Divya is an artist and a designer. She is greatly inspired by nature, cultures, patterns and places. An architect by training, she Divya in Mumbai and co-authors a Design blog On the Design Boat.
Comment: The size of the computer screen (and some of you might be reading this on a mobile phone or tab) doesn’t do justice to Divya’s enormously detailed and accurate sketches. Through her beautiful drawings and eloquent writing, she has been able to offer a glimpse into the rich heritage and street life of the vibrant city of Jaipur.
An omni-present array of jalis, cupolas and jharokhas; red crowned with the desert brown, streets brimming over with color and people, rickshaws, cows, food, fabric and divinity. This is the walled city of Jaipur, a place that has enthralled and inspired me for the longest time.
A city, besides being a destination, is a celebration of its occupants and their culture. It is a living canvas with a pulse, a unique style; a repository for history, a landscape that is constantly colored by the people who live out their dreams & aspirations in it.
Home to a multitude, a source of livelihood to many, a city can also be an inspiration, companion and muse. Being a history and architecture lover, the Pink City’s grandeur and detail envelop me. I have explored Jaipur on foot over many journeys, a sketchbook in hand, from the rooftops in its bazaars to the calm and desolate streets of old Amer; falling in love with it time and over again.
The walled city lives at a pace that defies comprehension, life throbbing effortlessly and endlessly around its pink facades. I feel transported into surrounds of another era – so profuse is the striking succession of facades, replete with latticed openings, balconies and arches. The city surprises me at every turn – be it discovering calm courtyards behind bustling shop fronts, or, landing in the midst of vast chaurahas big enough to double up as bus and rickshaw stands with idle parking for cows alongside…. Equally mesmerizing is the transformation of these spaces. As shops down shutters for the day, temple bells welcome darkness and aartis fill the soundscape, permeating my soul with devotion and calm.
At times the chaos and noise magically disappear, like inside the Hawa Mahal, just off one of the city’s busiest streets. And then, as I peep out of one of its latticed windows, I can’t help but marvel at its architecture – who did ever think of a wall for a palace? Moving further on entering Jantar Mantar, I catch a glimpse of the City Palace and the Nahargarh Fort – three different kinds of architecture in a snapshot!
I find a foil in the invigorating, sometimes exhausting chaos of the city in some very unusual and calm historic spaces on the outskirts, including the abandoned city of Amer, complete in its breathtaking remains.
This unique intersection of people, culture and landscapes has been a deep inspiration to the explorer and artist in me. I have found tremendous joy in sketching Jaipur’s environs, experiencing its interiors, interacting with its people and discovering their crafts. Sights, sounds and smells of a place make for a complete experience. With it’s palate satiating offerings of desert specialties, lassi, kachouris and ghevar, the city makes sure that the foodie in me too never has enough of it, beckoning to relive the experience yet again!
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Rajasthan. The mere mention of it evokes memories of music, heritage, colour, grandeur, tradition. All of these ingredients were brought together in the most elegant manner for us to experience at the wedding of a dear friend in Jaipur. As it happens often in India, friends turn into family effortlessly over time; we are fortunate to still preserve those elements of our culture that allow us to do so. Nirbhay, whose sister was the bride, is a dear friend and because he lovingly calls Rahul dada (older brother), we are knit into a successive web of relationships in a manner typical to Indian culture. And so, there we were- Aadyaa, Amma and me, imbibing the ambience of a traditional Rajput wedding in Jaipur.
Some of what I saw was familiar to me, being married into the same community in another part of Rajasthan. But this was the first time I was seeing a Jaipur wedding and I was happy to sit back (with my camera) and admire the jewellery and clothes, the refined mannerisms and confidence of those born into royalty, with myriad interpretations of what that means in modern times.
The traditionalism in a Rajput wedding is marker, with the men and the women socializing in separate areas and everyone turned out in traditional attire. Whereas in a wedding in Delhi or Mumbai, one would see several interpretations of Indian clothing, much of it influenced by Western styling, this wedding very much reflected the pride of the Rajput community in its own unalderated traditions. Women wore heavily embroidered poshak (comprising of 4 parts-a lehenga, odhni, kurti and kachli), in colour combinations that were both the conventional bright as well as a more modern range of pastel colours. The jewellery also is distinct, with the typical round rakhdi worn on the forehead, the heavy aad on the neck, bajuband on the arms, bangdis (bangles) and gold pajeb (anklets) being typical to the Rajput community. I thoroughly enjoyed taking portraits of some of the loveliest women I have ever seen (see if you agree!).
While the women outdo each other to wear the loveliest and most unique poshaks, the bride traditionally wears red (or yellow in some families). The bride, Shruti, wore a lovely red poshak with traditional embroidery on it (I hear her mother hand embroidered it for her and I cannot imagine the love and feeling that went into that, lucky girl!) with exquisite jewelry. The impact was intensified by the minimal make up and I loved the simplicity of her look. It also ensured she was very comfortable through the ceremony. In fact, when I met her moments before her wedding, she told me she was surprised about how light and easy to manage her attire was! A sign indeed of a happy carefree bride!
The men are dressed in bandhgalas (also called sherwanis), worn with trousers or breaches. Men also wear jewelry, especially on the neck and ear studs as well plus the distinctive saafa (headgear) that is actually several yards of cotton tied on the head. I was specially impressed by the bridegroom’s sartorial sense, his sherwani was made of a subtle brocade silk and so were his jootis (shoes), all matching matching! His kamarband that held the traditional sword (a mark of the warrior class) was also very subtle and elegant.
Much of the ambience was also created by the architecture around us. Dera Mandawa, the stunning boutique hotel that Nirbhay’s family runs (it is an extension of their own home), made the perfect setting for a traditional wedding. I admired, through the evening, the taste with which the decor had been chosen, the wonderful voices of the folk musicians that pervaded the air, the understated elegance of the ceremony. I could have expected nothing less from the family, especially the father of the bride, Thakur Durga Singh who is a true connoisseur of art and culture and responsible for quite a bit of the insights that I have about the state and its culture, especially the Shekawati region. All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable evenings I spent. I was so glad I took my camera along, so I could share some glimpses here with all of you.
We are finally braving a road trip with the kids. In a Mahindra Xylo, the kids enjoying having the rear row all to themselves.
I say finally because after years of traveling with Udai, who was a placid baby and a happy traveler, Aadyaa’s restless nature was hard to deal with. She did not settle easily in the car seat as a baby and was easily bored. We stopped going anywhere by road if we could help it.
So today had been a good day with the children quite enjoying the drive, except for poor Sushma, the maid, who is motion sick every so often.
I don’t blame her. The roads have been patchy indeed. The Gurgaon to Jaipur stretch of NH8 has a series of half constructed flyovers. Traffic crawls along narrow slip roads and passengers stare at the numerous seemingly inactive work sites.
Though the latter half of this route gets better, crossing Jaipur is a challenge as well. The bypass is under construction and traffic passes a large slum area, close enough to literally glimpse the routine activities of the residents here.
The first hour on Tonk Road after Jaipur towards Kota was another stretch of road construction. Bumpy as hell. It was alarming to see how far out from the city real estate projects are bring built. Jaipur is growing fast, like many tier 2 cities across India. But we fail to grasp the ground reality of this. While the main city of Jaipur fights hard to preserve its identity and heritage, in contrast these outlying suburbs are being built with little sense of design or relevance to the context of this region, historical or climatic.
For a short while now, starting shortly before Tonk, we have the fortune of smooth roads. Here too, only two of the four lanes are operational so it’s not easy driving. Like countless infrastructure projects across India, we can only hope this will be a dream ride some day in the future. Till then, we bump along!
The funny thing is, the road expansion means all those endearing little milestones are gone, as is the quaintness of those tree lined two lane roads of yore. The pleasure of seeing the names of the places we pass and the distance remaining lost, we must resort to google maps!