15/10/09 - 14/10/10
Today has just been one of those days.
I was woken up at 6.30am by the hotel staff shouting to one another, the sound of furniture being dragged around and very loud banging. Since I was paying a kings ransom of Rs800 per night, at least double what I normally pay, I was not impressed. I went in search of another hotel.
Just round the corner I found a small guesthouse with a huge room, double bed, TV and bathroom with hot water, all for Rs450. I returned to my room, packed and went to check out. I have never encountered 24hr check out before, but in India it exists. It means that you have to check out at the time you checked in - even if that time was 4.00am. I had checked-in at 8.00am. However, behind the reception desk was a huge sign “Check out time 12.00pm. By order of Jaipur Authority”. I had naively assumed the sign was correct and that check-out was at 12.00pm! This led to a big row with the reception clerk when I refused to pay for a third night and ultimately with me handing over Rs1600, stating “if you want to call the police, then call them but I am leaving now” and stalking out the front door with as much dignity as one can muster whilst wearing a 12kg rucksack and a bulging day pack on the front.
Today, March 1st, is Holi, India’s famous festival of colours and not a day to be enjoyed alone. Groups of revellers take to the streets daubing each other with brightly coloured powders or “playing Holi”. I have not met anyone since I left the Andamans and as I have been city-hopping, seeing six places in ten days, there has been no time to meet anyone. So I would be spending Holi alone.
I tried to get lunch, but every shop, restaurant, kiosk, street stall was closed – in fact all India seemed shut today. I finally found a restaurant serving lunch and had my first bad meal since arriving here, paying over the odds for the privilege.
I really wanted to get some photos of the festivities and jumping into a rickshaw I went to the centre of town. There are foreigners here and I thought I might be able to find some people to play with. The streets were weirdly quiet and only a few groups of boys, on bikes, were out throwing colour at each other. I got out of the rickshaw and began walking down the main tourist bazaars. People did approach and wish me “happy Holi” and paint me etc. However, there was an undertone with quite a few drunks and silly teenage boys. And Indian teenage boys are incredibly frustrated.
Two boys came over and were painting me and asking me to take their photo, one tried to hug me and as I pushed him away, he managed to grope me. Today was not my lucky day, but it was his – I had my camera in my right hand, so I was only able to hit him with my much weaker left hand. He ran back to his rickshaw but I must have thumped him about ten times before he got there. I hope it hurt him as much as my arm is still aching now!
Deciding that I had had enough “fun” I returned to my room. I tried to wash the colour off – but it is really hard to remove and my ears and neck are still stained red/neon pink. Then my washing line wouldn’t stay up so I couldn’t dry my washing. I finally found a shop open where I could top-up my phone credit but after trying five times it still wouldn’t work. And so it went on all day.
Now I am sitting in total darkness. Just waiting, for over an hour, for the electricity to come back on.
Today has frustrated me so much I have been seriously considering leaving India. I have been here nearly five months and I have loved so much of it, but the north is very different to the south. I seem have lost my sense of humour with rickshaw drivers and people trying to rip me off. I feel angry, defensive and aggressive when dealing with these situations. I am so used to them now; perhaps the ennui has set in. I expect and know someone is trying to con me. I have stopped haggling; I simply don’t bother any more. I will only give my money to the man who gives me an honest price from the out set – not everyone is trying to rip off the tourists.
I am going to Pushkar. Apparently calm and oh-so-Zen, it’s a perfect place to retreat to. If I can’t shake off this mood – who knows? I could be in South-East Asia sooner than I thought.