I used to think I was being lazy in Jaipur, when hanging around for lifts or taking tuc-tucs everywhere I went. To be fair, a lot of the time I’ve been here in the brain-frying temperatures of 48 degrees celcius in which just thinking is hard-going, never mind taking a walk in the sun.
But this time round it’s early January, winter time in Rajasthan, where the sun is mild and the breeze fresh and cool. It seems silly to spend money on tuc-tucs, even if it is usually only a euro or so a pop and even if walking around clearly isn’t going to be as easy or convenient as back in Europe. Surely it can’t be that hard?
Well this time round I finally took my own advice… and I realized why people here rarely ever walk anywhere and how supporting the local taxi drivers is in fact a wonderful honorable practice that I should endeavour to maintain at all times during visits to Jaipur.
Going for a stroll through certain parts of this city is taking your precious life into your own hands. Traversing the roads of India in any form is a slightly mental idea but given you’ve come all this way it kind of has to be done and trust me, you’re way better off doing it in some kind of vehicle – ideally an armoured tank.
Allow me to set the scene: I was at Anokhi Cafe and had sat on my arse for most of the day either scrolling through social media or writing on my laptop; it seemed the ideal time to try out walking home at last.
Back in Ireland walking the same short distance from the cafe back to my husband’s home would be an inconsequential amble, a twenty minute opportunity for quiet reflection and some light gentle exercise.
Here in Jaipur, it was a nerve-wracking forty minute adrenaline rush. For the majority of the journey, foot paths didn’t enter into the equation and navigating numerous parked vehicles and bicycles speeding at me from behind required a constant 360 degree visual system.
All this would have been manageable but for one major issue: crossing the road, which was necessary at least three times en route. Pedestrian crossings, though they do exist around parts of the city, were not on offer on my little trajectory. Instead, the only option was to wait for gaps in the aggressive, noisy haphazard traffic.
Ha! If I had done that, I would still be standing at the side of the first crossing! No, gaps were not an option nor was waiting an eternity for these busy roads to (possibly never) empty.
After several local pedestrians had disappeared into the distance and I found myself still at the side of the road like a clueless goof-ball, I realized there was only one option. (Well, two, but making a sudden blind run for it felt a bit like suicide.) I needed to follow the example of the locals and start weaving my way in and out of the on-coming deluge of noisy vehicles that might or might not actually stop if circumstances required.
With the many diesel engines rumbling and smoking and the incessant clarion of horns generating a kind of slow madness in my head, I shuffled my way through the congested traffic, feeling at certain moments like I was a lone civilian wandering through cross-fire. When a cycle rickshaw narrowly missed colliding with me trying to avoid a local bus, I decided that was it: no more walking around Jaipur. Possibly ever.
So there you have it. If you want to exercise in Jaipur, I’m afraid it’s going to have be the gym or a taxi ride to a nearby park but I am certainly not going to suggest you attempt strolling through her busy streets. I recommend instead the armoured tank option and, if that’s not possible, then be like the Indians and pray to as many Gods as possible!