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Diary #2 - Discovering Jaipur, India

Today I will tell you about the most important journey I’ve ever done, an unscheduled journey that changed my life.

It was 2019, I was in Dubai for work and I had a free week ahead of me.

I decided to take the first flight to India, which was only a two-hour flight away, and precisely to go to Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan, better known by the poetic name of the Pink City of Rajasthan.

I immediately chose Jaipur because it is a city to which I have always been attracted and which for various reasons has a lot in common with my work and my production as fashion designer.

In addition to being an extremely fascinating city for its colors and its history, it is home to important Indian textile artisan realities such as Block Print.

The first impact with Jaipur is actually anything but poetic.

Arriving there, the first impression was a shock. On the way from the airport to the hotel it was like taking a leap back into the past.

Jaipur is a city populated by more than three million inhabitants, chaotic and full of contradictions. At the edge of the streets or on the few free pavements we find the pariahs camped, hundreds of elderly people, adults and children who lead a life in very poor conditions.

I remember very clearly the scene of a barber in the middle of the street cutting his hair in front of a piece of glass.

Nothing really prepares you for India. It is a place that bothers you, that forces you to leave your comfort zone and when you least expect it, it calls you back to itself.

Jaipur is a very particular place, colorful and fascinating, with the elegant palaces, its pink buildings and the majestic forts perched on top of the hills, the scents and colors.

The hotel I had chosen was the Rambagh Palace.

It is a grand luxury Hotel with rooms and suites which were the chambers of the former Maharaja. The palace is extravagantly decorated with hand-carved marble 'jalis' or latticework, sandstone balustrades, cupolas and 'chattris' or cenotaphs, and elaborate Mughal Gardens.

From the hotel I moved to visit the flower market, other markets and buildings.

I have never felt in danger and the thing that immediately struck me was that people are always smiling. The men in the markets wear their turbans and long dresses and in their extreme simplicity they are always extremely well cared for. They have an innate elegance and a very proud gaze, as well as being extremely friendly and helpful and well disposed towards foreigners.

One of the first things I wanted to visit after the markets are the fabric warehouses where they did Block Print, where the colors are fixed in the sun and 100% natural.

It is a technique that requires commitment, precision and a lot of calm.

The process is very long, but also extremely fascinating. The fabrics are bought in the markets and then immersed in water for 48 hours, in order to remove the starch contained in the fibers. Usually the fabrics are washed in rivers and then beaten on the stones, to make them soft and ready to dry in the sun.

In addition to the fabric, another indispensable tool is the matrix, the block of wood carved with precision and refinement, which will be the main tool of printing. The peculiarity of these blocks is that each color must have a separate one, and the details are usually always left at the end of the engraving. If you make even a small carving mistake, often the block is to be thrown away, so the concentration of the craftsmen is truly maximum.

The same state of mind is necessary in the printing phase: the fabrics are spread on long tables, the blocks dipped in color and hand-printed on the fabrics, making them coincide and repeat almost perfectly, without ever making mistakes.

If the print requires two colors, the first is usually done, left to dry, and then the second block is applied.

Once the printing is complete, the fabrics are dried and then cut and sewn as needed. Each fabric is unique, and small defects make these products of great value.

One of the main attractions of Jaipur that I have visited is the City Palace, located in the heart of the old city.

The City Palace is the official residence of the Maharajah of Jaipur, a grandiose complex of gardens, courtyards, buildings with inlaid doors and finely decorated rooms that are worth a thorough visit of approximately 2 hours. Don't forget the peacock courtyard with its beautiful door, the most photographed corner of the entire structure.

Inside the City Palace there is also the Mubarak Mahal, a museum with weapons, clothes, gold and silver sedans, manuscripts and other objects that belonged to Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, precious testimony to the majesty of the history of India.

Another landmark of Jaipur is Hawa Mahal, an impressive 5-storey building.

Built in 1799, it was formerly the residence of the Maharajah's wives, who could observe the daily life of Jaipur without being visited. The facade of the building is in fact made up of small decorated windows that resemble the cells of a beehive.

The building is better known as the Palace of Winds: its particular structure was designed so that the channeled air of the tiny windows circulates inside the building and refreshes the different rooms.

The Hawa Mahal was built in pink and red sandstone like all the buildings in the historic center and to understand the reason we need to take a few steps back in history.

It was 1786 when Prince Albert, the future king of England, visited India. The city had to be repainted to welcome the noble guest with all honors, but apparently the only color available at that time in large quantities was pink - terracotta, another color symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The result was so pleasing to the favorite wife of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II that she was able to persuade him to issue an edict forbidding the painting of the buildings of the city in another color.

The law passed in 1877 still applies today, the inhabitants of Jaipur are proud of this tradition and this is how all the buildings in the old city are painted pink, and certainly this helps to mask the pollution and dirt that reigns in the city.

Another place that is in my heart is the Jal Mahal, better known as the Water Palace.

The palace is located 5 km from Jaipur and emerges imposing and majestic from the waters of an artificial lake called Man Sagar Lake, the artificial lake where the palace seems to float. It was the summer residence of the Maharaja, a place for partying and duck hunting.

The structure is quite unique: there are no rooms used for accommodation, but only a large garden terrace where the Maharaja loved to walk.

The Water Palce actually consists of five floors, but only the upper floor is clearly visible all year round.

The experience of eating in restaurants was also very positive, Indian food is truly delicious.

I remember very well a dinner at Jobner Bagh, a relaxing retreat from the busy city. It also has a tranquil roof terrace with the views of the Aravalli Hills.

India is a place to be experienced, with its contrasts and wonders.

An outfit inspired by my journey to Jaipur





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