Pushkar...It's an amazing place, the buildings are all white and blue and very ornate. I spent some time today on the holy lake at one of the ghats and watched the life swirl around me. It was nice to sit and not be pestered for once! The people here though are really harrassing...if it's not the shopowners, it's the baba's and the sadhus, then the beautiful rajasthani women who are wearing clothing nicer than I will ever own, then the beggar children. It's a bit much, and again I'm left with the confusion of being a tourist and contributing to the degrade of culture. Ah well...I think I might have too much time on my hands to ponder such things! I rolled in yesterday and spent the day shopping and then shopping some more. The shopping is insane...but if not all same-y- and I dropped a good chunk of coin (or shall I say tattered Rs/!) topping up my gifts (and bagging some bling for myself). The night before was a very special festival day called Shivatri- a day dedicated to Shiva so there were still some remnants of the celebration left over. People were pulling huge trolleys with Shiva statues and boys with drums lead processions down the narrow streets. I got pulled away to the holy lake by a Brahmin "priest" to do a puja...suddenly I realizedthat I may be in a very expensive situation! The priest went and brought back a plate with kumkum, a coconut, rose petals and rice. He asked for a donation for the Brahma priests ("Madame 500 or 1000 Rs/ is ok maam...good donation" and looked very annoyed when I told him that all I can offer is 150 Rs/ (about $4). The thing is that when he starts to bless all your family members- dead and alive- suddenly the "donation rate" becomes the rate per blessed person. I was starting to sweat as he asked for names of my immediate family, my grandparents and uncle & aunts. I started to calculate the potential cost and lost track of what was actually happening in the puja. I blessed everyone in my life and offered my plate of flowers and rice to the water. A huge carp came up and devoured the sinking rice...hopefully he hasn't eaten my good wishes and prayers! In the end I forked over 250 Rs/ and quickly escaped with my "Pushkar passport" red and yellow string on my right wrist and was marked with a red kumkum and rice tikka on my forehead. The good thing is that now I have this bracelet, no one else will harass me! I met a really nice American couple (Shandy and Wes) in the evening and had a delicious thali with them in this hidden "palace" off the beaten track and listened to shanti tracks of women singing the Gayatri and Om Namah Shivaya. It was very peaceful indeed and nice to connect with such a friendly couple. Shandy and I made a plan to walk up one of the nearby mountains to visit one of the temples - Savatri which is on top. The walk takes about one hour and is straight up the mountain. I'm dying for some cardio action, and a chance to get out of the madness and have a few moments with Brahma's wife. There are 2 mountains facing each other here in Pushkar on opposite mountains...one is the Savatri temple and the other is the Gayatri temple. The legend is that when Brahma came to Pushkar (his place) he wanted to have a huge puja to celebrate the arrival of his own city. He sent his son to fetch his wife Savatri to join in the blessing. His son was a bit mischevious and didn't get Savatri right away, so Brahma was waiting and waiting for a long time. He finally asked his consort Indra to go and fetch him a woman. When INdra returned, he brought back a milkmaid. Brahma put her head into the mouth of a cow (gaya) three times (thri) and she become a goddess. Gayatri then became Brahma's wife and stoodin the puja celebration. When Savatri arrived, she was furious that Brahma had taken another wife so she cursed Brahma and went to live on an adjoining mountain. There is only one Brahma temple in the world (here in Pushkar) and that was Savatri's -that he shall be only worshipped in one city and have one temple. Gayatri went to live on the other mountain and hence the two temples ontop of the mountains. Cheeky Brahma...what was he thinking??
After dinner I walked home in the darkened streets and realized that Pushkar closes early. I'll be at my hotel now before 9...as I walked I heard drums and shrill womens voices. I came across a wedding celebration and the beautiful women were all dancing. I was pushed into the party by an old man and I was swarmed by little children- all reaching for my hand and screaming "Hi! What's your name!" One little monkey literaly shimmied her way up my leg into my arms so her and I dancedto the beat of the drum. I was given a chair to sit on and suddenly I had 5 kids on my lap, all talking and exploring my face and arms. The women pulled the kids off me and got me to come and dance with them. I danced with them for about 15 minutes and then realized I had to get going. I bid them "Namaskar" and tried to escape but was attacked by all the children begging for chocolate! I tried to run but was quickly overtaken! They all pushed me to a nearby store to buy sweets until one of the elder women came out and scolded them...and they all turn and ran. It was quite amusing and fun, but I felt sad that this was all they saw me for.
The walk up the mountain today was really good. Shandy (the girl I met) had a really strong bhang lassi last night so was a bit fuzzy but we had a good walk. It is such hot here, and I'm glad we started early. The walk started off with stairs but then turned into a rocky climb. I was not looking up, just kept on focusing on the rocks in front of me and almost walked into a family of mean-ass monkeys!! Once I realized they were monkeys I panicked and jumped back. The biggest monkey of all bared it's teeth (vampire teeth eeeek!!) and we freaked out. We were both too scared to walk past the group until an indian guy came down to reassure us that it would be ok. So we rounded up our courage and walked past the group...they didn't even bat an eyelash. We carried up to the top and enjoyedthe cool breeze and the amazing view of the desert. The lake of Pushkar was shining in the morning sun, and we could see camel camps for miles and miles. It was very peaceful, and we were the only people aside from the sadhus in the temple. Shandy pulled out her sweets as an offering and a monkey came and grabbed them from her..they are really scary creatures!! We stayed up at the top for a bit and then made our way back down to the bottom, stopping in at a cafe at the foot of the mounatin that promised "The best herbal tea in Pushkar". I made sure it was not infused with bhang (it wasn't) and we drank one of the best cups of chai I have ever had. The man made it with mint and all the chai spices and the result was a syruppy nectar like drink. Yummmm. We chatted with the owner for a while, and I am going to join him and a french lad tomorrow to go to a Shiva temple in the desert to visit a Baba and hang in the cool temple. I'm quite excited!
Spent the rest of today just chilling and contemplating life on the lake. I'm at a cafe on the lake called "Sunset Cafe" and am going to see some live music tonight here before meeting up with Shandy and Wes for dinner. They are off to Jaisalmer tonight so I'm quite sad that I'm losing my new friends already!
I've extended my ticket to stay in India till the 20th of March, then I'll head to Thailand for 3 weeks before coming home. I'm really glad I'm staying...wasn't ready to leave India yet. I've also made a few emails to some Bollywood references that were given to me, so maybe I won't come home at all! You never know what can happen here...as I'm constantly reminded "Everything is possible in India!"