Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jojawar – Land of the Raj (Landlords)

Pool at Rawla Jojawar
We drove just 2 hours to our next stop, another small out-of-the-way town with another heritage hotel, Rawla Jojawar (Royal Jojawar).  By the way, a heritage hotel is a special property designated as an historical site.  This hotel was more basic that previous hotels, but still walled and insulated somewhat from the bustle of local activity; it was a nice respite from the real world.  (It’s not easy to follow an act like the last place, the Rawla Narlai!)  We got a real Rajasthan welcome from a drummer who announced our arrival with an energetic drum roll.  And, the manager sprinkled flower petals over our heads as we walked thru the arched gates of the hotel.  Anne loved that!
We had two small but fun activities planned in Jojawar: a jeep tour of this rural area, and an old-time train excursion in an old-time train!  The jeep tour was conducted by the owner of the hotel, a genuine Raj (landlord) and landowner of properties all around the area of Jojawar.  We visited a really nice farm where Frank, the former farm boy, got to relive some memories of his youth growing up on the farm.  They grow lots of cotton here and also castor plants (to make castor oil), farm items that Frank was not familiar with.  The land is dry, and it would be desert, were it not for the plethora of wells designated for irrigation.
Oogum, our guide
 ducks when a monkey jumps on our jeep
We saw lots of monkeys here – in fact, one of them jumped right on top of the jeep’s rear roll bar and sat there for several minutes!  We also visited home of some gypsies who travel to wherever work is available.  We also stopped at a temple that was memorable mainly for its large population of rats.  The trees were full of rats as darkness began to take over. 
It was well after dark by the time we drove back to the hotel, and we were amazed how the back roads seem to come to be full of life even after dark.  Lots of cars, motorcycles, and people just sitting along the road in total darkness.  The Raj told us that the people sitting in the dark were “waiting for someone.”  Could be, but sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?  It is pitch black along these dirt back roads (no electricity), yet people sit there seemingly idle along these roads, or tend cattle there in total darkness, or do who knows what(?).  Can you imagine anyone, much less many dozens of people sitting alone on the edge of a rural, unlit road in America?
Train ride through the countryside near Jojawar
We were driven to a far-away train station to catch our old-time train back to Jojawar.  We were surprised to see how many tourists were waiting for the train with us.  Apparently, this excursion has become quite popular.  The train excursion was fun as we rode through desert-conditions and mountainous terrain on this rickety local train.  We enjoyed the scenery and riding with the locals.  In fact, a group of 4 locals sat with us and we chatted in broken English and Hindi as we sped along. Lots of warm but fuzzy conversation – not sure there was total comprehension with both parties.  But lots of good feelings on a grass roots level.
The train stopped several times for “brake checks,” and once to feed the monkeys who were panhandling along the side of the tracks.  These monkeys know exactly when the trains come thru and gather by the tracks to eat the biscuits everybody throws out the train windows.  All the train windows had bars, and when we saw how aggressive these monkeys were, we knew why.
Monkeys await treats from the tourists onboard the train
We ended our day with a full body ayurvedic massage – a stimulating deep massage to increase circulation and encourage relaxation.  Certainly relaxed us!  Interestingly, we learned that local barbers often do these massages as an income booster in addition to their barber jobs.  Frank’s masseuse was indeed a barber named “Suresh”, who had a little barber hut down in Jojawar.

Faces of India:
Frank's barber-masseuse, "Suresh"

Frank with local boys on the train

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