This weekend I travelled to Pushkar with 5 of my fellow students. I’m way too exhausted to communicate this in a shorter way so I guess I’ll just share what happened:
We left from the program center after class on Friday excited for the opportunity to explore on our own. We all shared rickshaws to the bus station, anxious to see if we could find the right bus. After lots of yelling (and our fair share of confusion) we found a man who could sell us bus tickets. We asked him to prove his legitimacy so he grabbed a pen and wrote out an invoice of some kind right on my hand. Everything checked out, so we forked over the cash ($2 each for a 3 ½ hour bus ride) and hopped on board. I can’t say the bus itself was too notable, other than it was hot and crowded.
The ride was fascinating. We passed upscale hotels on the side of the road- new windows brilliant in the desert sun. We passed towns of marble factories filled with signs that said “World Most Famous Marbles.” We swerved around trucks, motorbikes, camels, and pilgrims- all heading to worlds unknown. When we finally arrived in Pushkar it seemed like we could have been on another planet. Luckily, we were called back to earth by the familiar sounds of city life in India, and the recognizable smell of cow-shit and street food. We meandered through the streets of Pushkar until we spotted a sign point us to Hotel Everest- our home for the next few days. The hotel proved to be a great find. The rooms were small but had a fan and were comfortable enough to fit three people each and for $10 a night per room, I wasn’t going to complain. The highlight of the hotel was definitely the rooftop restaurant where we were immediately romanced by the spectacular views and excellent Lassi. Add the Buddhist prayer flags and the washed up hippies and we felt at some kind of home. However, we decided we were too excited to wait until morning to explore the city. We set off through the narrow streets towards the lake- the epicenter of Pushkar. At the lake we discovered the Gandhi Ghats- bathing ghats on the edge of the man-made lake that Gandhi’s ashes were spread in. What a scene! The ghats were filled with people of all ages, spread around the lake in close bunches wearing a vast range of clothes, all carrying the mystique of rural India. The lake was surrounded on all sides by stairs and seemingly every 20ft stood a temple of some kind. After part of group got yelled at for carrying their shoes instead of leaving them at the temple entrance, we retreated to a nearby temple where a procession immediately began. We stayed for 20 minutes, filled with incense and chanting, before we throw in the towel and snuck out the back. We had just enough time to poke around the market before we retired to the restaurant and eventually to bed.
We woke up early the next day to hike up one of Pushkar’s many hills to one of Pushkar’s many temples. The hike was challenging but not quite up to my Rocky Mountain standards. The walk was much more wild however than anything I could have experienced in Colorado. The road to the hill was packed with people on their daily commute, shops were opening, religious-men were heading to temples, and cows mixed every-which-way. On the climb itself we were bombarded with every mix of people. We found people praying every 20 feet, a few tourists too timid to say hello, and our fair share of families eagerly waiting to take our picture. After only a brief stay at the top, we headed for breakfast, far too hot and too sweaty for 8am. Breakfast was at the “Out of the Blue Hotel” which served traditional Indian food, as well as, to our excitement, traditional western breakfasts such as porridge, toast, and yogurt.
After recollecting our wits, we went in search of the Brahma Temple- the only one of its kind in the world. This was perhaps the highlight of the trip; It was a bizarre mix of Pilgrams, who embodied the almost incomprehensibly mysticism and antiquity of the India, families, representing globalization, and young entrepreneurs, representing the constant buzz of modernization. For such an incomprehensible experience, the exercise seemed almost routine.
This proved to be the theme of the day. As we dragged ourselves from temple to temple, we seemed almost too tired or shocked to comprehend the utter absurdity of our situation. 6 students wandering through a Hindi holy town, scorning fake priests, avoiding eye contact with other tourists, and trying our best not to offend anyone. It was exhausting and intense in every way. As we looped through the market, constantly the target of sneaky cell phone pictures, we gaped at the spectacle and It gaped back at us. Trying to skim the surface of what seemed like a bottomless town, we ran out of monuments but fell short of any understanding. Even after a nice dinner at one of the better restaurants in town, a bucket-bath, and a good night sleep, I still felt like I was on some bizarre trip. We made it back to Jaipur after another sweaty, chaotic bus ride. A quick rickshaw drive and I was home. In fact, I can’t say I’ve ever felt more at home with Dal, Chapatti, a cup of chai, and a shower with my own bucket. A call to Sam, a skype session with the parents, a few hours of homework, and I was back in my comfort zone.
This will definitely be one of the experiences I look back on and laugh. I’m not sure I have any other way of digesting it. I hoped I (along with the photos) provided some glimpse into my weekend. Its always easy to describe the blocks of a town, those things that remain, its much more difficult to describe the ambiance of a town- especially in India it seems too distant to ever capture with words. So I apologize if this reads like an exhausted account mixed with flashes of inspiration. I may be too tired to really recreate what happened but I’m afraid if I wait until tomorrow the whole town will be forgotten. Just in case I posted photos to capture what I have been unable too.