Monday, March 30, 2009
So, here I am at the edge of the Thar desert. While the city itself seems to be surrounded by sand and scrub, you can see from the picture above that I am living in a fairly typical suburban neighborhood in Rajasthan. It’s going to be uncomfortable on those days when the weather forecast is for “blowing sand,” but otherwise, it reminds me a lot of Jaipur (also unpleasant in sandstorms). The hotel (the Shri Ram, if any of you feel like sending me mail in the next 10-12 weeks) seems pretty comfortable. In fact, the only complaint I have so far is that I can’t figure out how to turn off the AC.
I stayed last night in Mandawa, and while you’d think the architectural historian part of me would have wanted to see all the havelis I could before nightfall, the freakazoid part of me voted for staying in my hotel room. I had low level anxiety attacks all day during the drive from Delhi to Mandawa, alternating with periods of intense sleepiness, and by the time I got to Mandawa, all I wanted was for no one to talk to me EVER AGAIN. Sadly, I messed that plan up right away by all-but-deliberately locking myself out of my cell phone. I swear, I thought, “If I do this, I’m going to disable my cell phone, and I don’t want to do that because today is the day I am scheduled to call my parents.” But I did it anyway, and sure enough, I rendered my mobile useless. In my panic to get out of my hotel room and find someone to unlock it for me—on a Sunday evening on a festival weekend, good luck with that—I caught my finger in the lock mechanism of my hotel room door. I stopped at the front desk to explain that I needed to find someone to unlock an Airtel phone, and when I looked at my phone, I thought, “Huh. It’s covered with sticky stuff. Why is that?” and tried to wipe it off. Really sticky, though. Then I realized my fingers were also sticky, and when I tried to wipe them off, I realized, no, not sticky, bloody. I had pinched my finger so thoroughly that I had torn the skin, and I had blood dripping from one finger all over the place. I was so focused on the fact that I needed to call my parents so they wouldn't needlessly worry that I didn’t even really notice that wow, my finger really hurts!
Anyway, for 50 rupees, the guys at the front desk not only fixed my cell phone, but bandaged my finger.
The drive from Mandawa to Bikaner only took a few hours, and it was pretty easy to settle in here. I think this is mostly a backpackers hotel, so they are used to freakazoid foreigners. It’s the off season for backpacking, though, so I seem to be here pretty much by myself. Just by asking I got a discount on my room, so I am paying considerably less for this place than I was paying in Delhi. Not sure about the food or laundry situation yet, but it will all work out.
Tomorrow my goal is just to find the archives, and maybe darken the door with my presence. No one has been able to give me an address for the place, so it could take all day just to get from here to there, wherever there is. By Wednesday, hopefully I will be fully registered, and by Thursday, hopefully I will be working. I don’t want to be too ambitious and invite disaster (although I checked my forehead this morning and it seems I will live to see another day), but I am optimistic.