on losing a city

When I was a child, I was unfortunately forced to spend a considerable amount of time sitting in the waiting room of a dentist’s office while I waited for the dentist to recommend braces or fluoride treatment or some other pain inducing process; I found myself flipping through the magazines lying fanned out on the table. Some were leaflets advertising people with perfect white smiles but some were filled with pictures of exotic locations, with families sprawled on the beach and arrays of sunglasses and bags to buy before your next holiday.

Before a particularly arduous trip when my dentist announced that I would need braces in the future, I found an article about Jaipur, the Pink City. I spent the afternoon trying to figure out whether it was possible that the city could exist, all while politely ignoring her instructions to brush more and change my toothpaste.

The magazine had added that soft faded glow to all their pictures- really tempting me to exit the waiting room and catch the next flight. Needless to say, I was still quite excited when we planned our trip to Jaipur (in fact I was overjoyed because my dental treatment has also finished).

My family piled into the minivan, all calling shots for the front seat, and we drove to Jaipur. In fact, we were staying outside the city; an hour’s drive away in an old hunting lodge converted to a hotel by the Taj. The drive was punctuated by cows, who were intent on blocking the roads for passing cars and views of cliffs covered in cacti. Finally, we reached Jaipur, entering the city through a majestic pair of gates that had once belonged to a fort.

But the Pink City was nothing like I had envisioned. The buildings were crumbling, the pink walls were covered in peeling posters, the sidewalks were covered in litter that pigs and dogs were eating. A rotten smell hung in the air and there were taxis and tuk-tuks everywhere. Pigeons flew overhead, landing on trees and monuments alike. I opened and closed my mouth, quite speechless.

Next time I visit the dentist’s; I think I’ll bring my phone.