Thursday, 1 May 2014

... Crouch With Tigers, Hide With Dragons: Rajasthan R n' R

This morning saw a 3hr drive from Jaipur to the rural village of Tordi Sagar for an insight into the complexity of rural India. I began in earnest by getting a very ornate mehndi (henna) design of a peacock done on my right fingers, hand and forearm by a very talented local girl. The henna is applied, you then allow it to dry and fall off of its own accord. It certainly made going to the washroom interesting.

Whole, unbroken henna leaves will not stain the skin until the chemical molecules, lawsone, are released. Fresh henna leaves will stain the skin if they are smashed with a mildly acidic liquid (lemon juice or strong tea) though most henna for application is made from a dry powder mixed with liquid to create like a toothpaste. The molecules gradually migrate from the henna paste into the outer layer of the skin and bind to the proteins in it, creating a fast stain.

Henna stains are orange soon after application, but darken over the following three days to a reddish brown. Soles and palms have the thickest layer of skin and so take up the most lawsone, and take it to the greatest depth, so that hands and feet will have the darkest and most long-lasting stains. After about 7 days it will appear to fade, as the stained dead cells exfoliate.

After a late lunch I took a walk through the village for a up close and personal insight into the markets, potters, ironsmiths, temples and farms. The people who live here are so humble, generous and kind. They live such simple lives with the biggest of smiles, and that's truly inspiring. They, especially the kids, loved posing for photos as long as you showed them afterwards (which they got an even bigger kick out of). "One photo! One photo!" was the cry.

Against the blandness of the scenery (think desert tones), the village was splashed with vibrant colours everywhere you turned. It was like being surrounded by giant butterflies. There's a lot of traditional dress here. Several of the women had huge hoops through their noses and wear very traditional saris and odhnis (headscarves). I also learnt that any men wearing white turbans were because they were the head of that household.

In the early evening a Jeep safari in the surrounding region enabled me to visit hamlets around the village of local tribals, ancient stepwells and, after quite the hike up a huge sand dune below an old fort, a stunning sunset complete with a cup of chai.

This was a perfect place for a pit stop. 

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