Exploring the Streets of Jaipur at dawn.
Taking to the streets of Jaipur in the early morning is a fascinating insight into the culture and everyday lives of the people of Jaipur.
Jaipur in winter is arid ;arid as in spine numbing chilly and almost devoid of moisture. This makes for pristine blue skies and chilly mornings - but on the plus side,the sunrises are absolutely stunning to behold. With the temperatures dropping to around 10 degrees or less in the early mornings, it's a good idea to stay bundled indoors, But as always, curiosity gets the best of you - especially if you're “photo-centric” as we were.
Mornings are also a good time especially since (in photographic terms) the light is extra special - with a tinge of golden yellow and blue skies above. The sun rays seeping through the skyline - be it through crammed up buildings or through the branches of a tree is an extra special treat almost exclusively reserved for dawn.
Jaipur was our first stop in our Indian escapade, and we were keen to have a first hand look into the country and the people - venturing out in the early hours of the morning was a perfect way to achieve that.
The earlier you are, the more chances you get to having the place all to your own. Also since all of the locals are pretty much occupied with their day to day tasks, it's easier to do some street photography discreetly. Also it helps that you can observe them incognito ; but touting a camera in the early morning hours and wandering the streets does make you stick out like a sore thumb ; we did get some amused looks, but it went no further than that.
For the entirety of our Jaipur stay we chose the Rawla Migrayani Palace as our base (you can read about the hotel here). Situated in the somewhat Eastern yet middle-ish sector of jaipur, it offered easy access to the cities landmark attractions - being walking distance to the city Palace and the Hawa Mahal.
The first thing you notice about Jaipur is the clear blue skies and if you happen to be on a rooftop, the dusty haze that blankets the entire city (it's not too severe, as in Kathmandu - now THAT was surreal) You don't see the sun as a disc coming up in the morning, but a diffused light filtered through the dust haze, and only once it clears the haze and climbs higher up in the sky, do you get to see the sun disc.
The other major thing you notice is the general lack of people - it's almost surprising to see the roads naked, with almost no traffic, save the random pick-up or camel drawn carts trundling by you.
Every one we encountered were wearing scarves, covering their faces from the chill, while they were starting their day. Here and there you came to see a few huddled together in a group either having a chat or enjoying a cuppa chai (tea), enjoying each sip with relish while a small fire blazed idly next to them.
We didn't need to venture far from our hotel to see what we wanted to see - casual by-the-Roadside milk collection and selling markets. Here farmers bring fresh milk to be sold off to the eagerly waiting vendors. The bartering is short and brief, and the milk is sold, changing hands and containers in rapid concession. It's a fascinating thing to watch, three dozen people converging on the side of the road (with virtually no traffic they can practically have free roaming all over) snappy trade and changing the cargo from one bike or camel or truck to another waiting mode of transport (usually a truck) - all in the space of an hour or so.
we gathered from the locals that these street markets are all over the place, with specific farmers and vendors frequenting perhaps only one or perhaps two such venues.
Jaipur is the second largest dairy producer in the state of Rajasthan, and it shows. Every meal has some sort of dairy inclusion; be it cheese, ghee or paneer. It is more than a staple food, but is a way of life, reflected in almost every aspect of the social Web. What makes it more impressive is that the Rajasthan is India's largest state by land area (making up almost 10% of the total Indian subcontinent) and 7th by population. It just gives an idea of how much the daily dairy need shout amount to - in a state that is almost wholly vegetarian.
Not only do vendors buy the milk wholesale, but nearby small businesses also come for it, and the local households have made a habit of procuring fresh milk from such Roadside establishments.
It's a great opportunity to talk and mingle with the hard toothed working men that fuel the Rajasthani masses ; although they have little time to talk, they smile and let you observe the process with no obstruction whatsoever. In an hour or so the whole process is done, save for some spilled milk stains on the road, you'd never guess such a gathering happens every day.
Some good camerawork done incognito - the chair drinking, cigarette touting vendors and farmers make for excellent photo subjects , and maybe a chance encounter with a meandering camel - and your day would be off to a great start.
And what better way to polish off such an early morning visit than to have yourself a sweet cuppa chai. Easily found in every nook and corner of the city, the impromptu markets have one or two such mobile chai stalls handily nearby ; and you can enjoy a well deserving and warming cuppa, made fresh from the produce brought up to the market.
India - a land of many shades and many surprises. Truly a roving nomad's paradise.