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pushkar and things not going quite as planned

February 6, 2013

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When one travels, one is bound to be faced with days that hold less promise than others. How one reacts to such circumstances depends, I suppose, on a variety of factors – general life attitude, blood sugar levels, the weather, sleep deprivation – any number of things that can either make you bat shit insane or totally accepting of a less than perfect situation. I’d like to think that I’m the type of person who is always delighted with life exactly as it presents itself but, truth be told, I often feel the impulse to rearrange life so that it fits perfectly within the plans I have for it. Just a little tweak here and there.

Spontaneity is a really shiny word, which implies anything can happen. “You don’t know until you go”, a friend of Joe’s used to say. Exciting right? Who wouldn’t like spontaneity? It’s the cool kid in school, the thrill of adventure, the rush of a drug. And yet, as I get older, I find myself starting to like things “just the way they are” and if they’re not scheduled in my Google calendar, then they’re terribly inconvenient. Google calendar is where spontaneity goes to die and Lord knows, I don’t want spontaneity’s blood on my hands but damn if age isn’t making me rigid.

The beauty of travel is that you have to learn to let go because there are so many things that are out of your control. And once you let go, all you’re left with is spontaneity. So you’re forced to re-acquaint yourself and put a bit of oil in your rigid tin-man joints and skip your way to bloody Oz because what else are you going to do? Spontaneity doesn’t always guarantee you’ll have an incredible story to tell but the ride is certainly more enjoyable when you stop resisting the flow.

After stepping in the blue coloured dung-like substance on my morning walk (sticky unknown matter squishing through my toes is not my favourite thing), a nice gentleman escorts me to a nearby hose where I am able to rinse my 10-yr old flip-flops, which, when dry, have soles with as much grip as a wet piece of algae so you can imagine how slippery they are when damp.

This is a prelude to the next sequence of events.

It is written in Murphy’s Law that after running up and down the stairs a dozen times, the very last time you take said stairs, is, in fact, the very moment you are bound to fall flat on your ass. Being a law-abiding citizen and a natural clutz, I fall hard down the last flight of Kankawar’s marble steps on my way to checking out. So hard that had it not been for my heavy-duty backpack, I hate to guess what might have happened to my skull and spine. Luckily, I escape with but a severely bruised ego, a scraped arm and a blood blister on my ankle.

This tumble sets the tone for the day.

We’d been excited to go for a swim at the city palace pool ever since discovering it the day before. The plan was: get up early, go for a swim then catch a train to Pushkar. Easy peasy, right? We arrive at the palace with bathing suits and sun cream and towels and massive grins that say “We are ready to SWIM! Woop! Woop!” Our Woop! falls flat with the news that an event has suddenly been scheduled and the pool is closed to visitors for the morning. If sighs were gusts of wind, ours would have been herculean.

We simply aren’t in the mood to be harassed by a thousand merchants or the klaxon of yet another horn, be it car, tuk tuk or moped so we head to a nearby rooftop and have a lemon & soda while waiting for our train to depart. The drink, albeit refreshing, is very little consolation for our ruined plans but were it not for this little diversion, I might not have had the time to be paranoid enough to recheck our train tickets and realize, much to my dismay, that the tickets were dated December 16, not December 15. Sack of balls and filet o fuck! What up life? Why you gotta be that way?

The good news is our error can easily be rectified by purchasing a tatkal (urgent) ticket at the train station for 84 rupees a piece. The not so good news is we’d better get our asses to the train station STAT if we are to get our tickets on time.

We get our tickets on time. And then we wait. And while we are waiting, a man sits beside me. His eyes are streaked with red veins and he’s clearly been drinking all night. He points at my water bottle and asks to have some. I hand over the bottle and tell him to keep it. He tries to communicate something to me and keeps calling me sister and then he bursts into tears. I offer him an apple. I don’t know what else to do. The language barrier between us is too high for me to jump over. After 15 minutes of him alternating between crying and trying to tell me something I can’t understand, Joe fetches an English-speaking man to translate for us. A crowd gathers. This is always the case when something “exciting” happens in India and it doesn’t take much for something to gain that status. The Indian people are some of the most curious (some might say nosy) people I’ve ever met.

It turns out the man wants me to take him with us. The men around me say “He is drinking the alcohol. He not know what he say. You leave him here, yes.” Poor guy is in a bad way and I feel for him but sadly there is nothing I can do. What can I do? Such is India, it breaks your heart time and time again and then hardens you to the suffering because it’s impossible to save everyone and there is always a certain level of mistrust that puts a barrier between you and them. It’s a mixed bag of emotions that leaves you feeling guilty 90% of the time.

On the train, we pay an extra 30 rupees for the privilege of a seat, which is jolly great considering we have a 4-hour journey ahead of us. We are the only tourists in the carriage. There are a couple dozen fans on the ceiling, keeping us cool. Retro air-con. The woman beside me lies down, her head so close to my lap, she might as well be lying on it. I am crushed up against the wall and I dare not move for fear of waking her. 30 minutes pass and suddenly, she lets out a massive pop – a flatulence of such volcanic proportions you’d think it had come out of a 300 pound sumo wrestler. My somewhat hard of hearing husband does not react in the slightest and continues to read his paper. So there I am, with eyes the size of 50p coins, trying not to giggle, when Joe says in the most controlled voice “Surely, that was a shart” to which I replied “Guess we went from second class to no class.” All the tension of the day is diffused in those 10 minutes of uncontrollable laughter.

We unload our bags in the honeymoon suite of Inn Seventh Heaven where crickets sing and geckos stick to the ceiling with suckered toes. This haveli is a little slice of paradise, indeed. We wake at 5:30am and walk the 3 miles up Savitri Hill, in the dark, with packs of dogs guarding the streets and barking as we pass by. The aim of the trek is to view the sunrise from the highest peak in Pushkar. I am expecting to see dawn light the sky on fire. This does not happen. The sunrise is… beige. A French film maker, who is far too into himself for his own good, spends an hour regaling us with tales of his accomplishments and telling inappropriate jokes. Two american girls are getting stoned with their Indian guide. The monkeys are begging for food. There is a wind at the top of the mountain that we think might be perfect for flying the paper kites we bought from a small stall in town. But it turns out there is such a thing as too much wind when kite flying and our kites soon come crashing in the bushes below, quite ceremoniously, with much twirling and rope twisting and before we know it, what once was a kite is now a sad wooden cross with shreds of paper hanging off it.

This is not what we had expected.

It is now noon on day 2 and we haven’t left the turquoise couches of Inn Seventh Heaven since 8:30am. I am halfway through Persuasion and on my second cup of coffee. Soon, we will brave the market place, but for now, I am quite content following Anne and Captain Wentworth’s fickle love affair and watching children fly kites from rooftops all around the city. Hundreds of colourful kites soaring and swaying high above, the way kites are meant to be flown.

We’ve met so many people on our travels who fell in love with Pushkar (one of the oldest existing cities in India) and I think perhaps it’s because it has that hippy India traveler’s vibe to it and it’s the first stop on the Rajasthan loop for most visitors.

I wish I could say that Pushkar held the same charm for us but by the time we arrived there, what we really needed was some peace & quiet. As I said… when one travels, one is bound to be faced with days that hold less promise than others. But don’t let that discourage you from going. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t always let people’s opinions of things detour you from doing them yourself. Just because I like my tea with milk and no sugar doesn’t mean you will.

Mmm. Tea.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2013 9:24 am

    Wonderful story so full of truth & hope & laughs. Glad that you are wise enough to have the perspective necessary to take it all in [slightly grumpy] stride. The photos are beautiful.

  2. February 6, 2013 11:01 am

    well, I love this. every image, every word. xo

  3. February 6, 2013 11:17 am

    Mss J. – I’m having a hard time not being annoyed with you for capturing what I want so badly to be able to communicate – so wisely … and so honestly. “Such is India, it breaks your heart time and time again and then hardens you to the suffering because it’s impossible to save everyone and there is always a certain level of mistrust that puts a barrier between you and them. It’s a mixed bag of emotions that leaves you feeling guilty 90% of the time.” — Yes, that.

  4. February 6, 2013 2:35 pm

    I am so enjoying your India stories and photos. The photos stoke my desire to return to India and to capture its amazing colours on all manners of film. The way you write about your experiences in the country are so familiar as well. I speak often about how much I loved travelling in India — the colours, the people, the food — and in the next breath I’m usually saying something about how difficult it could all be and how it challenged me, as a seasoned traveller. Your stories remind me of all of that, but especially of my need to go back.

  5. Elena permalink
    February 6, 2013 4:29 pm

    The little guy in the 11th picture is hilarious! Hypnotized look and nice yoga pose, too 🙂 Maybe he should consider joining the club on the 4th floor rooftop for some “excercise” 🙂

  6. Elena permalink
    February 6, 2013 4:34 pm

    I meant 13th picture 😉

  7. February 7, 2013 12:16 am

    How wild to have monkeys so *right there*! I suppose they are similar to squirrels around here. But they’re MONKEYS.

    I am so sorry about the falling down the stairs. There is just nothing good about it. When I was in college, I was going down some stairs to where you could sell your books. It was snowing and the stairs had a rubber covering on them. They were slippery. I fell down the entire flight of stairs. Even though it was a closed off staircase, EVERYONE heard the tumble. I was mortified. All I wanted to do was cry. But, of course I had to act like it was perfectly normal to fall down a flight of stairs. No problem. Oh? And? OUCH.

    I also love (once again, and as always) this post, your writing is so descriptive. I just get lost in your story. You weave these stories so beautifully. India seems like such a complicated place. Full of beauty, yet so full of things that, here in America, we tend to NOT want to see. I can totally see how that would be a struggle. But struggle makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it? (But still, it was enough of a struggle without the falling down the stairs…geez!)

  8. February 8, 2013 6:17 pm

    Having come off of a day that didn’t go at all as I had hoped and therefore planned, sometimes I wonder if perhaps we should take the lessons learned from traveling back to the rest of our lives. I love what you said and how you articulated it in the 3rd paragraph. I realize that our “normal” lives often have matters that require more structure versus travel, but where is the balance?

    At any rate, thank you for the lovely post and pictures.

  9. Alison permalink
    February 24, 2013 4:27 pm

    I laughed & laughed about the gassy lady in the train. OMG you tell the story so well. It’s hilarious. I love when something like that happens that totally takes the tension out of the day.

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