Driving into Jhunjhunu one sunny morning, we come across Raju Guide at the busy intersection where we stop for directions. Raju recites a list of ‘sight-seeing’ options and proceeds to take over our lives for the rest of the day. He demurs when we discuss money – he is happy with “whatever we pay from our hearts”. Raju says he adopted that name since he wanted to be the “sabse best guide of India” – a tribute to Dev Anand’s character in the Hindi film ‘Guide’ (mild alarm bells are going off in my head, considering how that character finally turned out in the movie but I am raring to go haveli-hopping and ignore those). He begins our guided tour by declaring, “We get a lot of tourists but most of them are foreigners”.
I remember then the surprised look on the face of the shopkeeper from whom we had bought water bottles earlier that day. “What are you doing here?”, his bemused expression said, as he took in our eager faces, guidebooks and car parked under the tree with driver in tow. I find all this a tad strange – I had been expecting the area to be teeming with tourists, given that guidebooks proudly refer to the region as the ‘open-air art gallery’ of India’. I mull over this as we walk through the narrow lanes, awkwardly negotiating cows and camels and playing children, Raju ahead of us with a quick, confident stride.
Read the rest of this piece here – Published in the June 2010 issue of the Go Air inflight magazine, Go-getter.