The man is wearing jodhpurs in Jodhpur. No really! Jodhpurs.
It is astonishing, like a character constructed out of an old joke. Chai coloured jodhpurs, a billowing shirt in fine white cotton, black knee high boots and a white silk scarf that floats behind him like the autograph of an aviator. His moustache is generous and carefully curled, his hair shoulder length and shiny with distinguished grey at the temples. He is not young, maybe forty, but he is in the prime of his imagination, and sweeps the area for women to impress. Look at the turn of my calf in my fine fitted leather, his stride says; there are more things than horse riding for which a man requires a little room about the thighs.
He is a guide at the main tourist destination of Jodhpur, the Mehrangarh Fort – but sadly he is not our guide. He has a pair of desiccated grey haired tourists in tow, orating at them in the deep cultured Indian voice that is the ‘Britishers’ greatest legacy. His charges scurry in his wake and we see them hither and thither among the columns and corridors, tolerated but not worthy of more than a tenth of his attention.
We stroll with our own guide – in far less flamboyant Levi’s and checked shirt, musing on the past and present of India and how you might make yourself distinctive in the heat, the light, the colour of it all.
In one room of the fort there is a parade of elephant howdahs, jewelled and plush. I half expect to see this maharajah of jodhpurs reclining amongst the peacocks and pillows, stroking his moustache – but no, I can hear his voice in the courtyard beyond, ‘Come along, this way.’ His silhouette passes the purdah screen, his profile purposely turned as if a hundred hidden women watched him from the shadows, assessing his attire and speculating on how much room he might actually require in his pants.