Sunday, 19 March 2017

#9 Pushkar part 2: Magical mystery tour

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the markets. The entire time I'd been in India I hadn't seen half as many travellers as I saw here. Many of them were mid 20's - 30's, dreadlocked, tattooed, pierced, dressed in bohemian style clothing looking like they were straight out of that book The Drifters. I was surprised and confused to begin with. Where had they all come from and why Pushkar? I had only stumbled across this magical, mysterious place because Mr Travel Agent told me to go. One and a half weeks ago I didn't know it existed.

It struck me as such a town of such strange contrast. On the one hand Pushkar is a very religious city. On the other it serves beer in many resturants next to the 'special lassi' and hash is absolutely everywhere. One part of me instantly loved it. The other part of me felt a little bit bad for liking it so much. It didn't feel like real India. Just shut up and enjoy it I told myself.

The Australian guy had only been in India four days and he had that fresh optimism that we all start out with. In the market he was stopped by two very beautiful desert gypsy women asking him to take their photo. Before he knew it we both had been ushered into a shop door and he was getting henna. Their names were Noori and Sindoori and something told me they were probably about to seperate us from more of our money in a very cunning and flattering way.

They invited him to their home, gave him their number and told him to call them tomorrow for chai and a chat before asking for money to but food for their babies. They ignored me almost completely. I discovered when I walked with Australian guy most stall holders only interacted with him. Perhaps it was the red mark on his forehead that signalled he wasn't one to say no. I wasn't worth the effort. I was glad.

That evening we hiked up one of the hills to watch the sunset over Pushkar. It was beautiful and close to what I had been craving this whole time. A place to walk that didn't require a guide or a fee of any kind. Bliss.

The next day Australian guy and I went our seperate ways. I was already thinking about staying in Pushkar for Holi instead of returning to Delhi. I wandered the markets in circles for hours feeling bored with shopping and only returning to the hotel with a few postcards and wrote them on the rooftop overlooking the lake.

I discussed my train dilemma with Mr Travel Agent in Delhi. He said he couldn't change my booking as it was peak season so I would have to return as planned before Holi.

But the misguided rickshaw driver in Jaipur was right about one thing. In India, anything can happen.

That evening I forced my introverted self to leave the hotel and eat dinner at the Sunset Cafe recommended by the Lonely Planet website as the best place to sit and watch the sunset. If guide books do nothing else they at least bring travellers together and I needed to make some friends.

I got a table for one and, feeling that all too familiar conspicuous feeling of dining alone, ate a delicious Kashmiri dish and watched the sun set over the lake.

I could hear drums and music coming from the ghats so when I'd finished eating and thanked the waiter, who I was sure was judging me for eating alone, wandered down to where all the action was.

There were people juggling, belly dancing, drumming and playing ukelele. I was still thinking to myself 'what is this place and how does everyone know to come here?' when I met, who for the purposes of this blog, I shall call Super Chill Mumbai Guy or SCMG for short.

He was sitting alone and petting a stray dog when I first saw him properly. I commented that the dog looked very healthy by Indian standards. Next thing I knew I was walking with his friends around the lake and eating again at the Sunset Cafe. I laughed as the same waiter that served me earlier have me a strange look as if to say 'where did you find this lot?' I was looking for one friend and found five!

They were old school friends and had come to Pushkar to play Holi. I told them about my train dilemma and SCMG said I could maybe catch a ride with them as they were driving back to Delhi on the day before my flight to Nepal. I don't know what it is but things always seem to have a way of working out in India.

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