CRAFTSMANSHIP, COLOUR AND CUPS OF TEA WITH THE REAL VILLAGE PEOPLE.
India has a population of more than one billion and when we touched down in New Delhi, it honestly felt like they were all there to welcome us. The first thing we clocked was the immediate sensory overload. Stepping off the plane you’re slapped in the face by sights, sounds and smells. It’s exciting, stressful and magical, all at once.
Our itinerary for this trip was much like India itself - chaotic, frenetic and fluid. The loose plan was to road trip across Rajasthan in India’s north, a marketplace for the countries best marble.
It was here we hoped to find the next chapter of the Gather Co story.
We explored for a few weeks, eating our way through the countryside, impressing locals with our cricket knowledge and learning that street cows are a common sight.
Eventually, we reached Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan. Walking around Jodhpur is kind of like strolling through a Jackson Pollock painting, brilliant blue corners cropping up out of nowhere.
Despite enjoying everything the city had to offer our marble mission was hitting the skids and we needed to get back on track. Every promising lead turned out to be a false start, in the shape of yet another ‘handimart.’ Handimarts are essentially overpriced tourist traps, selling bulk products at inflated prices.
Whether it was Ganesh or just good luck, on our last visit to a handimart, the owner pulled us aside and whispered about a village nearby that shaped the magical marble we were seeking.
It was ‘around the corner’ and one of his ‘cousins’ would happily take us there, were we interested?
Gather Co: UNANIMOUS YES!
Turns out ‘around the corner’ was actually three hours away and his ‘cousin’ was of no relation what so ever but, it gave us the chance to become familiar with Indian pop music. For the entire journey, our driver blasted his Hindi-hits playlist while we smiled politely in the backseat.
Arriving in the village the journey from Jodhpur melted away as we were greeted by a sea of smiling faces. Dan’s moon tan was of much interest to the locals and while he became the people's Pale Prince, we met the marble makers.
At any given time it felt like we had ten tour guides, the passion of these artisans pushing and pulling in different directions.
Everyone in the village had a part to play and we spent hours learning how the marble was made -- watching the shapes being cut by machinery and then refined by hand.
It was hard not to see the village as a tale of two cities.
On one hand, there was no electricity, no running water, on the other, there were some of the finest sculpting talent known to man.
Over cups of masala chai, the female workers brushed away the fine white marble dust that coated their colourful clothes. It was the kind of image that stays with you forever, postcard perfect.
There was no mistaking that we’d found our marble collection and by that afternoon our first order was complete. We had come searching for something special in India, but it had found us first.
This time on the ride back to Jodhpur, we sang along to the music, our made up lyrics a marble inspired mishmash that brought a smile to the face of our driver.
It was the soundtrack to our successful search, our journey to India had hit all the right notes.