You read that right - I luv Jaipore. The olde Jaipore. Vastly different from Jaipur. The destination I was once nuts over ( so many amazing fashion shoots! Such lovely, romantic memories!!) Jaipore used to be The Pink City of Hawa Mahal fame. Polo. Gayatri Devi. Palaces. Painted elephants. Exquisite Jadau. All those wonderful turn -ons which once made a visit to the place a magical experience. Life transforming on so many levels. No wonder Brit aristocracy went ga ga over this little jewel.
I was back after two years or so.... and had to constantly rub my eyes and ask my minders if I was indeed in Jaipur ( Jaipore is obviously dead). There is very little pink left in the Pink City, which now resembles an ugly, impersonal,concrete urbanscape, devoid of any character or charm. I could have been anywhere. That has become the lament all across India, particularly in B-Grade cities . They is zero town planning as greedy, unscrupulous developers buy up prime property and construct monstrous structures that strip away any semblance of aesthetic appeal. Hideous malls, multiplexes and other commercial zones have killed Jaipur's unique identity, and I really wanted to cry!
What hasn't changed so far is the unbelievable street food! Those piping hot kachoris. That kesar-flavoured malai lassi! And the unbeatable hospitality old families like the Tholias and the Kapoors! Thank God for friends. I felt better after they consoled me and offered an explanation. Madame Chief Minister ( Vasundhara Raje - no longer c.m. but her ghost lingers), must have been in a huge hurry to 'develop' Jaipur. In the bargain, she okayed the ghastliest plans that led to over- building followed by the gigantic real estate crash. Most of the projects lie abandoned now. The builders have run out of money or are under investigation. Not that it helps. Those structures are still around. But the people of Jaipur are just so glad they've seen Madame's back. Their hopes are pinned on Ashok Gehlot, the present c.m. whom they are hoping will bail out the state, now that the Congress is in power at the centre, too.
That apart, I had the best time, even though it was 43 degrees centigrade in the shade, and I was sure I'd get a sun stroke in the crowded Johari Bazaar, where I was shopping for leheriyas and jhumkas. I found both and came back to Mumbai with a borrowed suitcase which held my purchases. The flight was horribly late, and Jaipur airport isn't the best. But I survived. I went to the newly opened Anokhi Cafe with Mita ( a first rate literary person, who does a zillion things), and then chief guested at the Pearl Fashion Academy's annual function, which featured shows put together by 30 young designers from the graduating class, along with a few post-grad students. Long and exhausting. But it was great to see these talented kids displaying innovative designs.
I didn't spot a single peacock on this trip. Not surprising - where's the tree cover? But I did enjoy an extraordinary meal cooked by wonderwoman Mita. She deserves a sonnet. But I'm not Shakespeare.