Saturday, 28 January 2012

Enterprising India

The day before yesterday we travelled to Fatehpur Sikhri. Akbar built it intending it to become the new capital, but a shortage of water led him to pack up and move the palace, along with all the shops and services that supplied it. Fatehpur Sikhri is interesting, but it's swarming with both tourists and Indians wanting to make some money from tourists. Lots of little impish kids who know a few words in about six languages and have various little items to sell: postcards are common, but also dolls, bracelets, anklets, books about the site, pens, etc, etc. A sense of humour is extremely helpful. Our Indian tour leader taught me the phrase "na heeng cha-ir" which means something like "I don't want anything." He said to say it forcefully. I remember in Morocco the word "walloo" (nothing) was like magic, so I tried it out, (the Hindi phrase, that is, not the Arabic) except I'd written it on my hand and didn't have my reading glasses so I said "nee haang" and then upped the insistent tone, repeating "Nee haang, nee haang" thinking I'm very clever but getting only blank stares. They've never heard this language before. One boy, a young smiling smart-ass teenager (I know this terrain!) said, "Nee haang? What's that? Chinese?"

So I stopped and checked then corrected myself and said "Na heeng" and some kids ran away in shock, except the teenaged boy who said, "Good Hindi." So he hung around me for the next little while and enjoyed the show as I used my one Hindi phrase. He did correct my pronunciation as well. Then I bought four packets of postcards from him and we both were happy with the deal and he left me saying to his friend, "Nice lady." Charmer.

At Fatehpur Sikhri there's a pool; I assume it was a kind of cistern. The stagnant water in it was green sheened and slimy looking. Three young men in just their skivvies stood by it and when they saw us coming they hailed us and one ran to the edge of the cistern, prepared to dive in. I was horrified and felt sure he'd crack his skull on the stone ledge around it. But in he dived in and then he quickly climbed out to the cheers of some of my travel companions and of course he ran right over to collect for the show. I admired his enterprising spirit. He had nothing to sell but his young bravado and it worked.

But not to give the wrong idea. It's really only in these tourist hot spots that we've been hassled like that. This week I'm travelling with a G adventures tour and there are 15 of us, and most of them are young women of around 25, along with an Anglo-Indian man (40ish) an American man of 53, and two other young men, UK and Germany, also around 25. We have a great group, really respectful nice travellers. I'm realizing the advantage of being older. I can walk out on the street alone and no one bothers me at all, except for the occasional "hello" from someone. But it's not the young women who get bothered most; it's the big American male. Holy!

We're in Jaipur now. Pretty crazy busy. I'll need my earplugs to sleep tonight. To the Amber Fort tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing. Gorgeous photos. I'd love to touch the paving stone in that last photo. Look forward to hearing about the tour!