11. December 2016 – 13:00
A Rajasthan round trip with your own driver
It’s August. Despite the monsoon season, it is hot. Here in the middle of nowhere in the Tharr desert between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. But we don’t notice anything from the 35°C in our Innova Toyota. We sit in the vehicle, let the desert landscape pass and listen to Kundan’s stories of Indian pilgrims, temples and kings. We just passed the small pilgrimage village of Ramdevra and Kundan has a lot to tell about this place.
By the way, he offers us small yellow fruits, which he bought at the roadside. They taste very sweet and somehow the taste seems familiar to us, but we can’t really classify this fruit. Kundan tries to explain, but knows the name in Hindi only.
Bathroom stop. Kundan knows the best bathroom stops for westerners, namely where it is clean, where is soap and even toilet paper. While the three of us are off, Kundan is already back in action. When I come back, he’s still on the phone and I just hear him repeating the word “date” over and over again.
He beams at me. The fruit is called “date”, he just called his daughter and asked for the translation!
Kundan is our driver for our two-week tour of Rajasthan and we three are convinced that we got the best driver in India.
Kundan is friendly, knows incredibly much about the culture and history of his Rajasthan homeland, drives very safely and quietly, takes care of his car at least as well as of himself and tries to fulfill all our wishes.
So he recommends us very nice and price-appropriate restaurants, accompanies us to temples and other sights and always waits punctually in his bright white driver’s uniform with a radiant smile.
During the two weeks, Kundan becomes a faithful companion and is not only a good friend to us, but is also the ideal travel guide. The thirty-four-year-old family father has been on the road as a professional driver for more than 20 years. Kundan knows his way around. All over India, but especially well in his native Rajasthan.
Originally, Kundan comes from a small traditional village near Jodhpur. Here he helped his father in the hard field work as a boy, he never went to school. He has never learned to read or write, but communicating with him via Whatsapp works because his daughter helps him. After marrying his wife from another village, they moved to the Rajasthan capital Jaipur.
Here his wife lives with their two children and whenever he has a few days off, he comes to Jaipur. Often it is only for 1- 2 days in season time even less. But there is no other way. He enjoys his job and can provide his eight-year-old son Raj and his ten-year-old daughter Mahi with an education at a private school. This is important to him and fills him with pride.
That he can neither read nor write, does not go out of my mind. His English is pretty good. Of course, after years of working with foreign tourists, he has learned a lot. But how does he know where he is going, if he can’t read the road signs?
That’s not a problem, tells Kundan. He knows all the roads, he knows the exact distances, shortcuts, the most beautiful routes and all the cities with their sights by heart. Kundan is just amazing in doing his job.
Arriving in Jodhpur, we are confronted with the monsoon for the first time. It rains continuously for hours. Streets are under water, it drips through the ceilings and of course there is a power outage. While we sit comfortably in the restaurant and watch the rain, Kundan fights against the rain. The water runs through the car doors, a big misfortune for Kundan, whose car is his most important possession.
But Kundan is brave. The next day he is back on time in white uniform and beaming smile and you don’t see much of the minor misfortune. The car is only layered with newspaper- the floor is still a bit damp.
We continue to Udaipur – the most romantic city in India. We take a different route, because the “normal road” is still under water from the heavy rain. Every now and then there are indeed violent showers. From one moment to the next it rains so much that you can hardly see anything. The lights running at full speed, but do not seem to have any effect.
But Kundan drives slowly and very safely. eventually the shower stops and we stop at a temple worth seeing. Kundan parks and gets out. He wants to guide us through the temple and shows us how to behave in the hallowed halls of hindus.
When we arrive in Udaipur, it’s time to say goodbye to Kundan. It is not an easy farewell to our faithful companion, who has driven us more than 2000 km through Rajasthan and has given us a deep insight into the culture and way of life of the people here.
On our next visit we are invited to his family in Jaipur. We look forward to it!