My jour­ney over­land from West Ben­gal to Rajasthan has been intense, exhaust­ing, beguil­ing, ter­ri­fy­ing, won­der­ful. As the train rolls into Jaipur I am, if truth be told, run­ning low. Not quite recov­ered from my fever in Alla­habad, I sur­ren­der to the pri­mal need for bour­geois balm and con­so­la­tion, and check into a more than usu­al­ly lux­u­ri­ous guest­house for three days of hot water, culi­nary excess, and the deca­dence of evening silence.

After deep sleep on a cloud of pil­lows I wake to explore the pink city and cap­i­tal of Rajasthan.

For most of the day I sim­ply wan­der, lost in the bazaars of the Old City, and stop only to eat or drink or chat or stare at some new wonder.

In the heat of after­noon, I cool the soul with man­go, pineap­ple, and straw­ber­ry ice cream at a sweet shop inside the famous LMB Hotel and watch the world pass by. 

Next morn­ing I set out for a day trip to the Amber Fort, one of the most pop­u­lar tourist sites in all India, and just­ly so. 

The fort hov­ers, like a mirage of sand and fire over Lake Mao­ta. I reach the entrance on foot, pass­ing oth­ers who arrive like Rajput princes or sun­burned mem­sahibs by weary pachyderm. 

Climb­ing high over the hon­ey-red ram­parts of the fort, it is easy to see why Rajasthan has became the death-by-self­ie epi­cen­tre of India.

Jaipur is a city of won­ders, many of which may be attrib­uted to the will and wis­dom of Jai Singh II, the war­rior-astronomer who built much of this grand metrop­o­lis. My favourite is the exquis­ite Jan­tar Man­tar, a set of swollen astro­nom­i­cal con­trap­tions that delight the intel­lect and imag­i­na­tion in equal part. 

In the age of Nigel Farage, Don­ald Trump and Kim Jong-un, one won­ders where the war­rior-astronomers have gone…