Chantal and I decided that we would go for a long walk in the city of Jodhpur, with the intention of visiting a temple we read about on Trip Advisor. As we walked downhill, along a busy street, we were greeted and followed by a few young boys who were eager to talk with us and get a photo. We took a photo with them and continued on our way. At the bottom of the hill, a few of the boys ran to catch up to us. The boys requested another selfie and we politely said no. As harsh as it sounds, Chantal and I are asked for photos multiple times a day and it becomes extremely tiring. After we denied their request the boys yelled and threw some very large rocks at us. Luckily only the smallest of the projectiles hit Chantal in the leg; the boys ran off laughing. We continued our walk, following the direction of Google Maps.
As we reached an intersections where we were to make a turn, a couple younger boys, maybe aged eight or nine ran up behind us and slapped Chantal’s behind with a pingpong paddle. Chantal turned around with an angry face and holler only to see them already a block away, smiling and laughing wildly as they looked back at her. Disgruntled but with the resolve that they were only children, Chantal and I continued our search for the Chamunda Mata Mandir.
Only moments after, we came upon a group of children who eagerly asked to take a photo with us. These kind faced, happy kids made us feel great and they laughed and smiled as I knelt down; Chantal took the photo. We said goodbye and again followed our map.
As the crowds fell away, spoken english all but disappeared and the streets became smaller, offering us a genuine look into the lives of Jodhpur’s citizens. With the smaller streets starting to vanish from Google’s map, we tried to ask about the Mandir and one local gestured towards a street; that’s where we went. To give you an idea, this street was roughly seven or eight feet across, sometimes less and gradually made its way up a big hill. Every few feet or so, there were ten to fifteen steep steps. At the bottom of this street we were joined by a few children. As we climbed higher, gazed upon by men and women from their doorways and windows, the children yelled and followed us excitedly.
What started as three or four kids grew to ten, then fifteen, twenty… until finally we were surrounded by at least thirty children as anxiously grabbing for our hands and clothing as they clambered up the stairs. A few tripped and were trampled by other behind them, others ran ahead, but still most tried to hold our hands and it took all of our effort to avoid falling backwards down the stairs and being trampled ourselves. What started as a friendly and humorous experience quickly turned into a overwhelming, potentially dangerous situation. Chantal, thinking that her newly acquired, although limited linguistic knowledge might help, told the children “shanti, shanti”. This Hindi word, meaning calm, quiet, peace, was met with an entirely contradictory response. Clearly surprised and excited that this white skinned visitor had just uttered a work in their language, the children began screaming loudly, “Shanti, SHANTI!” This certainly made the situation worse and while Chantal was at the forefront of the crowd, I was stuck in the very centre and began to get very anxious. Hands were everywhere, on our wrists, hands, forearms, bag straps, pockets, behinds and kids were falling and stepping in every direction, all the while trying to talk with us and ask us questions in either Hindi or their native tongue, Rajasthani.
Finally, we made it to the top of a hill and the street opened up to a beautiful sandy view of hills and small pond below. A family, who’s home rested at the very top, greeted us with smiles and the children spread out a little, giving us at least some relief from the jostling crowd. A pair of dogs came near to see what was going on. Some of the older boys threw rocks at them, laughing and smiling wildly. The family offered us food and water and although we would have felt awful accepting what little they had, the real reason for our denial was to protect our western stomachs from another bout of sickness. As it turned out, we had gone the wrong way and were nowhere near the Mandir we were looking for. Pleased with our view, we took a few moments rest, snapped a few photographs with the kids, who’s numbers had reduced somewhat, then headed back down the hill.
Walking down hill didn’t make things easier, however a few older teens had joined the group and seemed to keep things in what at this point felt to us like some kind of order. One boy, maybe fourteen years old, slid by me and coyly grabbed Chantal’s behind. I gently but quickly grabbed his shoulders and spun him around, gave him a strong “No, not okay!” and directed him to walk away from the group. Embarrassed he obliged and followed us at the back of the crowd. We made it to the bottom of the hill safely, as did everyone else. A seventeen or eighteen year old guy abruptly grabbed Chantal’s arm and pulled her towards his motorcycle. He was telling us both that he would take us to the tourist area. We were confident we could find our own way and insisted that we’d be find. The guys grip was so strong Chantal couldn’t pull away and it took at least a minute, which felt like an hour, of insisting until he let her go and we made our way to the busy street nearby. We called an Uber and a car picked us up five minutes later. Over all, we are grateful for the experience and it made for a good story, but it certainly was not our favourite day in Jodhpur. To read about our other adventures in Jodhpur, click here.