Friday, November 28, 2008

Pushkar: Beautiful Sunsets Among Holy Grounds

So heres a brief run down on Pushkar...Pushkar is a holy city that is pretty much focused around one point, Pushkar Lake. It is a holy lake surrounded by temples and bathing ghats where pilgrims take a daily dip. Certain Gods made appearances here at the lake as well as part of Gandhi's ashes being spread there. Inside the city there are lots of cows, there are around 5000 temples(!), buildings of pinks blues and mainly whites, lots of sadhus (spirital men with long hair and beards) lots of beggars (being a holy city ofcourse there are), pushy salesmen who get pissed if you are just "looking", a loud marriage festival going on which (ofcourse means loud music and fireworks), even as i am typing this a loud group was going down the street blaring music on 5 huge speakers with a following of more people playing various instruments,the worst of all, people secretly trying to sell me drugs! This is a holy city! Respect your own towns rules at the least! (Being a holy city there is no meat, alcohol or drugs)

So, Ive spent my days here either reading, shopping for souvenirs for family/friends, visiting some of the many temples here,taking yoga classes on rooftops, and ofcourse eating. Since Pushkar is a holy city, there is to be no meat, so the multitude of vegetarian options have been at my feet here, and I have been taking great liberty in trying as many of them as possible. Ive came to the conclusion street food is the best way to go. It is cheaper than in a restaurant, and it always blows me away with how tasty it is. Most of the food looks like you wouldnt dare eat it for the fear of the consequences, but I have yet to find one dish I did not devour with great delight! Its hilarous, I eat so much here and I think I am loosing weight, how does that work?!

Upon my first day here I was taken down to the bathing ghats where a "priest" performed a puja for me and my family. I read about this scam, yes scam, in my guidebook but I was pulled into this and just went with the flow of it. I had to repeat a mantra, name my family members, say another mantra, offer flowers, sandalwood into the lake wishing for my families happiness (Dead or alive). Even though I knew it was just to get money in his pocket, I treated it sincerely, even though he might not have. He had a look of disgust when I made a material offering of ruppees for my family, and was in an outrage when he saw how much I gave for him and his family.
"Only 20 ruppees?!?This is for me and my family!!"
"And I hope it helps you all."
Scams...You cant escape them wherever you go here.

My Thanksgiving was an interesting one. I called my parents to wish them Happy Thanksgiving and I was given the news about the bombing in Mumbai which has been targeted at Americans. In my time in India I have heard of a few bombings, given there is alot of terrorism and corruption in India sadly. What is most alarming was that I was going to be there in a few weeks and it shook me up knowing that I was close to being affected by something so drastic. After I got off the phone with my parents, I was speechless and motionless for about 20 minutes. Once I came back to reality, I started my day. I walked to a nice view spot of the lake, where I spent the majority of the day just contemplating various things. I met an Indian man who I talked to about the bombings, he invited me to his hotel where we could talk and have a chai. After we talked about the bombings, he told me about his role at the hotel. He is the cook, and was trying to get me to work there(?) I kindly let him show me around, and the rooms where filthy. A small corridor with a concrete slab to sleep on, and here is the best part...

"Heres a nice room, you got a place to sleep and look, window"

I step in to see the window and it was infact a window but instead of shades it has newpaper that had a mild addhesive to keep it stuck to the window but you could pull it off and enjoy the breathtaking view of dead grass and dirt "garden area". Upon exiting I almost step on a lizard that looked like the Geiko Geko. Upon closing the door the handle broke off, which is your only means of security in a place like that. Classic. I am not even going to mention how putrid the shared bathroom/shower was...Ill leave that to you imagination. He wanted me to work there, where I would work in the kitchen but I would also have to pay for my boarding. Where do I sign?! This is a steal of a deal right....I finished my chai and went my seperate way, bummed that I passed up such a good deal!...

Upon walking around the town after i walk through an alley no larger than for 1 person to get through at a time to get to a main street and I see David, a man that took the Vipassana course ahead of me. We immediatey see each other, start talking, and arrange a meeting time to see a temple up on the top of one the surrounding hills. I go back to my room and read til it is time to leave, met david and two other people from america and were off. Once you got to the hill where the temple was, it was just steps, HUGE steps the whole way. But ALOT of them. About an hour later we reach the top where there is a cafe blasting music, music that I thought was being produced from the temple but upon seeing the speakers, it felt incredibly westernized. I would expect this is America, not in India. I was expecting people gathered around a person on a harmonium with drummers on tablas around them, not a CD you can buy if you wanted. I looked around the temple, took in the amazing views, then went back outside and watched the sunset. This is what I love about Pushkar, beautiful sunsets among holy grounds. Upon leaving we met up with another American who I quickly became friends with. His name is Steve and he has been travelling around india for about 8 months, before that he hit Thailand and Nepal. He just got his nursing degree, and after the temple me David and Steve all went to get some food, I mean it was after all Thanksgiving! David recommended a place that has a killer Thali so we went there. It was good, especially because they kept pouring on the food. I was stuffed! A MUST for a thanksgiving dinner, you must feel like you are going to puke you ate so much. David left and Steve and I exchanged info and went our seperate ways. I was extremely thankful that I was able to share my Thanksgiving dinner with two friends.

So, in any case, my last night here was amazing. The whole day it was cloudy with black and grey clouds I thought it was going to rain all day, but it didnt. So around sunset time I worked my way over to the lake, but the clouds were not letting the sunset through. That is until a few hours later...At the tail end of the sunset, beneath the black clouds pierced the deepest red I have ever seen in a sky before. This sight was truly magnificient because no one expected a sunset, the sun didnt peak through the clouds ALL DAY and then this breaks out for our enjoyment. I ran and got a Chai ofcourse, then sat at the steps of the lake, looking out to see the tall white, blue, and pink temples infront of a black clouded sky, with just a sliver of this deep blood red sky at the bottom. Truly a magnificent sight! I wish I could have taken a picture but I (unlike the other foreigners) respected the lakes rules of no photography (being a holy lake). However, the image is photographed in the memory banks of my mind, wow! This is what I love about Pushkar, beautiful sunsets among holy grounds.

After the sunset a drum circle formed where I rocked out and met some interesting people. The most impactful was a man who had instead of 4 complete limbs, he had 4 stubs, but the truly remarkable part of it was it did not stop him from creating beautiful artwork. I went over and talked to him about his work and he wanted an OUTRAGEOUS amount of money or else I so would have bought a piece (despite the 10 day wait period). Very nice man, with proof that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.

Right now I need to go mail me a carepackage. I bought alot of stuff to mail back. I bought 2 pounds of Chai spice! I made it a pact of mine to buy Chai in each State I goto in India. After I mail it off, its time to roam around the town and eat some good food!

Today I get on a bus back to Jaipur to get ready for another 10 day meditation course for my birthday! (So stoked about that)

I hope you all had a safe Thanksgiving, full of good times with either family or friends.

Much love to you all.
Be happy!