You can call me Johannes

To avoid the constant onslaught of hustlers, drug-dealers, camel-guides and rickshaw drivers asking me the same inane questions; “What country you from?” or “What is your good name?” I invented an alter-ego.   If any Rajastani tout is to ask, my name is Johannes and I’m a Latvian import-exporter.  I only understand a little English so I can’t carry on a very long conversation.   I started using random countries at first just for my own entertainment, but very quickly I realized that when saying Latvia specifically and using a non-English name, almost immediately the touts would stop their attempts of coercion, and they would focus their efforts on luring others into their shops, autos or restaurants.   Most people know Canada, or at least its general location.  If I answered honestly it gave the hustlers an opportunity to latch on to something, tell me about an uncle they had in Canada, or a city they’d heard was beautiful, and boom, I’d be right in the middle of a negotiation for a pashmina for which I had no need.  I was even interviewed after watching some camel polo and I used my fake persona.  If anyone happens to pick up a copy of the Jaipur English Daily dated February 7th, 2012, the Latvian who was satisfied with the performances but dissatisfied with the stage arrangement is yours truly.

I spent a week exploring the dusty world of Rajastan, wandering through ancient forts, cobble-stoned streets and along the banks of timeless bathing spots.  I traveled with some great people, like Peter from Munich and Johanna from Sweden and then I made tracks for Haryana, to attend the wedding of Rohan’s sister.   Rohan was understandably busy organizing multiple days of activities, events and ceremonies while also catering to the needs of the thousands of guests who were invited, but I was very fortunate to have Rohan’s school friends with which to spend the days in and around the dizzying schedule of celebration.  The wedding was one hell of an event.  Their was a cornucopia of succulent dishes , an endless supply of drinks and a strange cacophony of confusing ceremonies and superstitions.  It was great.  I had few shirts appropriate and no dress pants or shoes to attend a wedding of this calibre, but fortunately for me, Rohan tracked down some dress clothes from his cousins for me so I looked presentable.

The pre-wedding ceremonies were held in Rohan’s birthplace, Karnal, while the wedding was in Agra.  He put us up in a five star hotel a short rickshaw’s drive from the Taj.  Rohan two, Fran, Peter and I explored this emblem of Mughal architecture, and it was still pretty amazing even after all the hype.

From Agra we returned on a train cabin reserved for the guests, played cards and drank some more.  In Delhi I wasted the days on strange excursions to the city, errands with Rohan two and a great food tour with Rajpal.  It’s been a great last couple of weeks.  Now I’ve got my Bangladeshi visa, an expensive stamp in my passport and I’m sitting on a terrace overlooking one of the oldest cities in the world and the holiest place in India, Varanasi.  In a couple of days I’m going to Kolkata and then onward to Bangladesh.

I’ve got another movie in the works and I’ll have it posted soon.