Pushkar: The Pilgrims’ Town

I think the train stations are always busy in India. At 4:30am in Udaipur, the station book-store had a man shouting about his books (the same “India classics” every store across India is selling: Shantaram, Q&A, White Tiger etc), the chai salesmen were patrolling the platforms with their singsong “chai-chai, coffee, tea”, and a man was trying to clean the platforms whilst not slapping people’s feet with what was at least a 2 metre long mop-end. The standard crowd which camp out just outside the station were there in usual mass, as well as the few who appear to have simply collapsed on the platform floor.

After succumbing to a 10 rupee masala chai, we trained for 6 hours to Ajmer, from where we jeeped to the holy town of Pushkar.

Pushkar, meaning “blue lotus”, is one of the oldest towns in India, and is a pilgrimage stop owing to the famous Pushkar Lake and ghats, as well as one of very few Brahma Temples in the India. It is also incredibly hot in May.

After the long journey to get there, it was little wonder that I was tired and irritated. I applied the usual remedies for grumpy me (lunch and a nap), but awoke unchanged. A long walking tour of Pushkar, to the ghats and the Brahma temple at 2pm was thus probably not a good decision for a person of my state.

I think it was that India was getting to me. The usual Indian garbage smell grinded me. The heat was a bother. The honking of the horns pissed me off. The people staring and taking photos without asking were winding me up. The people trying to sell me trinkets and demanding my attention with “Hello, from which country are you from?” were driving me crazy. Whilst thinking over these things on the walk, some man and his kid came over with their violins and started playing Freré Jacques again! God I hate that song!

The Brahma temple was a great escape, and allowed for a 5 minute break from the world outside. After which I made a break for the hotel as I was done with India for the day – unfortunately snapping at an aggressive child vendor (?) on the way back. After a swim, tea in the garden (as there’s no beer in Pushkar), and dinner we had a talk regarding the Hindu religion, before I escaped to the solace of my bed. I cannot stress how much I longed for silence and sleep.

The next day, I awoke ready for the demands of the day – the first of which was an ambitious 5am hike up to the Savitri Mata Temple to catch the sunrise. From the bottom, the stairs made the hike seem easy, but close to the top I was fighting some demons.

Just shy of an hour and I arrived timeously for the sunrise. First a slight haze, but eventually a bold light lending shadows to the landscape and hills below. I sat with just the breeze in my ears, and enjoyed the stillness of the moment. The town of Pushkar hadn’t moved me until that moment, at which I thought that perhaps it is a special place.

Stared at by monkeys enjoying the sun on the way down, we headed back for a classic puri bhaji breakfast in the garden, before setting on in our jeeps away from Pushkar to a the small village of Tordi Sagar.

For the duration of the 4 hour drive, I was a slippery, hot mess. It was hot. Like, really hot – sweat on the back of your knees kind of stuff, and the leather seats in the jeep were just a poor joke. Safe to say, I was not smiling on arrival.

There’s not much that can be said for Tordi Sagar. It’s a village, it’s hot, it’s in the desert, and there’s a hotel – at which we stayed. The Tordi Sagar Hotel. What can be said however, is that unlike Pushkar, they do serve alcohol – notably, the Kingfisher Ultra Strong beers. As a result of this finding, that is all I can say for the rest of my time in the village.

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