In Jodhpur, we were met by Phil, the native Brit who now lives in and runs Bristow's Haveli, which is where we were staying for 3 nights. The building was a peaceful haven set apart from the noisy back streets. Painted blue, traditionally signifying holy residences (but also acting as an insect repellent - the blue being from the Indigo tree), it was open to the elements and filled with plants to shade from the harsh desert sun. Unfortunately for us, we were staying during the coldest winter they had had for years, so we filled our hot water bottles and put on all of our clothes - no really, ALL of our clothes - to protect against the drafts and bitter temperatures reached overnight in the small, stark rooms of our thick walled suites. The air may have been cool, but the hospitality wasn't.
The fort at Jodhpur was atop a steep hill to which we walked one morning. A very good audio guide made it all just that little bit more interesting and put the architecture into context. It was here that I got a bit more detail on the Hindu caste system:
'Verna' means 'caste class' as opposed to 'caste proper', which relates to occupation, i.e. potter. There are 4 main castes of Verna, which are like the European classes of clergy, soldier etc. Rajput is one of the 4 Verna.
You can have that nugget for free!
Alot of work had been put into the fort's conservation, as well as marketing and the overall visitor experience. The shop, I very nearly didn't go into, being familiar (and disappointed) with UK museum shops, their pencils and keyrings. But in fact, it sold stunning pieces of jewellery very cheaply, plus bags, shawls, books and such, the money from which goes towards the maintenance of the fort, so is well worth a visit.
By the time we came to making our way back down, the locals were stirring and seemed to be making their own cultural pilgrimage up the hill. We wondered if entrance might have been free to locals on New Year's Day, or perhaps it was simply the fact that no one had to be at work that promped them to delve into their heritage with zeal. At any rate, we bumped into a mature gent with a super Rajput style moustache who engaged us in conversation and requested a photo sporting Ben's 'goggles'. What a lad.
Spice Paradise was recommended to us by Phil as well worth a look for home cooking lessons and masala blends. When we popped in, we found the lady of the house teaching some American tourists how to make traditional masala chai, while her husband was the go-to man for herbal/nutritional remedies. In fact, his father was known as somewhat of an expert throughout India on the topic and wrote many books, one of which we suspect might be what I picked up from the guest house in Calcutta. He gave Dad a yoghurt concoction to cure his stomach ache, and advised me on a hot water remedy to prevent future voice losses, which I (no doubt naively) imagined I'd try out after returning home:..
For 2 months, every day:
Gargle with 300ml water (warmer than body temp) until it goes cold, then spit & repeat until all water gone.
Then get ready for bed and get in. Drink 125ml warm water, swallow & do not leave bed til the morning.
Before leaving bed, drink 125ml warm water, swallow and get up.
Then gargle with 300ml warm water as in the evening.
Watch this space...