No, this is not about my meeting with the first family of Jaipur. This is my encounter with the quirky spirit of the people of Jaipur:
On our second day in the city, my husband and I were excited to try this restaurant “X Mahal” as part of exploring the city and its culture. While food may be my husband’s motivation; I had clearly visualized the grand, golden gates of this palace. Then, I imagined, a gate-keeper wearing a turban and thick moustache appearing to open the car-door. After being welcomed with Tilak and sweets, I anticipated that we would be given a tour of the property: its sprawling lawns, its 108 suites, and of course, the pristine pool. Thereafter, I thought, we would be escorted to the dining area where we would sample traditional Rajasthani delicacies.
My day-dreaming was interrupted by frequent stops – to find our way to the “Mahal.” I told my husband, “It’s a palace, darling. We can’t miss it.” When people on the street directed us to go through patli galis, I laughed to myself, “What do they know about the Mahal.” After going back and forth and left and right, our wheels landed in a stinking swamp surrounding the restaurant. Jumping across to the pavement, closing our nose, we arrived. On entering the restaurant, a waiter wearing chappals emerged. His first words were “Abhi sirf South-Indian milega.” My husband, who had come in with pure culinary expectations, asked to be seated. “Kahin bhi baith jao,” came the prompt reply from the waiter. At least we had the luxury of space.
After couple of days, we were invited to a distant relative’s house, name of which was affixed with “mansion.” “It seems we have really wealthy relatives here, darling,” I said. I was hoping to make connections in this city of many palaces; palaces which make the entire city carry that burden of heritage. It turned out that the “mansion” was a dilapidated apartment building which was apparently built when elevators were not invented.
Why do people name their establishments the way they do? Is it to fool tourists or their own selves? Or “Mahals” and “mansions” are so weaved in their conditioning that such exaggerations in nomenclature are built into their sub-conscious? Or is it a competition they know they have lost but their spirit is not allowing them to accept so?