Sat in the rooftop restaurant of my hotel in Jodhpur, The Blue House. Overlooking the roofs of the city may sound romantic but while the terrace is attractive in a blue-painted, amusingly decorative kitschy sort of way, the rooftops below me are an unglamorous mixture of cement blocks and russet-coloured sandstone hundreds of years old, sheets of blue corrugated plastic to provide shade, black plastic water tanks and TV discs, but…I change my seat at the table and look in the opposite direction, a literal change of view, to where the bulk of Mehrangarh Fort stretches itself languidly along the outcrop of rocks above the old town like a protective serpent watching over its offspring.
Perched four hundred feet above the city, its battlements rising up to 36m high, the materials used in its construction were chiselled from the rock on which it stands, giving the impression that the fort merging with the its base. From this angle all that can be seen are the high walls of the ramparts, the canon barrels resting among its crenulations, a collection from hundreds of years of warfare, I’m told. To the right I can see the three-quarter round towers of the main entrance and the highest private apartments of former Marajahs peaking over the wall. At the opposite end a white temple represents the extreme of the habitable part of the fort.
A pale blue sky creates a backdrop to the fort, the clarity of light and air outlining every feature. (Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the quality of the air in the town below its battlements, where a mixture of dust and vehicle emissions create a thick amalgam in the throat, leading to projectile spitting from every doorway without the spitter taking the slightest notice as to whether anyone is passing his shop as he expectorates.)
The other distinguishing feature of my view is the shikhara, the main tower of the Shiva Temple to my left, rising like the white and gilded tip of a fancy wedding cake, although one where the white icing has faded in a way reminiscent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations as she spends her life mourning being jilted at the altar.
Between the Temple and my bedroom, a few metres from where I sit, are the loudspeakers of a tiny mosque that sits in the narrow streets below. At no more than one hundred meters from my pillow, I am privy to the adhan, the Islamic call to worship, being called out by the muezzin at about four a.m. each day, echoed by those of the two other mosques in the city. I’m used to it because of my time in Morocco and, distinct from the adhan heard in many Moroccan towns and villages, where an ancient, stretched cassette tape is used, the voice of the person behind the microphone that gives me my early morning wake up is refined and melodic.
Sleeping has not been easy; being on the rooftop my room stores the heat of the day. The air conditioning blows like a hurricane, rattling the casing, the overhead fan provides only the minimum of cool draft as it rotates, the clicking as it turns sounding like a hyperactive cricket.
For the first couple of nights I was irritated beyond sleep but on the third night I reframed my thoughts. As I lie under the thin sheet (a single sheet on a double bed) I mentally picture the clicking of the fan as it turns being the wheels of an old steam train, carrying me to new and distant adventures; the four a.m. call to prayer is the sound of the exotic, the east, a land of mystery, with the undulating, melodic tones of the muezzin counterpointing that of those in the more distant part of town. It works, and I sleep well, at least for a couple of nights until finally I decide that I really do want to be on to adventures new, preferably ones without a clicking fan and early morning alarm call.