On the way to Rajasthan

Rajasthan’s roads

"This autumn, my daughter Marie-Charlotte and I went to India, to meet plant producers.
Each day spent in the country of the “sacred cow” brings its share of surprises, even when the day promises to be ordinary."

Jean-Marc Réa

The taxi should already be here. We woke up at 6:30 am to leave at 8 o’clock, and we do not know how long it will take to reach Singoli, our next destination. There are many differing opinions on the works planned, on the expected road maintenance conditions or even regarding the route to be taken. Nobody agrees with each other and it looks like the journey will take 4 to 6 hours. If we had left at 8, we could have reached our destination by early afternoon. Yes but now, it is already 9 o’clock and the taxi is still not here. Complaining to the reception, who was in charge of the booking, does not change a thing; and as we all know, punctuality is not a local speciality.

Our « super driver » finally arrives at 9:30 am, all smiles, and his only excuse is that he went to the gas station to fill the tank. Next moment, he is debating with the doorman and one baggage agent the best route to take. He obviously doesn’t know where he is going… and we are going with him. We finally leave at past 10 o’clock for a long journey from Jaipur to Singoli: a 300 kilometre-ride on the uncertain roads of Rajasthan is ahead of us.

We pass one city, one village after another, and everywhere, people who seem very poor are joyful and good humoured. Landscapes are splendid and we are continually amazed by the bountiful natural environment.

The journey never seems to end, and our driver regularly stops to ask for directions.

And we are witnessing the harmonious relationship between men and animals. Stray dogs almost never bark and nobody thinks about hurting them.

It's been almost 8 hours since we left Jaipur and according to our driver, the next city is always our destination.

We get back in the taxi that leads us, as best as it can, to a barrack, where about fifty people are waiting for us. Most of them are young men, their face lit up by a broad smile. We are surrounded and curiously studied, but we do not feel endangered, not even when I have to give a wad of cash to the taxi driver, in front of everybody.

When we finally enter Singoli, we spot two young men on the lookout: they have been waiting for us the whole afternoon. One of them is Shailendra, our contact. What strikes me is his young age: he later told me he was 23 years old, and that after studying in a Business school, he took over the organic certification of the agricultural holdings we are about to see.

Darkness falls, Shailendra and his team want to show us their plantings. We leave our luggage, in the care of the community. When I ask the young man if it is safe to leave all our belongings, he bursts out laughing at the incongruity of my question. We visit the Amla fields on the run, and when we come back, we understand that we are expected to attend dinner. We already know that the night will be long and, as usual in India, unpredictable. But that's a story I can tell you about next time.

We are led to Shailandra’s office, which must be twelve metres square, and into which we won’t be able to enter because it is so crowded. We are obviously a must-see attraction!

We use this time to connect with people and to take some pictures.

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