The best way to see Jodhpur may just be while hanging on for dear life!
Talish Ray is a lawyer who imagined that one day she will run her own firm and earn enough money to travel for vacations whenever she wanted and where ever she wanted . She got her wish. She runs TRS law offices and has a new address called midair somewhere . Only, she find herself trapped in between client and court tantrums with no time to see or feel the place . She is presently working up her courage to dump her firm, sell every belonging and run a shack in Goa where the feni will be free and the conversations by invitation only. This of course will happen if her new career avatar as a bespoke history guide takes off enough to give her the wings. Till then she makes the most of every minute in a new place. In this sporadic column she will share her suggestions for the very best short cultural immersions to pack into a business trip anywhere in the country. Today, she starts with Jodhpur.
“That side is Mandor, where Raavan’s wife came from but that would not interest you ladies, would it?” Rathoreji, our guide was suitably circumspect and very puzzled at our schedule. After 48 hours in a fine academic institution, producing even finer lawyers, our nerves were frayed. Jodhpur should ideally need no introduction but all we had seen was the imposing fort on a near-perpendicular cliff which dominates the entire city. Rathoreji’s challenge : to show and tell us everything in the 4 hours before flight check in. The taxi driver takes pity and speeds up the serpentine road that leads up to the fort. It’s a little past 8 am and the heat is building up. And so the Indigo taxi wheezes up the incline (ever notice how all Tata cars always seem to wheeze ! Yes, I know Jags are now owned by the Tatas but lets not get technical here ). On the one side is the royal cenotaph and on the other is a vast stretch of houses in various shades of blue. With the precision of a drill master out on a scout expedition, we lined up at the fort just as a the ticket counter was opening.
Mehrangarh Fort is shrouded in many a legend, and they all begin with that of a a local ascetic being appointed by a warrior to build something that would sustain power for the ages to come. It was built in 15th century but fell in a state of neglect until revived by combined efforts of the local royal family and the Government. The exact details of who did what will depend on which side’s version you choose to believe. It is a large well preserved fort with little niches for seating and classy eateries strategically located . Music floats in from local musicians who sit at vantage points. No prizes for guessing that padharo maro des is an eternal favourite. There is nothing that can be told about the fort that is not present in the “ Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan” by Col James Todd or for that matter their website.
This beauty was built to dominate and a 360 degree view is akin to staring at an ancient skyscraper. But the distraction on the ticket gate is a small sign that says Flying Fox Ziplining. Ordinarily it should take about 3 hours with a beginners’ training and one is advised to book a minimum of 2 days in advance. But our guide’s ego- once pumped-worked wonders. ( Try “Rathoreji as the senior most and the most knowledgable guide here you must have a lot of say in such matter” ) . The zipline site office actually brings you to the most beautiful part of the fort; an ornamental garden that goes by the name of the Chokelao Bagh . Nothing quite prepares you for the greenery , the flowering trees or the magic of a well laid garden in the midst of red barren sandstone. “It is enchanting at night”, Rathoreji told us but refused to get browbeaten into telling us any juicy ghost stories so we lost interest.
A little about zip lining – esstenially it fulfills the Korak in us . In all it involves zipping across industrial strength steel wires with the help of a harness and pulley . Gravity and momentum do most of the work, The landing remains the toughest aspect- land too fast or incorrectly and you can knock yourself off or slide right back to the middle for the instructor to haul you back . Leather gloves help you slow down and land correctly. Each group has a minimum of 2 instructors and they do their job superbly including obligingly carrying cameras, providing suitable foot wear and giving some new age gyan (Example : you can either enjoy fear or let it conquer you) . The practice drill looks as simple as ABC except that its only across some 50 feet and the height is a meagre 20 feet. The rules (like all rules) are obvious until you are hanging 200 feet above the ground and suffer an adrenaline-induced amnesia.
Between the lack of sleep, the enervating heat and the excitement honestly I don’t know what they made us practice and that was a mistake (I hobbled on a sprained foot for 3 weeks). The Mehrangarh has six such ziplines with the longest being 450 meters long . The views it offers are spectacular. It is the best way to see the city and the fort. The trial zipline contrasts the green of the garden on one side and the blue of the city on the other. It is also scary with wind factors that can shake the jimmy out of you. However rest assured, that about half way through it, adrenaline kicks in and the fun begins. Echoes of high pitched screams tend to punctuate the heat. These are from the folks on other lines ahead of you . If you hear them try not to smirk! Experience has taught me that my thrilled whopping was loud enough on the decibel scale to do a Delhi farm house wedding DJ proud.
Once the test line is over we carry on to the rest. Admission! We were given a choice to back out if we felt we didn’t want to go ahead. But heck, which self respecting woman would chicken out in front of our Hrithik Roshan look-alike instructor who said that should we carry on they would give us wings and keep us safe (pssst , in return we wanted to promise them the world but instead agreed to trek in 40 degrees heat and 90% humidity instead). It’s a small walk to the outer part of the fort and the other ziplines. We zipped over a moat (surreal) , a small hillock (so so), an outer wall (scary) and finally on two of the longest line on the outer rampants of the fort (astounding). At the end what I don’t remember is the heat or the trek or the sprained ankle. I do remember the exhilaration, the adrenaline high and the view. By the third line it’s a breeze (pun unintended). Since the last two zip lines are the longest they do leave you enough time for meditative contemplation. The effect is strangely calming.
Did we have time to see anything in the fort ? Yes we did ! We raced to the top of the fort (thankfully there is a lift) . Of course, we ran back just as quickly. Added to the heat the crowd was unnerving ! I wish I could say more but in 45 minutes we didn’t see anything to beat the view we got while flying on the zip line.
Yes, Jodhpur requires a few days to explore but if you have just 4 hours I suppose this will do !
Jodhpur is superbly connected by air and train from both Delhi and Mumbai . Places to stay are available in all price range .
Zipline Cost Per Person: Rs. 1,500 per person for adults, Rs. 1,250 per person for students, Rs. 1,000 per person for children
Child Fees: Rs. 1000
Book well in advance here.
All pictures are property of the author, who is a well-known lawyer for a reason. Be kind and ask for permission should you want to use them!