square tablecloth a friend asked me to find. It is one of the hand printed ones. I resisted all other enticements to spend thousands of rupees on beautiful works. The man who was guiding me was disappointed but gracious in the end.

Eventually exhausted, I returned to the hotel and attempted to sleep a bit but didn’t really fall asleep so I got up just as the phone rang from America; it was my friend Nick Stuart wondering how my speech had gone. He had received neither my email nor my text so we chatted for a minute and then signed off.

I am going down to a have a light bite to eat and then come back to my room, read and hopefully sleep early.

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