Day 22, Tuesday March 7, 2017
Today is my 58th Birthday. Where have the years gone? I look in the mirror and the woman looking back at me has developed wrinkles and the skin on the face is undergoing the effects of gravity. But I don’t “feel” 58, whatever that’s supposed to feel like. The mind still believes I’m in my 20’s and I’ll never forget my neighbour Muriel tell me that when she turned 80.

I was rooming with Nancy and we had a great time the night before catching up and sharing how her tour was and how the AOW tour was going. I had come out of the shower and there were greeting card envelopes on the bed. What??? I was so surprised! As I opened them I started to cry (again) when I saw they were from my girlfriends back home! Nancy wrote them and asked if they wanted to surprise me with a card and they sent them to her to carry around until this day. I was so touched and felt so blessed to have friends like that! I love you guys!!!
She gave me a gift and I was so surprised and full of gratitude; I cried again.

After a really good buffet breakfast with a chef making omelettes to your liking we boarded the bus for a full day tour of Jaipur. Sunil approached me with a gift box that was from the Indian Tour Company and I was shocked! I opened it, my hand shaking and in it was a golden Ganesh, the god of good luck and removes obstacles from your life. It was beautiful. The last time I came to India I bought a sandalwood carved Ganesh and he sits on my shelf at home. Another surprise!

The group found out it was my birthday and if memory serves me right they all sang Happy Birthday to me. I’m not one to have attention put on me so I kind of blanked out as the tears filled my eyes. (Again)

Then, Sunil came through and handed out spiralled objects that were actually long scarves all twisted together with beads dangling from the ends. As they were unravelled, the colours appeared, everyone’s was different. They can be used as scarves or shawls. He directed us to trade amongst ourselves if we didn’t like it. I chose to keep mine. I can’t believe all these gifts!

First stop today was at Amber Fort. There were numerous decorated elephants all waiting for tourists to come. The mahout expertly guided these beautiful creatures and two of us turned and sat on the wooden platform and the metal rod was locked into place preventing us from falling out. Our elephant ambled slowly along up the inclined hill while hawkers tried to sell us their wares. This is the part I didn’t like. The rocking back and forth of the elephant felt like I was on a boat and it was so soothing as the view of the valley appeared. There was water in a pond and a manicured garden in view with the hills in the background. I loved it. I felt peace inside. Many people say that these elephants shouldn’t be doing this. Maybe so but this is a job and elephants have been working animals throughout history. At least the powers that be have reduced the number of people an elephant should carry, from 4 to 2. I silently thanked the elephant for its service and sent it love.

We got off the platform and were directed down the stairs into the fort entrance. There were no people here, we were one of the first groups. It was cooler out and the sun was shining. It was a little after 8:00 a.m. Sunil took us through the whole fort giving us historical facts and one I remember is the 22 km wall surrounding this fort. It can be seen in the distance but is falling apart. Even the fort is succumbing to the effects of time but there are several renovation projects in effect. To her surprise and delight, Nancy met an artist whom she had met several years ago as a tour Guide for her tours! Pushpendra Singh is now devoting his time to art and is restoring the lovely stained glass windows in one of the rooms at the fort. What fun!

Later we went to watch a hand made rug demonstration at a local artisan shop. I bought my first Indian carpet. It is beautiful and I can’t wait to see my grandchildren lay on it while colouring in their books. The art is being lost to commercial manufacturing, the young family members are not interested in continuing in the family business but working in other areas, many technological.
We then visited Jai Singh’s observatory which is still keeping time to the second. It was incredible to know that this scientific information was know way before modern times.

We visited a block painting textile shop to see the process that is a co-operative where I chose some material and had a Punjabi suit made and went to a jeweller to see precious and semi precious stone jewellery. Here, I was able to select and have a custom made nose pin, something I had been wanting to get while in India. The design is nothing like I have see at home, it is spiralled on the inside and when inserted you don’t even know its there. AND I shouldn’t be able to lose it.

We visited the City Palace where Babul Arts has a shop. He is a National Awardee of his painting skills using a squirrel hair brush with the tip fitted with a single strand of hair standing out above the others and with his skill is able to create minute strokes. His demonstration of an elephant sketch was quick and steady. Then, he gave it to me! (I think Sunil told him it was my birthday!) I had made up my mind I was going to buy something here for my home, I already have one painting from the last time. I chose a small Ganesh and a Lakshmi picture that has a perfect place to hang in my home. My present to me.
At the Palace there was a dancing event happening. Drums beating with a man in the centre of the circle dancing, he beckoned people to join him. Sunil motioned for us to go and several of our group went. My feet were stomping a little and I could feel my hips wanting to move but I restrained myself – for a while anyway. I gave in and joined in. All I could think of was when my friend Marian was the last one dancing away with the Tharu tribe in Nepal. She was going and going and the men would not stop playing until she stopped! That is a memory I still laugh about thinking of her sweating!
I was so happy for the group to see how a turban is wrapped. 8 meters of material is expertly woven around and around the head to create a turban that doesn’t seem to fall off whatever head position is!
Later we were taken back to the hotel for a short break and to get ready to leave later for the evening. Some took advance of the pool, I had a beer with a small snack.

Soon we head off to where our supper was going to be, at an Indian Cultural Centre Choki Dhani for a dinner where we sat on the floor and ate off a small table from a banana leaf plate and bowls. The meal consisted of several types of saucy dishes, beans, and breads. It was a little spicy for some people but they loved the rice and breads. Outside was like a fixed carnival area where you could watch entertainers and dancers in fixed stalls that were raised with seating or standing around. We saw a fire eater and some dancers and left as some people were not feeling too well.
Getting back to the hotel I tried on my new Punjabi that had been delivered to the hotel. It fit and it was so comfortable! I was ushered into the dining room of the hotel and there was the group, with cake on their plates and I was handed one and they sang Happy Birthday to me again. Twice in one day! What a memorable birthday this day will be. Thank you Thank you Thank you….


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