Castles Camels and a Calcuttan

Well, here it is. After years and years of ardent anticipation, the time is here. Fat Uncle Cheapo is finally going to the abode of the Rajputs – Rajasthan.

Cheapo had gone there once before, when he was Wee Toddler Cheapo.

It was simpler times then, better times: vampires did not sparkle; there was no abomination like Justin Bieber (in fact, when Cheapo was Wee Toddler, the musical talent comprised Michael Jackson, Madonna, Pink Floyd etc etc….now there is the aforementioned Canadian, some weirdo called Pitbull, multi-coloured Nicky Minaj and lord knows what LadyGaga is.) El Diego was waving his magic around the world and Cheapo had a head full of hair.

And anyway, he fell from a train at that trip.

So that doesn’t count.

See, Cheapo has always been fascinated by castles and the castles at Rajasthan are simply awesome – as far as architectural beauty is concerned of course. As far as being defensive units are concerned, a tent would have performed a similar function.

No group in history has lost so many battles to the Turkish/Persians. The Greeks regularly kicked the Turko/Persian ass; the Romans fought them to a stalemate; Genghis Khan annihilated them into dust.

And then there are the Rajputs, who lost all their wars and their women either married the buggers or committed suicide.

Weird people, those Rajputs.

But anyway, back to the story.


First stop – Bikaner.


Bikaner was founded by Rao Bikaji, son of Rao Jodha – the founder of Jodhpur. They are Rathores, originally Rashtrakutas centered in Kanauj. Under the guidance of Karni, a girl from a local tribe of bards, Bikaji founded the city at a place given to him by a Jat chieftain called Ner, whose only condition was that his name should be immortalized. Result Bikaner.

Since that day, all future kings of Bikaner have been anointed by the descendants of Ner’s family.

Bikaner has always been an independent kingdom, never conquered. They never paid tribute to any other ruler either, till the Britishers came about of course. Through a history of strategic alliances, the Bikaner rulers ensured peace and development in their lands and also ensured that the women were never sent to the Mughal court as tribute, nor did the women ever have to sacrifice themselves.

So as far as kingly duties go, they did well by their people, and you can’t ask a king for more than that.


Now you all know that Cheapo is awesome. You know it, you just don’t admit it. It’s the same situation as was faced by Van Gogh. Fat Uncle Cheapo will only be appreciated once he kicks a few assorted buckets. However, Spicejet knows the value of the Cheapo. And since they know, the beautiful air hostesses  gave Cheapo free cookies.



After landing, Cheapo left the airport to go to Sarai Rohilla railway station in Delhi.

The people were waiting on the platform, the train was there, the gates were locked. Another train was waiting on the other platform. And one of the lady travelers waiting on the platform had the urge to pee. So she boarded the other train to do her business……which promptly sounded its gong and started moving out of the station.

Cue consternation amongst the concerned family members waiting on the platform. Also cue Cheapo channeling the spirit of Nelson Muntz.

Don’t worry, people, she got off (oh behave!!!)


Anyway, the journey started.

Good people, imagine if you will Cacophonix the bard, Himesh Reshamiya, Justine Bieber, a gang of wild hyenas, a century of bullfrogs with laryngitis, about a dozen assorted male horny donkeys and Venkatesh Prasad all shouting at the top of their voices.

So have you imagined the noise level?

That’s what Cheapo faced, or rather heard when it was time for him to sleep in the Delhi Bikaner Super Fast Express. Source of such an assault of the senses?



Staying awake all night meant that Cheapo could see an ethereal desert sunrise, a camel graveyard and a bunch of vultures [or kites {or eagles (or falcons)}]

Now, there is a group of people who are more dangerous than Genghiz’s Mongols could ever be, more destructive than what Alaric and his Goths could ever dream to be, more cunning than Shakuni and Odysseus combined, more tenacious than those Hebrews who buggered off from Egypt in search of the promised land and definitely more shameless than the East India Company and the Indian National Congress.

Nah, Cheapo tells a lie, no one could be more shameless than the Indian National Congress.


In fact Cheapo is of the opinion that this group might very well have been one of those original plagues of Egypt along with locusts, fireballs, river turning red, sores and boils etc. In fact, ancient Egyptian chronicles talk about them. Those pesky Hittites invaded Egypt and sacked the fuck out of Thebes. And how did they manage that against a superior number of Egyptian infantry?

Well, apparently they came from the north riding ferocious, near indestructible, fast, strange creatures…or in other words autorickshaws.

You see Cheapo stepped out of the Bikaner station and was immediately pestered by a Xerxesian horde of autowallas hell bent on taking him to this hotel for a paltry meager sum of Rs. 50. It turns out that the hotel is at a walking distance of 4 minutes (Cheapo pace…all you tall, healthy models of humanity would probably manage it in 1).

Hotel Marudhar Heritage, a nice quaint, old, homely place – and we shall ignore the fact that for some reason they wanted Cheapo to fill out the Foreigners’ Registration Form. One of those old middle class houses, the folks still live in the ground floor and with entrepreneur spirit have built rooms in the 1st floor and have converted that into a hotel. Rs 800 per day for an AC Deluxe room with a clean Western loo is perfect for the Cheapos of the world.

After partaking some nourishing nourishment (paneer parantha, beans achar (sure as hell looked like beans…was sour….. and coffee), Cheapo set forth.

First stop – Temple of Karni Mata.

Why, you ask;
Has the Cheapo found religion, you ponder;
Is he going to give puja, you contemplate;
Will there be religious sermons from now on, you cogitate;

Relax, Cheapo is still as anti-religion as ever.

You see good people, apart from the Flying Spaghetti Monster, there really is no god worth following. For example, look at the top 4 religions of the world. One follows a pedophile, one follows a vengeful mass murderer who went around impregnating other men’s wives, one follows a man who forked his own sister and one follows the duopoly of a ganja smoking wife beater and a serial pervert/adulterer.

So why did the Cheapo go to the Karni Mata temple?

For the rats.

You see, the temple is famous worldwide for its rats. The populace believes that the rats are the reincarnated souls of ancestors and ergo are fed milk, grains and sweets etc.

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There are hundreds of them; they have never bitten anybody and there has never been a plague. They are all fat but have lost their furs possibly because they are diabetic from eating sweets all day.

Which reminds Cheapo – if there is reincarnation, then he would want to be reincarnated as one of these rats. Spending all your life fornicating and eating sweets, there really isn’t a better life.

There were a number of pigeons happily roaming around the populace gorging on the offerings, thereby once again proving that humans, if they wish, can peacefully cohabitate with all other species – with the possible exception of Bangladeshis, those bastards are impossible to live with.


After the temple, Cheapo then came back to the city and went into the narrow serpentine labyrinthine alleyways of old Bikaner. He saw old old havelis of old old families (these are now protected monuments) and wafted through a medieval market. This centuries old market is special for one thing – its smell.

There are scores of shops selling huge mounds of spices – all the Indian spice under the sun.

The result – an olfactory cornucopia of beauty and wonder.


Next stop – Lalgarh palace, the abode of the royalty types, parts of which are still the official royal residence, other parts are, predictably, a museum and one of those hoity toity hotels.

Cheapo went to check out the museum. And there he was accosted by a bunch of turbaned people.


As it turned out, they were royal (can’t call them subjects because India is a republic – Jai Hind; could have been servants/could have been officials… in want of a better term, let’s call them) reprobates in need of a favour.

They were huddled with a whole bunch of colonial black and white photographs. Apparently they had to take pictures of said pictures and print them. So, naturally, they had all turned up expecting someone else to bring a high mega pixel, well zooming camera.

Cheapo to the rescue, and because of his help, the royal reprobates gifted him with a book written by the present princess of Bikaner about her ancestors.

Ole, as they say.


Up next, Junagadh fort, the pride of Bikaner.

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Its unique because its one of the few forts in the world built at ground level (not that there weren’t any stairs). The palaces inside the fort are intricately designed and decorated with multi coloured glasses, paintings and motifs. They are spectacular and splendid and transport you to a bygone era.

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Audio guides are available for Rs. 150 (in English, German and French). Its always better to take these than to take help from the human ‘guides’ who in Cheapo’s experience spread a lot of bullshit.

After a couple of hours inside the fort, it was time for the final stop.

A few kilometers outside the city, the government has set up the National Camel bothering centre. Along with the scientist types (who work on making camel medicines) and the animal husbandry people (who choose the correct camel husband for the right camel wife) they do all kinds of research and development regarding camels.

And when Cheapo went there, he saw the result of all these – camels with beards.

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On one side of the fence was Cheapo with his beard, on the other side of the fence were the camels with their beards. Both parties stared at each other with soulful eyes.

A few moments of peace, tranquility, serenity between man (if you can call Cheapo that, some critics opine that he is a disgrace to humanity) and camels later, they both turned around. The camels went to their feed trough to gorge themselves and Cheapo went to the cafeteria in search of kulfi made from camel milk.

It was om nyum nyum nyum.


There are souvenir shops there also – a co-operative kinda thingy selling camel products and handicrafts from the village people.

This is what happens, when the camels at the centre, in the fullness of time, go up to the great desert in the sky full of cactuses/cactii, the government people gather their mortal remains like bones, hide and teeth and make stuff out of it. Having interrogated and ascertained that no camels are ever harmed for production of the merchandise, Cheapo then bought a shawl made of camel hair for the parents and necklace made of camel teeth for himself. To his great delight, he also found a Rajasthani Ouroboros made by the village people.


So, the day which began with a desert sunrise and during the course of which Cheapo encountered rats, vampire pigeons, spices, royal reprobates and autowallas, ended with camels.


Cheapo have had worse.



2 thoughts on “Castles Camels and a Calcuttan

  1. just last week taught sonar kella and golden fortress–part of film adaptation course..and u go to Bikaner… why not Jaisalmer?
    Telepathy not working properly? 🙂


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