Mohammed Iqbal and I balanced ourselves precariously on the wooden plank—each assigned to an edge. Him more confident than me, given that an old strip of wood wasn’t the best place to listen attentively to stories that were about to unfold. Right above my head, the clock made its presence felt with an unvarying “tick tock", every quarter of an hour being announced with a loud “dong".

We were 100ft above the ground, crammed into the fourth floor of the Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) at the base of Mehrangarh Fort.

A buzz of activity surrounds this landmark of the old city of Jodhpur, and I had trundled up the tower for photographs of the bustling bazaar, with stalls selling clothes, shoes, jewellery, fruits, sweets, and every imaginable souvenir of the city.

With the camera bag strapped to my back, I had made it up each narrow flight of steps with some effort. On the last floor, the keeper of the ancient clock, Iqbal, waited for the sound of footsteps to take the form of an inquisitive traveller.

It was the perfect way to start the first weekend of a new year. Only an overnight train journey away, Jodhpur lies at a comfortable distance from the Capital. And thanks to Iqbal’s tip-offs, I was ready for experiences that made my Jodhpur getaway richer than I had imagined.

The faded brown, craggy Mehrangarh Fort and the old city were at the centre of all these experiences. And within this, the wide Salim Court, on the southern side of the fort, became my favourite, for two reasons.

Kites being fed
Kites being fed

The once 25-piece band has now dwindled to 18, with just the essential instruments like the trombone, side drum, bass drum, maracas, bugle, trumpet and cornet. They settle into green rusty chairs in brown uniforms and start each session trailing the bandmaster’s “1, 2, 3…". Since no travellers veer off the main fort galleries, few have been privy to this performance.

A few footsteps away from the brass band is the spectacle of another afternoon attraction—cheel chugana (kite feeding), a practice that goes back more than 200 years.

Weather and other variables notwithstanding, Abdul Latif Kureshi walks daily from his mutton shop at Ghanta Ghar to the ramparts of Salim Court. When the fort was constructed in 1459, Kureshi’s forefathers were entrusted with the job of feeding the kites that flew around the 400ft-high walls. Since then, the family hasn’t missed a day of this ritual, flinging 2kg of mutton pieces for the hundreds of kites that come swooping down and grasp them mid-air.

The kite has a significant place in Mehrangarh’s history. Rao Jodha laid the foundation of this fort on 1 May 1459, 6 miles south of the original capital in Mandore. The high hill was known as Bhakurcheeria, or the Mountain of Birds, or Cheeriatunk, the Bird’s Beak. It is still surrounded by almost 400 kites that show up punctually at 3.30pm, the feeding time.

I also visited the Bhairav and Chamunda shrines inside the fort, the cannons along the fort wall, and the Pagdi Gallery, which showcases an array of turbans from the Marwar region.

The next morning, I beat Iqbal to his fourth-floor throne, eager for more tips. He basked in the pride of having acquired an eager disciple, one who would meet him again over the next few trips.

Jodhpur can be that hypnotic.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.

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