I love photos because they arouse memory. Each picture taken gives birth to a swarm of other mind pictures. The more you take photographs, the less you forget the moments in your past life. I went to India in April 2011. It seems to be a long time ago but actually the atmosphere of happiness and the emotions are still alive.
We visited Jaisalmer after Bikaner. To get there, we had to spend several hours on a coach, going through the Thar Desert in the sun and even in the rain. The friendly guide Gopal had served glasses of Rum and Coke to all the passengers, because he hoped he would sell us a few bottles at the end of the stay. Unfortunately, I do not like rum. But I liked the Indian crackers he gave us; it is called Hot Mix. It looks like fish- food but it is crunchy and spicy. It is not easy to eat with your fingers; a spoon or a bick would be more practical!
So Jaisalmer is a town in the middle of the desert, its walls are made of sandstone, so they have the colour of the Thar: yellow. It is situated in the West part of Rajasthan, only 100 km from Pakistan. It is nicknamed the Golden Town, or the Indian Carcassonne, as the French like joking about it…because like Caracassonne, it is an impressive fortress in the middle of nowhere, both have the same earth colour, but Jaisalmer does not have the sharp towers at the top nor the green meadows around…
Jaisalmer was a rajput city, founded in the 12th century by Maharawal Jaisal Singh, whose portait I took from Wikipedia and I show it to you because I find it is a really nice portrait – I like the colours and the artless strokes -. Caravans carried spices and silk and used to stop in Jaisalmer during their business trips. You can also note the presence of Jains who built their temples in the heart of the city between the 12th and the 15th century. I am going to write an article about jains because they have a fascinating religion and I confess that I am more sensitive to their temples than to the Hindus’, as they create a kind of quiet meditative atmosphere which is close to the atmosphere in Christian churches, as well as a form of aestheticism through stone carving and chiaroscuro!
When we arrived at the fortress, dogs were barking and barking because there was a bitch in heat in the pack. Some women and children were wearing traditional garments and excessive paint on their faces. They were selling jewels which were supposed to be silver. A shoe-shine boy followed us till the end of the tour. I was lucky because I had brand new Converse sneakers and he could not take me hostage to clean my shoes or change my soles. Nevertheless, he was a kind guy and we gave him some money for his obtinacy.
Then, we started walking in the narrow streets which were decorated with Ganesh paintings and carved-stone friezes. It was a real maze! The walls and the ledges of the windows looked like lace. It was breathtaking. Lace of stone! Lace of stone everywhere! I remember being really moved by the Alhambra, in Spain, when I was younger, but Jaisalmer is ten or twenty times as impressive as the Alhambra!
The only thing I could criticize, is the lack of preservation of such a treasure. 2000 people still live behind the walls of Jasailmer and I guess the weather, the pollution and people’s everyday lives are a probable source of damage.
But that’s the point: the charm of Jaisalmer lies in its people. It is a real town! Children play cricket, women chat on the doorsteps, lay their wet sarees on the roofs, sweep the pavement and men stay in front of their souvenir stalls or workshops, have a chai with the neighbours and watch the tourists pass by. It smells of spices, hot cow dung and sunny stone. I love this smell!
After the walk, we sat down at a terrasse. We had a delicious sweet lemon juice. It was refreshing and unexpected as lemons are supposed to be acid. A salesman had hung patchwork blankets on the wall. It was beautiful. We took pictures in front of this wall of colourful fabric.
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