December 9 2015
I am just a guide
who loves to tell stories.
Putting up in a rental atop Premchand & Sons shop no. 43
Still adapting to the new world
of the Walled City.
I go back down memory lane,
dadi-nani ki kahaniyan,
Which marked my entry into the world beyond…
A violent knock on the door
brings me back to the old world
10 am it was, market now open
for tourists. Time to go to work!
in the crowded Bapu Bazar
I call out to random tourists
Whose eyes are struck on the vibrant chunni that I offer.
Endless sea of navy blue,
islands of gota-patti
done up in detail.
The passers-by inquire prices,
and their widened eyes
turn into gaping holes,
At the mercy of bullets
of exorbitant prices.
For me, this chunni is priceless,
a matter of bread and butter.
So, I look for the fairer skin, tell a story and earn my living.
“Chunni once worn by Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur”
I call out to random tourists with the fairer skin.
Then I enter into the City Palace,
through the security check, like a boss.
A certified guide or maybe
a business partner of the watchman,
Who stands as a major stakeholder
in my income of the day.
“This is the place where the Princess of Jaipur
still conducts her swayamvara,
Knights in shining armour, riding their horses,
battle it out for the king’s throne and the queen’s heart
And those who lose, well they go and play Polo at Rambagh.”
As the awestruck foreigners are busy
capturing the historical site,
I enjoy my moment of amusement
at the expense of their gullibility.
But then, I am just a guide who loves to tell stories.
After having paid the shares of watchman,
autowallahs and Premchandji
I head to Sky High – coaching classes for excellence
in foreign languages,
A fruitful investment in my field, you see.
Asked to translate a renowned saying into the German,
I just stare blankly at the white board.
“Honesty is the Best Policy,” it reads.
The teacher’s scolding fall on my deaf ears.
Still, I feel guilty.
After all, I am just a guide who loves to tell stories… that misguide.
December 10, 2015
I am just a guide who loves to tell stories…
Stories, which are much more than vomiting of facts
Facts are His-story, not My-Story.
My-story has details, dialogue and colour
Its essence, poetic justice.
That’s why I find unsettling
the saffron dupatta on a pink top
and blue denims.
What I find even more unsettling
is her question to me,
“But wasn’t this chandelier made
a century after Akbar died?”
She points at the ceiling,
embellished by ‘Akbar’s gift to Jaipur.’
Her curious eyes filled with confidence
infuriate me even more.
Preeti Bakshi, Education Minister –
her ID boasts of her aloofness.
Such a boring life they lead, “glorified photocopiers.”
“Not just us, but even you owe one to your history
Tell it the way it is,” she tells me.
Her eyes, still full of confidence,
and now some rage
Leave me amused.
I look at all the tourists around,
some clicking pictures while the others
trying out saffron turbans.
All of them here, for a taste of Rajasthan,
away from their comfort zones…
into the unknown. They owe me one,
for transporting them further away
to the land of their dreams,
coloured in their favourite shade.
“Tell it the way it is? Who decides what ‘it’ really is?
Is it King Akbar or Prince Charles?
Nah, they have all lost the battle.
You tell them a story, so do I.”
I say firmly, pointing at her saffron dupatta.
Doubt trickles down into her eyes, the confidence intact still.
“We all tell a story, we all tell it the way it is,
The way we tell it to ourselves.
So, be honest,
honest to the one who matters,” she says
Her voice, soft. Her eyes, moist.
Her dupatta, saffron.
11pm, I lie down in my rental atop Premchand.
The saffron visible to my eyes
in the pitch dark room.
Islands of gota-patti like blots,
disturbing the smooth touch
of her silk dupatta that
she had let go of so comfortably
when she bid me goodbye.
“the one who matters..,”
her soft voice resounds
in my muddled head.
Can I let go as easily?
Can my story really be my own?
Looking for an answer,
I surrender myself to sleep
and to the cosy embrace
of the saffron silk.
Those gaping holes stare
at me yet again,
But I keep yelling,
“Saffron silk dupatta…
Worn by Princess Jodha.
Five hundred, only.”
I am just a guide…
who loves to tell My-Story.
Featured Image Courtesy: Peter West Carey