14 Mar - 24 Mar 2015 Pushkar

A Sacred Junk Shop… 
Matt: Trying to stay sane in Pushkar, one of the places in Western India with the greatest density of international and domestic eccentrics, a funny destination where (i) devote Hindu pilgrims from the East buy religious hope (wholesale & retail) and (ii) dolled up New-Age showoffs from the West purchase pseudo-ethnic hippie clothes and accessories (wholesale & retail).

“We are what we pretend to be,
so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” 
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Matt: Circumnavigating barefooted the polluted Pushkar Lake, supposedly one of India's most sacred sites, surrounded by decaying temples and fifty-two holy but filthy bathing ghats (one for each of Rajasthan's maharajas), watching interesting encounters between eagerly worshipping devotees and eagerly skimming Brahmin priests and enjoying spectacular sunsets from the Jaipur Ghat. 

Matt: Exploring only a few of Pushkar's c. five hundred Hindu temples and shrines, visiting even less of Pushkar's c. five hundred wholesale and retail outlets for the discerned wannabe hippie, listening to the Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish and Slavic babel on the street and sticking out like a sore thumb: no funky dreadlocks, no visible tattoos, no sexy piercings, no homespun garments and no sweet potbelly; darn it, I am still too young.

“Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.”

Matt: Heeding faithfully one of the bumming sadhu's counsel about "...a new perspective will come to you...", climbing therefore up to the hilltop Savithri and Gayathri temples and enjoying delightful encounters with fellow heretics.

Matt: Fleeing from Pushkar's psychodelic fancy-dress parade and countless preposterous One World Health Shops, Himalaya Herbs Outlets, Holistic Yoga Gardens, Practical Meditation Courses, Hatha Yoga Healing Classes, Fresh Homemade Organic Food Centres, Ancient Ayurvedic Depth Masseurs, Experienced Tattoo Studios, Body Piercing Workshops, Handmade Sugar Cane Clothing Stores, Unique Silver Art Jewellers, Genuine Rajasthani Massage Parlours, Certified Shiatsu and Reflexology Therapists, Super Healthy Honey Breakfast Homestays, Transformation of Life Energy Certifications, Therapeutic Oil Suppliers, Yogic Drum Purifications, Natural Incense Dealers and Traditional Handloom Fashion Designers, and finding consolation among ordinary Indian mortals (e.g. hair dressers [crew cut for INR 30.- per cut], fruit sellers [fresh mulberries for INR 80.- per kg] and pharmacists [generic over-the-counter-Viagra Vigora for INR 15.- per 50 mg]) in the rugged neighbourhood behind Pushkar's busy and filthy government bus stand.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it."

Matt: Falling in love with untouchable Camille, a charming Dalit (Kalbelya) snake charmer with green eyes, buying her many strong masala chais at a late hour but resisting the almost irresistible invitation into her home, sharing travel tales and destination tips with fellow senior-citizen vagabonds Varvara & Paul from Owen Sound in Central Ontario and learning about the subtleties of fine jewellery making from my friendly room neighbour Anna from France.

“When a woman teams up with a snake a moral storm threatens somewhere.” 

Matt: Celebrating the Hindu New Year 2072 at the sacred ghats together with the beautiful ladies from Guru Padma Charan Dehury's Ommkar Kalashram Dance School and listening to Kshiti Prakash Mahopatra's classical Indian ragas.

Matt: Ignoring the overpriced food in my otherwise recommendable quarters, the Hotel Lake View +911452772106, with stunning views over the Pushkar Lake and its ghats, and becoming a regular at (i) the down-to-earth Sanskaar Restaurant (excellent unlimited vegetarian thali with unlimited chapattis for INR 50.- or US$ 0.80 per meal), (ii) the friendly, hole-in-the-wall Shiva Café (strongest filter coffee in town for INR 30.- or US$ 0.50 per large glass) and (iii) the only English Wine & Beer Shop in Pushkar whose nonpartisan owner doesn't give a dam about the teetotalling holiness of the place (650-ml bottles of ice-cold Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer with 4.8 % alc./vol. and the usual glycerine flavour for the stiff premium price of INR 130.- or US$ 2.10 per large bottle).

Matt: Getting out of this holy hole and taking a jam-packed R.S.R.T.C. government bus (Rajasthan State Road Transport Company) from the unmarked bus stop opposite Pushkar's busy and filthy government bus stand to my friends Tara & Gouri's highly recommendable homestay Shanti House +9115125443306 in the centre of bustling and rather un-touristy Bikaner (260 km, 6 ¼ hours, INR 208.- or US$ 3.30 per person), a city which is famous for its thoroughbred camels and rats...

For Raoni, Tien and Ronja:
Die kleine indische Stadt Pushkar liegt an einem trueben See, dessen Wasser heilig sein soll; was auch immer das bedeuten mag. Ich habe mit meinen eigenen Augen bloss sehen koennen, dass das Wasser sehr schmutzig war. Trotzdem haben viele Inder verzueckt darin gebadet und beim Eintauchen etwas fuer sich oder fuer ihre Familien gewuenscht: Viel Geld, viel Glueck, viele Kinder, noch mehr Kinder… Beim Wuenschen bzw. Beten wurden sie von Priestern unterstuetzt, meistens schmierige Typen, die fuer ihren Hokospokus viel Geld nehmen. Zusaetzlich gibt es in Pushkar noch an jeder Ecke grosse Stahlkassen (donation boxes), in welche die Pilger ihre letzten Rupien fuer die Goetter einwerfen. Meine Frage, wie denn das Geld von den Priestern zu den Goettern gelangt, wollte mir niemand konkret beantworten.
Beim Umherwandern in Pushkar habe ich haeufig an eines meiner Lieblingsmaerchen gedacht, an Des Kaisers Neue Kleider (The Emperor's New Clothes). Lasst es Euch bitte von Konni erzaehlen. - Weshalb wohl war es ein kleines Kind, das zu rufen gewagt hat "...aber er hat ja nichts an!", und weshalb kein Erwachsener? 
From India, with Love!

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