Rajasthan in Fast Forward

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The western India state of Rajasthan is known for it’s desert landscapes, it’s sporadic yet wondrous wild gazelles, and it’s four signature cities: the pink city (Jaipur), the gold city (Jaismalmer), the blue city (Jodhpur), and the white city (Udaipur). All of which are named after the colors and hues of the historic forts and edifices seen across each skyline. There is a thrill every time we drive into the next color in the rainbow. But the view from afar is often the best part of the journey here. It’s almost as if Rajasthan was created in pointillism, and the closer you get the harder it is to decipher.

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The dusty cities will leave tracers across your vision and the taste of quartz and earth in your throat. There is an awareness of suffering on the streets, and an air of privilege in the hills above. The roadways are filled with horns and swerving tires. The shoulders are often stacks of refuse where groups of pigs and stray dogs forage for leftovers. You pass by crumbling historic sites and dodge racing motorcycles. You rush by street corners filled with the heavy stares of packs of men. You find yourself stepping around people lying in the streets, waving away packs of begging children, and suddenly wondering what type of person you have become …Then the bright glimmer of a sequin catches your vision and pulls you into a different place entirely. The colors of India. The intense magenta of passing saris, the glint of silver threading on a handbag, the canvas of each shawl and bangle. The street scene is tragic, rough, bright, and glamorous. Intensity is a constant.

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Rajasthan has taken me to the edge of my patience- the point where I start clenching my teeth and pressing my fingernails into the palm of my fists. Each day I find myself inverting my eyes to avoid the stares of passing men. I have been followed, groped, and watched so much that it has become a pattern I must accept. Hour by hour throughout the day, this treatment builds on itself- a boiling point.

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Each day my opinions and feeling towards my surroundings vacillate like a pendulum. I feel confused. I feel angry. I feel sorrow, and awe. I feel exhausted. As the sun sets in any Rajasthan town, we ascend to a rooftop restaurant and watch the city fold back into a cocoon. Bit by bit the lights dim, the roughness rests, and the skyline once again becomes a painting.

There’s no place like this place.

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