Wednesday, 19 October 2011

On Forts, Food and Fitting In

Ancient forts are the hot topic when it comes to touring Rajasthan. If you're not in a town with a fort or a grand palace then you're not doing the whole tourist thing properly. But if you happen to see a fort somewhere in the town and if that fort is on top of a hill, you've hit the big-time.

The three cities I've visited in Rajasthan so far have each sported some kind of massive structure straddling a hilltop. In Udaipur there was the City Palace, in Jodhpur - the 16th century giant fort, Mehrangarh; and in Jaisalmer - the 12th century Jaisalmer Kila.

I've already mentioned Udaipur's City Palace so I'll be moving on to Mehrangarh... Mehrangarh is sold to tourists as Rajasthan's greatest fort and it is definitely deserving of the title. It is a massive structure which dominates Jodhpur's skyline. Its enormity and its position on the hilltop have ensured that in its five hundred years of existence it has not once been breached by an attacking army. And it's easy to see why...


Jaisalmer Fort is somewhat less overbearing than Mehrangarh and still forms part of the town of Jaisalmer. People still live within the walls of the fort and it is a bustling hub of activity with markets and temples at its core. As you've probably guessed, Jaisalmer Fort is on a hilltop overlooking Jaisalmer. Its walls are made up of 99 sandstone bastions which are, apparently, slowly collapsing. The fort was built on fairly weak foundations and the daily activities of its inhabitants are slowly eroding the foundations even further. This is largely due to the large quantities of water that get poured  into the streets from haveli windows and doorsteps.

Not the best picture of Jaisalmer fort, but
you can see a bastion...
So, now that I've mentioned the forts it's time to get on to the next item on the agenda - food. I love food. Especially curry. India is the best place in the world to have a culinary epiphany. I've been here for 6 days now and I've only eaten one meal more than once - chicken masala. Every day, I eat something entirely different to what I ate the day before. I've eaten dhals, paneers, rotis, chapatis, naans, tikkas and masalas. It's fair to say I love spicy food. And spice in general (Masala chai is a great way to start the day).

The options on the menus seem endless and there is such variety to the food that I'm constantly astounded that it's all considered one cuisine.
Nothing beats the experience of having an Indian meal. Ordering a curry and tucking into it with that trusty butter naan as your only eating utensil. There's something remarkably gratifying about eating a curry with only your fingers and half-risen bread. If I ever manage to get fat, it'll be because of these bloody delicious curries.

And finally, fitting in. I chose the words 'fitting in' simply because it made the title of my blog sound much more pleasing to the ear. I have as much chance of fitting in to Indian society as a radish has of becoming Australia's next Masterchef. My plan for managing the system in India is to completely immerse myself in it. It is impossible to fight against the current in this country so the only course of action is to flow with it. As such, I'm learning Hindi from Kaushik and have occasionally caught myself doing the Indian head-wobble. I don't think I'll ever be truly fluent in Hindi, but at the moment I know enough to greet people, ask how they are, answer them if they ask me, and order beer/food at a restaurant. Just enough to get by.



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