It’s been more than a year since I became a resident of Rajasthan – or more specifically, Jaipur – but never during this year did I get the opportunity to venture out of Jaipur. Nevertheless, my experience with the autos, shops and other ‘commercial ventures’ here have taught me a lot about how to negotiate pleas, scams and even insults and not get ripped off. Of course, this took a little bit of practical experience, but I managed to do it.
Then, about a couple of months ago, my family informed me that they were coming on a quick tour of Delhi, Jaipur and Jaisalmer, and I would have to join them from Jaipur. I was happy – it was a golden opportunity to showcase what it is like to live away from home and get so acclimatised and adjusted to what they consider an alien land (any place where a Bengali does not get his/her fix of bhaat-maachh, or rice and fish, they consider alien or foreign).
It was evident from my and my jiju’s mothers teary-eyed finish to each vegetarian meal at the regular restaurant. It was also evident from my sister caught off-guard because every restaurant in and around the place was vegetarian – these people are so used to their eggs, chicken and fish!
The next thing to get them was the sudden change of temperature. While they huffed and puffed during the heat of the day, sweating their make-up and deos off, I appeared nonchalant throughout the day. Then, when I warned them that the mercury would nosedive at night, reaching shivering depths towards dawn, I informed that they were prepared. As with quite a few other things, this time too they were surprised.
However, the icing on the cake was probably my accent, which, after months of haggling with auto-drivers on the streets, and beating them down to the desired fare, had a slight Marwari/Rajasthani tinge to it, not to mention my language containing a helpful smattering of words only the locals use.
Therefore, whenever anyone else from my family spoke during the tour, they got replies in snatches of broken Bengali, and an immediate look of recognition that appears on the faces of people who have spotted their next cash-cow in the form of a party of tourists. This, however, does not mean that they complied with the docility of a newlywed bride – in fact, they retaliated with their best Bengali bargaining skills, and often got some good results.
On the other hand, I was referred to variously as a Punjabi (by an auto driver on the road), a Gujarati (by a camel driver here in Jaisalmer, where I am writing this post), and even a UP waale bhaiyya (by some people whose accent I had picked up earlier, whilst interacting with a bunch of them in college)!
This trip is indeed proving to be quite fruitful, especially because it is also bringing our family closer, and giving me more time to spend with my nice, who I have seen just five or six times since July 2011, when she was born.
Nevertheless, this is also proving to be one time when I am turning out to be quite a Rajasthani!