Dealing with the demands of over-excited kids, coins not accepted for caffeine purchase, and Jim gets likened to a fairy tale character.

Day 145: Mandawa, India. Yesterday’s Navratri festival celebrations continued very late, eventually fizzling out around 3am. We lay in bed with the music from several streets away blasting through the closed windows, glad when silence fell at last. And then the local mosque call to prayer began just after 4am. Oh joy.

We woke feeling pretty wiped out, had a late breakfast, did more reading (nodding off occasionally into our books) and then around lunchtime headed out to look at another chunk of the town.

We’ve already walked up and down the main street a bunch of times, and seen most of the sights (namely the fort, which has restricted access as it’s now a heritage hotel, and a bunch of havelis). We had read online there’s also an interesting well in the town, called Harlarka, marked by four pillars and an old camel ramp (with warnings not to get too close to the edge as it’s seriously deep). We set off to try and find it, weaving around back streets and tiny lane ways and eventually stumbled across the well in a very quiet part of town.

The history of the well is unknown, but its an impressive bit of architecture, comprising a central (and yes, seriously deep) well, surrounded by pillars and small gazebos. Jim peered over the edge of the well but couldn’t see to the bottom of it.

Interestingly, later in the day we found another three wells dotted about the town and built in the same style. Including one where the effigies of Ganesh and other gods had been thrown into a nearby shallow tank, after yesterday’s Navratri celebrations.

We continued our walk around the back streets of Mandawa (where the majority of the cows and goats seem to live). It’s a lovely feeling to watch people going about their daily lives, and to hear friendly voices calling out as we walked past.

A local school was finishing for the day as we walked past. We were quickly surrounded by gangs of over-excited little kids wanting pics, money, and chocolate. Even kids who don’t speak English have learnt to say ’10 rupees’ or ‘money, money’, or ‘some chocolate’. Although it would be easy to slip them a coin or a sweet, we always shake our heads and say no, knowing it’s the right thing to do.

Further around town, we came across another old haveli – a rather majestic looking building with ornate (though badly worn) steps and lots of decorated gazebos. There was a sign outside saying entrance fee 60 rupees, including tea or coffee.

We wandered in and sat on the rooftop with coffee, enjoying the great views of people and cows in the nearby streets.

As we were leaving Jim handed over a 100 rupee note, a 10 rupee note and a 10 rupee coin. The guy handed back the 10 rupee coin and said “not allowed”. We questioned him why and he said ‘coins only allowed in Jaipur’. Which is odd, given Jim had been given the coin in change from a nearby shop just an hour ago. Lil asked why that is, and he snapped back “Don’t know, not my government”. A quick look online confirms that refusing to accept coins is illegal up to a limit of 1,000 rupees, but it’s just never worth having the conversation. Everyone seems to make their own rules here, and for some reason, everyone prefers notes.

And of course we got hassled by a couple more guides, even though we were away from the main thoroughfare – the guides probably live in the back streets too. One of them chatted us up, then told Jim he looked like Ali Baba, which certainly didn’t increase his chances of securing any business from us. (Though Lil reckons there’s a pretty good likeness.)

We checked out a few more havelis and other old buildings, then wandered back to the hotel for beers, dinner and a very early night.

Tomorrow we’ll take a walk further north and east of the town, to see what life lies within the back streets there. And perhaps Jim’s resemblance to Ali Baba will extend to us finding a magic cave full of thieves’ gold.

More then.

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