We arrived on the mail sleeper from Chandigarth, some 10 hours north of Jaipur. The train pulls into the station at 06.20 and we’re groggy from 17 hours travel. To be fair sleep came deeply albeit fitfully with the lurching of the carriage, the comings and goings of fellow passengers and the movie/doppler sound effect of an air horn as a train roared past in the opposite direction.
Rewind a few months.
From Travel HQ – my shed – this morning was imagined thus: arrive Rajasthan first thing, dump bags at lodgings and head out on a pre-breakfast tour? Then we could check in and recover. Days later, mulling over said plan (when I should be working) chewing on a pen in the shed, Radio 4’s “from our own correspondent” gently filled the air. The BBC India contributor told a tale of a social enterprise where 200 folk from low income households own and manage their own business.
It’s a tour company in Jaipur: the Pink City Rickshaw Co. I quietly break off my pen top with a molar. A quick eMail, a response, a plan is hatched.
Back to this morning.
We transit to the Samode Haveli – more of which anon – and flop messily on their delightful outdoor sofas away from the world with the sounds of parakeets and copious twittering birds to lull us. Oh eight hundred, our rides arrive on schedule and we’re off on silent e-rickshaws piloted by, wait for it, ladies.
Did I not mention that? It’s a big deal? Ohhh yessss, it’s a biiiiig deal. Huge. Ladies driving rickshaws! That’s a man’s business for sure round these parts. So these are courageous folk, breaking boundaries, facing prejudice, making good. Our hosts were both Mums. They were warm, cheerfully diffident in the face of openly sneering men, enthusiastic and – for once a spot on use of the term – empowered. The whole business works by charging a handsome tariff which then goes to paying off the rickshaw loan, paying a decent crust to the drivers and being a profitable enterprise to do good stuff. Their website is high end tourist friendly, their marketing deftly targeted, their look’n’feel enticing.
In case you’re wondering, we’d recommend in heartbeat. More than that, Gilly & Lucy used some beautiful language in describing their experience of the ladies (over and above the tour itself). Brave, friendly, considerate, inspiring and – again – empowered. We all felt rather emotional at what these people are achieving.
Oh and it was a 2 hour “wake up with Jaipur” itinerary in case you want to look it up. Am not going to describe it here. You had to be there. Here are some photos:
They liked us too on Facebook.
And having patronised them – I think you understand my use of the word here – we know that the money spent gets split equitably. Often as a tourist you know you’re paying over the odds right? In this case it felt like a privilege to help out.