Jodhpur’s old city is a labyrinth of narrow streets surrounding the great Mehrangarh Fort, which rises from a colossal rock at the center. Everywhere I look, vendors sell clothing, household goods, and an assortment of foods that I’ve never before seen or tried. Pedestrians, motorbikes, and auto-rickshaws constantly fight for control of the road. It’s an astounding and overwhelming place.
Several days ago, as I was passing through a relatively quiet neighborhood, a monkey rushed past me, pursued by a group of children. I watched dumbstruck as they scampered down the street, out of sight by the time I reached for my camera. I paused for a moment, thinking to myself, “Where am I? Did that really happen?” In this city, there’s something new at every turn. I have no idea what to expect.
Walking through the old city, or any other part of Jodhpur, I stand out unmistakably as a foreigner. I can’t help it. I’m a white guy. My clothes are different. I try to photograph monkeys. These things separate me from the general Jodhpuri population.
Strangers approach me to ask who I am and where I come from. What am I doing in Jodhpur? How long will I be staying? They’re inevitably surprised to learn that I’ll be here for ten months. Foreigners don’t stay for ten months. They come for a day or two, visit the fort, and then continue to another part of Rajasthan. Jodhpur is more of a pit stop than a destination.
Children take the most interest in me, but their English isn’t good enough to ask a lot of questions. They gather around, shouting for me to take their photos. Sometimes they want money. I’m a spectacle to them, something out of the ordinary, briefly diverting their attention from the flow of daily life. They follow for a while, but when we’ve gone too far, they turn back, and I disappear like a wayward monkey into the maze of streets.