Pushkar

Ok, right Pushkar does feel like a spiritual place one could even go so far as holy. There is deep sense of calm and peace to be found sitting by the lake. But….and this is a BIG but I has a very dark under current.

The beggars dress in orange and pass themselves as holymen, when I sense nothing holy about them. If you take their photo then they get angry and demand money which a true holy man would never do.

AND I’ve just been threatened. Probably by the mafia.

I went down to the lake to chill out and I saw a young girl who had fallen for the lake scam. Basically they give you a flower when you get off the bus, then they invite you to throw the flower in the lake. Then they do a little ritual, and give you a bangle and put some water on your head. Then boom they charge you $100.

I could see the shock hit this poor young girl. She nearly burst into tears at the high pressure sales. It started off with just the priest, but then his bouncer joined in to add to the pressure.

I didn’t intervene at this point as she had already decided to walk away, but I was ready to, if needed. I caught up with the girl and warned her of the scam. Unfortunately the bouncer herd me.

He said ” You make your choice, but you know nothing of the lake, DO NOT TRY AND DISSUADE OTHERS. Do not dissuade others, if you do it will be bad for you, very bad for you. You understand me? Now fuck off.”

This is the real Pushkar.

Every time I give someone the benefit of the doubt they let me down. Two women asked for their photo to be taken. I checked first. Do you want money? No. Are you trying to sell me something? No. So I took their photo and showed it to them. Then I got the “where you from” speal. Here it comes I thought. Then one of them tried to grab my hand and henna it. Yup. Thought so. Wish I had been wrong.

So, this morning I was up at 6:00 am to catch a bus to Jodhpur.

It turned out that it was a local bus which slowly snaked its way to jodpur stopping at every little town and village on the way. Even though the journey took 5 hrs rather than the expected 3, I chose to see it as a free tour of the local country side as a plus to the 200r (£2.40) I paid for the trip.

Previous to this journey, I had only experienced the locals as one dimensional beings. There were the school kids jammed into the tuk tuk for the ride home from school, The street hawkers peddling stuff that I cant imaging anyone wanting to buy, and the women selling grass, or fruit on the street side. Each day the school children were there, the hawkers were there and so were the street vendors.
In my mind they were always there. Since I always saw them in the same place at the same time, my mind never labeled them with more then one dimension.

But then came this bus ride. Street hawkers got on at one village carrying long staffs covered in little plastic bags of sickly pink candy floss, only to get off a few villages down the road. School children got on at one village and off at the next. Women got on the bus carrying curved blades, and steel cylinders with carry handles which I could only assume was their lunch. These women were off to the fields to cut grass, presumably which they would later sell at the market.

As an aside I had been a bit confused about women selling grass at the market, but slowly as i travel around India, things are becoming clearer. The women cut the grass in the morning and then presumably sell it on the streets later. Business owners then buy the grass and feed it to the cows which they presumably believe gives them good luck.

Anyway back to the story. Seeing these people at a different stage in the day enabled me to begin to see them as multi-dimensional. People with lives and jobs rather than people trying to get my cash.

which brings me on to the other matter. I spoke to some people that lived in pushkar which kindly explained to me the whole “seeing white people as a commodity rather than human beings” thing.

The natives see white people as stupid and having too much money. They have learned through experience that if they demand food or money from tourists, the majority will comply. So in our mind what we consider as compassion, the locals see as stupidity and ridicule us for it. There logic is If I demand money off tourists and they give it too me, then I would be stupid if I stopped demanding.

So the harsh reality is that if tourists ever want to enjoy India free from the touts, scammers, hawkers and beggars, it is our responsibility to either ignore them, or to engage in conversation and explain why there behavior is negative.
Until tourist actually change their behavior, we cant expect the locals to change theirs. I reality this is never going to happen, so holidaying in India will continue to be an unpleasant experience for many.

I have read that if you can last 3 weeks without throwing in the towel, then you eventually adapt to the reality of your environment, rather than struggle against it. I eagerly wait to find out if this will be true for me.

These are my favorite shots from Pushkar

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The full set can been seen of Flickr

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