Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is called the golden city. All the buildings in the city (yes most of the new ones too) are made with locally available golden yellow sandstone. When you view the city at sunrise or sunset, it simply takes your breath away. The entire city takes on the hues of the sun and just glows. Golden. I was there for 2 nights and 3 days and felt like I could live there for a lifetime and not get tired of this sight.
Well, that’s about the buildings.
What really amazed me was the people of this city. In a world where people are getting more selfish, self-centered and extremely busy, the people of Jaisalmer come like a breath of fresh air. They smile readily and seem to have all the time in the world to talk to you. No shopkeeper tries to push his wares on to you. They are happy to just talk – even if you don’t want to buy anything. They gladly offer you ‘chai’ and ‘nasta’ two seconds after you meet and greet them with a smile. You stop to ask someone for directions and within minutes you’ve exchanged your ancestry with them! If a shopkeeper does not have what you need, he will happily give you his competitors’ location where you can get exactly what you seek. I found this the most endearing trait. Live and let live.
We stopped to have breakfast at a restaurant called 8 July and formed bonds of a lifetime with the incredible couple who run the place. Jag Bhatia with his cowboy hat, Cary Grant smile and constant chanting of Jai Shri Krishna heartily welcomes anyone who walks in and is full of stories about his travels and life experiences. Rama Bhatia – his wife, is a personification of all maternal impulses. She loves to feed and fuss over people. She personally made Rajasthani special ‘Dal Bhati and Churma’ for us and literally fed my daughter. I can’t imagine any restaurant owner anywhere in the world ever doing that! The next day Rama and my daughter disappeared into the restaurant kitchen where they made waffles together – much to my daughter’s great joy!
The taxi driver who drove us to our camp in Thar desert was just as endearing. He kept us entertained with stories and local folklores. There is a little government authorized ‘Bhang Lassi’ store in the market and this became my husband’s favourite spot. The guy has a range of lassi’s – baby lassi, medium, strong and super power (he says after you drink that no toilet no shower – only sleep!). The store owner too became a good friend and we watched with fascination as he interacted with tourists switching with ease from English to Spanish to French to Hindi – depending on the nationality and region of the tourist. The guys who hang around this store also became our friends. One of them directed us to a local puppet show and we had such a lovely time watching this quaint show.
Jaisalmer will always hold a special place in my heart, not just for its majestic fort and ancient havelis but also for its burst of colour, its music and above all its golden hearted people. If you’re visiting, be warned that most places here do not take credit cards – we spent almost an entire morning bouncing around in a rickety auto, navigating between cows, going from ATM to ATM – trying to find one that spews money!
Let me sign off by saying, if you’re looking to reinforce your faith in humanity – do visit the place.