When I first arrived in Jodhpur, I asked myself ‘where the hell are all the blue buildings?’
In all of the images I saw online and in magazines, I saw blue. Blue, blue, blue and blue. Fashion designers and stylists for prints would specifically come to Jodhpur to take flattering photographs of their beautiful clothing and models against the backdrop of blue. Blue was in, and I was most certainly out (although in true tourist fashion, I did buy a kurta in the colour of Jodhpur’s indigo blue on my second day, despite never having seen a single blue building).
Known as, can you guess it, the Blue City of Rajasthan, many of Jodhpur’s buildings were painted this colour for a few disputed reasons. The first reason I heard was because the blue cools down the buildings during the intense summers (Jodhpur is also known as the Sun City), and the second being that the blue is a good defence against termites. Yet the third is the most interesting, and perhaps the most popular hypothesis. Legend has it that years ago, the Brahmin’s (the priestly caste) painted their houses blue in order to separate themselves from the lower castes that surrounded them. However, regardless of the correct reason, these buildings are stunning when seen from the top of Jodhpur’s Meherangarh Fort.
So after a week of asking myself the question, ‘where the hell are all the blue buildings?’ I finally saw them from a cliff when I visited the Fort with some volunteers, and two weeks later we took a tuk-tuk into the old city to actually see and touch these azure houses. Whilst I expected the old city to be its lovely self, I never expected it to be quite so different from where we stay and work in the new city.
Unlike Europe, where the old cities tend to be looked after and preserved (does anyone notice that something is always being restored? When I went to Rome, the Trevi fountain had scaffolding), in Jodhpur, the old city, in comparison to the new city, isn’t so well kept. There was more rubbish on the streets and more rogue animals (I saw my first mouse, which I was actually very surprised about, it being nearly a full month since I’ve been here without seeing one!), yet despite this the blue always remained a nice feature amongst the plastic bags and banana peels!
Yet despite the rubbish, the community were some of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve come across so far in India. Whenever I see people feeding the stray dogs, they get an A+++ in my book – and in the old city, I saw plenty of people feeding the dogs. Also, the friendliness was astounding. The amount of people I actually had coming up to me wanting me to take their photo was amazing, and a great chance to get to know them. We even had a boy of about ten scare off a violent dog for us to cross the street without getting (at worse) mauled at or (at best) barked at.
Finally, Jodhpur’s old city feels romantic. Although it doesn’t have the amount of calming cafes or international restaurants as the new city, it has tight, winding roads and cobblestones that you easily trip on. Instead of Asian noodles and ‘fresh Italian coffee,’ you find kachori and spicy aloo crisps at every old city corner. And at this moment, do I want the Thai noodles and the Lavazza the new city can offer? Well yes, but I want an Indian street snack, which may or may not give me Delhi belly, even more right now.**
** Although I am typing this up as I sit in my guesthouse in the new city, having just arrived an hour ago from a place nearby that sells ‘Italian’ coffee!