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Dave in India at iRYLA

Day 16 - Jaipur: Amber Fort, Young Magician
By David GoWell
Posted on 12/29/2014 4:31 PM

Friday, December 5, 2014


I slept like a rock last night. Saji & I had to share a bed, but it was huge and we stayed to our own sides.


I was woken by a beautiful pink dawn and enjoyed it for 20 seconds…then went back to sleep.


I got up for real around 7am and took full advantage of that wonderful bathroom! Clouds of warm steam! Ahhhh!


Saj & I went down to breakfast and found they had a buffet, which included several hot items, like the omnipresent Oopala that they served every day at iRYLA. It also had an omelet station, corn flakes with hot AND cold milk(!), some fresh fruit, and Toast (yay!) with butter and jam!


We had an hour or so of free time before we were to be picked up, so I did some blogging and sent Emily’s recommendation to her.


At 10:30 our Cr arrived, containing Tomaych, the Assistant Professor of History from Jaipur University, and a driver.


As they drove us through the city Tomaych pointed out a series of Gates that we either drove by or passed through. Then we drove by the front of the Amber Fort, but at a distance, separated by a large body of water. We circled around the Fort and found ourselves in a twisting maze of alleys and lanes that were almost totally empty – no cars, no people, not even any cows! Once we met another car coming up the same street we were going down. Our drive thought he could intimidate the other driver into backing up and they began a war of horns, but this time the other guys won, and with a grumble, our driver was forced to back up until the street got wide enough for our cars to pass. unfortunately, that place happened to be a side lane, and there was a car there, honking and pushing forward, as if he could somehow get both of our cars to disappear. We stopped to state and honk for a while, then continued backing up. But wait! Now there was another car behind us, and he wanted to honk a bit, too. SO we all honked a lot and moved a little until the car behind us gave us some more room, we backed up a bit, the car of the side backed up just enough for the car in front of us to pass, and we were once again on our way!


We paid our entrance fee into the Amber Fort and picked up a Guide, Amit, who spoke excellent English. He began the tour by explaining that the Amber Fort wasn’t really a fort at all – it was a Palace, meaning the primary residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. This guy knew how to live! His bedroom and main audie3nce chambers both had clever systems to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer. The walls around his bedroom were covered with thousands of mirrors – some tiny, some larger, some large enough that I could easily have used them to shave (if I had been invited to stay the night, that is!). That way, if a visiting dignitary (or one of his 12 wives) happened to like the color blue, he could just put some blue carpet down, and some blue drapes up and all the walls would reflect that color. He also had a large tub in a heated bathroom, with hot water available 24 hours a day.


Then we went to the Miri-Krishna Temple. This was unique in India, because all the other Krishna Temples are called ‘Rada-Krishna’. Rada was Krishna’s most passionate devotee (she was not His wife, although he did have one). There love was (is?) considered the most pure and perfect expression of love in the world. Almost very image of Krishna shows Rada at his side. Sometimes there are a group of Gopis present, also. They are also considered pure devotees of Krishna, but Rada is clearly number 1. But once there was a little girl named Miri who loved Krishna with all her heart and felt that she was married to him. But her parents wanted her to marry the Maharaja and forced her to do that.   


But she could only think of Krishna and even though she gave the Maharaja some children, he knew she was not happy. And when she died (early, I would guess, and from a broken heart) he built a large Temple for Krishna and had an image of her created to put next to Krishna, in Rada’s place, so they could be together, forever.


We drove to the Lake Palace, one of several palaces that are built in the middle of large lakes a look like they are floating on the water. The only way to get to them is by boat. Some of them are now hotels and/or restaurants for tourists. This one is empty and closed. But we admired it from across the water.


There were many souvenir venders by the lake and we looked at some intricately carved marble balls that you could put a small candle or light bulb inside of to make a wonderful night light.

Then I noticed a little girl, probably about 8 years old. When I first noticed her she was rolling what looked like tubes of dough, probably for some sweet snack. When one rolled off her cloth and onto the ground, she picked it up an kept rolling. I made a mental note not to buy any of those.


Then she noticed me looking and said, “Magic? Dhrjjts jljash  lajdlj d Magic?  Lkjhd  alsdjj  Magic?!” She grabbed a small burlap sack and rummaged around in it for a while then pulled out 3 small brass cups and few small balls, about 1 inch in diameter, that seemed to have knitted covers. She proceeded to do a decent version of the Cups & Balls routine, making the balls appear and disappear under the cups, and in and out of her tiny hands. This trick is considered to be the oldest trick in Magic and to see it performed by a 8 year old girl in Jaipur India was real treat!  The only English words she seemed to know were ‘magic’, ‘one’, ‘two’, and ‘three’, but that was enough to convey her meaning. Then she picked up a 2 Rupee  coin and started doing coin slights, making it appear and disappear, move from hand to hand, or multiply to become 2 coins, finally making both of them disappear and then come out of my pants leg, and then out of my nose! I noticed that she kept using one particular slight-of-hand technique that did not look very natural, but most of her performance was very fluid and deceptive.


Saji gave her 50 Rupees for the show and then I sat down in front of her, motioned for her to sit across from me, and asked her if she would like to see me do some magic? I did a slight that I thought would be much better for her and totally fooled her, and most of the small crowd that was gathering to see what I was doing. I was surrounded by people who were standing over me, so there was no way I could prevent them from seeing the techniques, but I didn’t care – I really wanted to help her learn some better magic. I fooled her a few times with the slight until she began to catch on, then I turned my hands so she could see exactly what was happening. She seemed delighted to learn a new technique and I was delighted to show a fellow magician a better way of performing her craft.


Then we went to the City Palace and vi, sited the Jandar Mandar, which is a series of Astronomical and Astrological instruments that show with great precision the positions of the planets, constellations, and exact time of day. We saw the largest sundial in the world which is accurate within 2 seconds.


For lunch we only wanted Ice Cream but Tomaych was a little disappointed that we didn’t want a real lunch. We realized that he was counting on getting a good meal as partial compensation for his services, and so we insisted that he take us to a nice restaurant and order a full meal for himself, while we just had a Lassai, some Ice Cream (Mango and Pineapple – a flavor of Ice Cream I had never had) and potato chips – which go very well with ice cream! 


Back at the City Palace we saw some beautiful courtyards, a small museum of textiles (there was a 7 foot tall Maharaja that weighed in at 250 kg! His pajamas were  5 feet wide!) and finally a museum of weapons and armor. “WELCOME” was written over the door in knives and daggers!


We did a little more shopping and then dashed back to the hotel to get ready for the Rotary meeting.


Aneel arrived as we did and gave us a few minutes to clean up before taking us to the meeting. It was just down the street from our hotel. The Club is the oldest Rotary Club in Jaipur (out of 23 clubs!!!) and has the oldest members. We met one who was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary today. Next year will be his 50th anniversary in Rotary. His wife was the first female Rotarian outside the USA, and she was a District Officer before that was allowed.


They made a big fuss over us at the beginning of the meeting and gave us shiny red scarves. They asked me to speak for 3 minutes and I talked a bit about iRYLA, and how impressed I have been by all of the Rotary service activities I have seen.


The rest of the meeting was a series of short remembrances by the oldest Past Presidents they had. There were about 4 of them. Three of them did their speech in their own language, and the forth one used English, so we could understand. He talked about how when he was President the District Governor would not allow his picture to appear in the newsletter, but nowadays the DGs seem to like to see their pictures a lot! 


After the meeting we went back to the revolving restaurant. This time I ate very lightly, having just tomato soup and the Honey Potatoes I had had in Delhi. This time they were less like French Fries, and more like large home fries.


Aneel promised to pick us up at 6:30am to get us to the Train Station in plenty of time and we said good night.

                  Continue to Day 17