As I told you in last week’s posting, some of the most authentic experiences we have had while traveling have come from when friends have asked us to get something specific for them. Our search for the saffron-colored bowtie in Jodhpur, India took us on a memorable day-long adventure. We visited Sambhali, a charitable organization where we met interesting women whose lives had been elevated from desperate poverty to success, prosperity and pride of ownership.
Our second adventure in Jodhpur originated from a comment made by a friend back home who has psoriasis. Her dermatologist had prescribed one of the new “biologics” which unfortunately was not covered by her insurance plan. She had used up her samples which she had received in a free offer and the medication was working extremely well. The cash price for this item was over $700 per month.
By chance, a few days before we traveled independently to Jodhpur, we were spending the day with an Indian friend’s cousin who happened to be a doctor. We were discussing with him the high price of certain medications in the US.
“Let me check how much it costs in India,” he told us as he typed in the name of the medication on an app in his cellphone.
“You’re going to be happy about this,” he continued as he converted the amount into American currency.
While we were in Jodhpur, we asked the front-desk person in the hotel where we would be able to find a reliable pharmacy. It turned out to be within a 10-minute walk through some of the most interesting city scenes we had seen during our trip.
Jodhpur is a large city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. It is known as “The Blue City” because many of the homes painted in a shade of blue. From the higher elevations of the city, such as from the famous Mehrangarh Fort, the city appears blue.
Most of Jodhpur’s main streets are unpaved. Cows roam freely among the cars, bikes, motorcycles and hordes of pedestrians. Vendors line both sides of the streets selling absolutely everything. It is noisy, colorful and overwhelmingly chaotic, but that is what makes India so fascinating to visit.
On the way to the pharmacy, we stopped every few feet to take pictures of the women in their colorful saris,
the pious Sadhus begging for a few coins,
and the ubiquitous slowly-moving sacred cows blocking traffic.
Adults and children were generally friendly and many were interested in speaking with us since this is not the usual place to find American tourists.
One group of bejeweled Hindu women in their brightly-colored wedding outfits struck up a conversation with my wife, Meryl, and within a few minutes we were invited to her wedding, unfortunately taking place on the weekend after we were leaving. That would have been an amazing experience!
When we arrived at the pharmacy, I was told that they would be able to get the item from the warehouse within an hour. No prescription or medical documentation was required.
While we waited, we continued to observe the constant flow of people and animals on the street. At no time during these walks did we ever feel any sense of trepidation. The people observed us with as much interest as we watched them.
We ordered a three-month supply of the medication and asked if we could obtain more if needed. Our friend back home was certainly happy with the price and our assurance that we had received from our doctor-friend that the quality of the particular pharmaceutical company.
Later that evening, we researched on the internet about any problems we might encounter bringing this medication through American customs. Unfortunately, it warned us that without a prescription, the medication in a large quantity could be confiscated, so we elected to stick with the small supply that we had initially bought.
As it turned out, when we returned to the US, we were surprised that no one checked our luggage and the customs officials did not ask us anything about what we were bringing home. The entire customs operation seemed to be a random effort of illegal drug interdiction done by drug-sniffing dogs.
We returned several times to that same chaotic location during our four-day stay in Jodhpur because it was one continuous photographic opportunity. Since we were at the end of a month tour of India, we were already saturated with visits to forts, shrines and other notable tourist sites.
Just being able to walk through the streets of Jodhpur was an amazing experience. When they call it “Incredible India,” they weren’t kidding! To be able to visit this country is such an unbelievable treat, and sometimes an assault, to all your senses. We feel very grateful that we were able to complete this trip only a month before the country was closed to tourism due to the Pandemic.
In Part III, I will tell you the story of the adventure we had in Spain a few years ago when a Spanish friend back home found out that we were passing through the area where she had come from. It was another example of the “authentic field trips” that we have enjoyed while traveling.