JAIPURA New Shade Of PinkBy Dharmendar Kanwar
In 1743, 16 years after Jaipur was founded, Jesuit Father Jose Tieffenthalar visited the city and was charmed by what he saw. He wrote: “The city, while it is new, is assuredly the most beautiful among the ancient cities of India, because in the latter everything is old, the streets are unequal and narrow. This on the contrary has the splendour of the modern, with equal wide and long streets.”
Three centuries later, its reputation as a beautiful, well-planned city is something that Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh II’s beloved creation, has to constantly live up to. Rajasthan’s capital does this without difficulty for the most part: its enchanting bazaars wear 200 years on their sleeves with pride, its perfectly laid-out streets are easily navigated and the uniform pink that the city sports inspires and enthrals visitors in equal measure. But — and there is bound to be a but — having lived here for 30 years, I often feel that today’s Jaipur doesn’t wish to be left behind in the race towards modernity. It seeks a combination of the modern and the ancient, of kings and software czars, of gleaming malls and resplendent palaces. Indeed, it’s this often heady and sometimes puzzling mix that the visitor to Jaipur will today discover. There is not one Jaipur, but two cities that reflect the vivacious blend of the new and the old. Behind the city walls, you will find the original, planned heritage city that dates to the 18th century. Outside those walls is 21st century Jaipur, with spanking new multi-storeyed buildings, shopping malls, call centres and fast-moving traffic. The two Jaipurs make for an intriguing contrast: one that many books have lauded in superlatives already, and the other that you discover as you go along.
Pick up a city map (Rs 20-30) from any bookshop or from your hotel, where it’s likely to be distributed free. The railway station and the bus stand are both located to the north-west and lie within a kilometre of the centre of the city. The airport is 14 km south of the city. Hotels are spread all over and transport, in the form of scooters, cycle rickshaws and pre-paid taxis, are readily available. It’s advisable to fix the fare for both rickshaws and scooters before you hire one as they do not always run on meter. Expect to pay a minimum fare of Rs 25 from the station to Bani Park (a kilometre-and-a-half); keep in mind that the entire city lies between Amber and Sanganer and the distance between the two is 26 km. The main shopping areas are located within the walled city. For sightseeing, it’s best to arrange a taxi through your hotel. Average taxi fare for a full day (8 hrs or 60 km) is between Rs 1,200 and 1,500. All trips out of Jaipur are charged at the rate of Rs 6-8 per km, depending on the type of car and usage of AC. A minimum fare for 250 km has to be paid regardless of how many kilometres are covered. One of the oldest and most dependable travel agencies in Jaipur is Rajasthan Tours (Tel: 0141-2385141/ 486).
You can also opt for a bus tour organised by the RTDC (Tel: 2202586, 2203531; full-day tour/ 9 am-6 pm, Rs 175; half-day tour/ 1.30-6 pm, Rs 80). Siyaram City Cabs (Tel: 6451234, Siyaram Street, Tonk Road, Durgapura) runs Pink Pepper, a pink double-decker bus whose upper deck doubles as a restaurant. The bus takes you around historic sights, and you can go in for a breakfast tour (8.30 am-12.30 pm), snack tours (1.30-3 pm, 4-5.30 pm, 6.30-8 pm) or a dinner tour (9-10.30 pm). Fares range from Rs 175 to 325. Camel cart tours of Rajasthani villages are arranged by the Hotel Bissau Palace (Tel: 2304371) at Rs 950 per head (Rs 750 per head for a group of seven; charges inclusive of lunch).