Saturday 1 November 2014

Day 165: Pushkar - The ghats and the hippie mall

View of the lake from the aptly named "Sunset Cafe"
Rose petals.  Flies.  We sat by the lake, looking at the ghats, with the latter buzzing around our legs and the former being pressed into our hands.  "You throw in the lake; you get blessing."  Unless you do this and acquire your 'Pushkar passport' (a red thread around your wrist) you risk acquiring ever greater numbers of rose petals until you may as well just take up life as a rosebush.  Somehow, goodness knows how, we managed to escape without a passport.  ("I'm an atheist," says Guy, "I don't need a blessing.")

As we sipped our coke (the food-poisoning-free drink of India) and watched the sun go down over the water, a girl and her father came to play an instrument to us and sing.  As the captive audience, we were now obliged to buy our concert ticket.  The music was suitably harmonious so we obliged and commissioned a second song, then said goodbye.  I reckon the girl was around nine or ten.  I hope she gets the chance to learn the alphabet not just sing for coke-drinkers clutching rose blossoms all through the day.

A more common means of acquisition is to approach a tourist and say: "no money, please just one chapati".  It issues from many mouths but the words are always exactly the same, in the very same order.  Every Pushkar beggar must have learned the tune from the same piper but where to start with so many chapati-eaters to feed?

Sunset over the lake
We wandered along the streets, wandered back, wandered along again.  When I was researching destinations in Rajastan I was unsure about Pushkar, so we are only spending one night here.  I thought it sounded a bit zen; a bit henna and hippies and weed.  Bang on.  Guy was offered drugs three times in the first half hour but alas the poor boy could not secure a single pint.  Pushkar is holy; there is no alcohol here.  (Of course, I didn't tell him this pre-arrival.)

As for the henna and hippies (not that I'm in the mode for stereotyping, of course!), the whole of Pushkar serves as their department store of choice.  In this town, you can buy cushions with glass beads in them for every person in the world who shares your forename.  You can buy a scarf in every colour that Andrew Lloyd Webber believes to reside in Joseph's technicolor dream coat (of which I can testify that there are many; my sister sang them until she drove me insane when she was at junior school).  You can buy different coloured shirts all day and all night and all of the next day and you still will not have two the same.  There is enough garish fabric here to fill Pushkar lake.  Why not empty it out, then fill it again?  Shopping in Pushkar is obligatory; colour-blindness is desirable.

Guy bought a couple of new shirts.  One was bright green and one was multi-coloured.  But neither was tie-died.  We still haven't quite made it down with the kids.  Our clothes aren't bright enough, Guy's beard isn't long enough, we both look like we've seen a few too many springs.  As for my new dress, its colour range spanned dark and light brown.  You'd think I was brought up a Quaker (as it turns out, I was).  I'm only amazed that a garment of so few colours was allowed into the town.  You'd have thought that, like booze, such travesties would be banned.

And so we ended the day soberly drinking lassi and mineral water on the roof of the beautiful Seventh Heaven Hotel (highly recommended for those who don't mind a tea-total evening).   We thought of climbing the hill to one of the temples but it was too hot.  How much easier to sit and watch five stories of vines trailing down from the restaurant then eat a spoonful of ice cream as we watch smoke rise from the ghats?

The rose blossoms are beginning to get crushed in our pockets.  We remain unblessed.

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