I struggled not to gag from the exhaust fumes in the gridlock of Ajmer. Night was falling rapidly and the main street of the town in the heart of the Thar desert seemed like a narrow canyon leading to Hades filled with honking vehicles, smoke and dust. I motioned to my rickshaw driver that I would get down here – as it didn’t make much sense to stay in the gridlock breathing fumes from the nearby bus exhaust pipe carefully positioned a foot from my face. I was kicking myself for leaving my camera in the hotel, as I have never seen more air pollution in one place as had materialized in the last half hour before sunset – it was the kind of air pollution that makes for great stock. The buses, rickshaws, two wheelers with gear and without, bicycles, camels, and cacophony of sound were all crammed so tightly into the narrow street that it was slow going by foot back to the hotel. Apparently the Ajmer police department had decided to make Main Street a one-way road-leaving town, but hadn’t passed the memo along to the angry drivers trying to force their way the wrong way down the street.
Back at the hotel, surrounded by fort like walls of concrete, the din of the evening died down and I watched the smoke and dust rise into the night in a glorious column of black. To save a few rupees Paul and I were splitting a room, but not wanting to share a bed we asked the hotel housekeeper to supply another mode of sleeping. Happy to oblige, the young man of no more than 20 dragged a heavy single bed into the room, its plywood base covered by thin dusty sheet-less cushions and its metal coasters making a horrible screeching sound over the marble floors as it moved. The process of sheeting the bed disturbed a small mouse that had made its home in the mattress, causing it to leap off the bed. “Mouse!” I said, pointing to the now certainly doomed creature. The housekeeper abandoned making the bed and began chasing the little mammal around the room. Continue reading Suzy