February 26th, 2010 – by: Morle
After breakfast I´m walking down the bazar to Ajmer´s Dargah, where I have to leave my shoes at the entrance. Mine is the only white pair of shoes among about 100 black ones. Then I have to walk through the security scan and after some arguments a guy manages to smuggle my camera into the complex. Yet I don´t take any pictures. Inside are hundreds of pilgrims and devotees, mostly men, wearing small white woolly hats. They stand in prayer or sit on the ground chatting. All around are huge pots in which people cook rice, ghee, sugar, almonds, raisins and spices. People are washing their feet in small water basins. The whole complex feels like a small community and I find out that there is even a hospital and a school on the grounds, as well as numerous shops and all around is a feeling of religious fervour.
The most important building is the dargah (tomb) itself with its domed roof and white marble. In front of it is a long queue of people and music plays outside the tomb´s ornate entrance. Besides the devotional feeling there´s also a lot of worship kitsch. I wonder what it´s all about and leave again after about ten minutes, back to the hotel past many cows and cripples.
a "house" in the desert
I check out, walk down the street towards a roundabout where I get on a bus that takes me I don´t know where, from where I get on another bus that takes me across the hill to Pushkar´s Marwar Station. From there I walk to where I think the lake must be but get lost.
I ask some people the way until I finally find the Bharatpur Palace. The friendly receptionist shows me to a great room for 250 Rupees and offers me some marihuana. The best thing about the Bharatpur Palace is the big roof terrace, from where you have a great view of the almost completely dried-up lake and the 52 (!) ghats at its shore. As there is no water in the lake, there are small pools for people to take a bath and cows to satisfy their thirst.
Walking along the main street I see many hippies, just the way I expected it in Pushkar. I wonder why hippies like places such as Pushkar or Goa in which you find many things that hippies detest, especially commercialism. Hippies like to shake hands with sadhus on the streets with a hail-fellow-well-met kind of way.
Sure, hippies are very peaceful people but what with all their appearance? What is it supposed to embody? Define: Hippie! Anyone?
Sure, Ajmer was kind of trashy as well with all its knick-knacks but it stilled retained its original innocence, while Pushkar is fully accustomed to tourists and the main bazar is full of shops selling typical tourist stuff. And those tourists you see on that street all look extremely happy, as if this was their personal paradise, as if this was their first place in India and they are amazed by it and think ‘I see, so this is India, oh, let´s buy a sari and dress like Indians so that we don´t stand out that much and that we feel exotic like on holiday.’ Don´t you have these kind of sarcastic thoughts sometimes?
As I´m walking down the main street three girls say Namaste and for a reason I can´t understand I stop and greet them as well.
They are three gypsies and introduce themselves as Sangita, Anita and another -ita. We engage in some Hindi small talk and then they ask me if I wanted to drink some cay with them. I say “nahi” (no) and their initial friendliness changes to acting offended, as usual, which is supposed to make you feel guilty. -ita grabs my hand and without asking me starts painting a pattern on it before I have any chance of removing it in time. So she paints away until the back of my hand is decorated with a semi-beautiful mandala flower. Then she wants 200 Rs for it, which is simply ridiculous. I give them 20 Rs and they act even more offended but I don´t care and just walk away. Conclusion: Never stop when three girls say hello, there´s always something fishy about it.
Pap Mochni Temple
I eat a late lunch of mixed vegetables with curry and rice at the Rainbow Restaurant and watch people from the rooftop.
Then I walk towards the Pap Mochni Temple and see the true Pushkar. Off the main street are narrow streets with locals working for themselves rather than for the tourists. Here, in the real heart of Pushkar, tourists are nowhere to be seen. A boy shakes my hand, just wants to talk for a while and takes a walk with me. He knows how to say “langsam, langsam” (slowly, slowly) but doesn´t know what it means, so I tell him and he probably wonders himself why he knows only those words in German. He shakes my hand again and leaves.
At the foot of the hill three small kids, four or five years old, are running towards me, then a 10-year-old shouts at me, asking where I wanted to go. I tell him up the hill and he says he´d show me the way. So the five of us plus a panting dog walk up the hill until we reach the normal path.
There the kids automatically reach out their hands for money. It´s a picture I would like to have: a tourist on a mountain around which stand some children with their hands raised high in anticipation of money. The smallest kid says “50 Rupees each” and I wonder who taught her such a behaviour. I walk away and they follow me for a while but eventually give up. I think that next time I´ll be in such a situation I will sit down with the children and like Santa Clause tell them the story of helpfulness, that foreigners don´t like their scams and that there is something like a fundamental interest of people in reciprocal cooperation without a focus on ripping someone off. Helping for help´s instead of money´s sake. A story about karma and about the fact that money doesn´t equal happiness.
Anyway, I walk up the hill on which stands the small Pap Mochni Temple.
On a small terrace sit two Indians and an Austrian. The latter has been in Pushkar ten times in his life and I wonder why exactly this place? True, Pushkar is nice and the view from up here is beautiful but there are surely better places to come back to. But maybe it´s that feeling of community in a hippie crowd as well as the availability and cheapness of drugs. The Austrian leaves before sunset so that I get a chance to talk to Bopal who takes care of the little temple. He serves me some sweet cay and - as the sun nestles behind a distant hill and the moon approaches Holi - we talk about life in Pushkar.
Bopal and me
After sunset I walk back down the hill to my hotel where I wash some of my clothes in a bucket full of cold water and with the help of some shampoo.
Sitting on the roof-deck I look at the scarcely lit town and listen to distant drums and howling dogs, both competing to praise the moon.
I enjoy the solitude and feel an inner satisfaction. I feel like I have finally managed to get rid of all the stress and inner restlessness of life in Germany and now feel like I have the time and possibility to enjoy those satisfying and peaceful moments that are so utterly important for the soul.
the lakeshore at night