Tuesday, January 24, 2006

So whats the big deal about Pushkar?

The tourists I met in Udaipur told me that Pushkar would be like running the gauntlet, non stop hassles and touts trying to sell me things.

I can honestly say that, at least for me, it's very chilled out and pressure free.

I arrived yesterday at 5:30AM, and given that this town is rickshaw free, I decided to just wait for the sun to rise. There are a few chai shops at the bus station, with open fires/chairs where customers can wait for their busses. I sat down, and chilled out for an hour and a bit.

Eventually, the sun rose, and so I walked through the streets in search of my lonely planet approved hotel. It's not -amazing-, but I really just wanted to find my room, and pass out.

I woke a while later, and walked around the town. Sure enough, there are shops selling everything a tourist would want (hippy clothes, instruments, internet, incense, etc). But by and large, everyone leaves me alone.

To be fair, I do see a lot of tourists getting hassled - but well, they look fresh off the boat. I think it's my clothes - the lungi, flip flops, and a shawl wrapped around my upper body that make it clear that i've been here a while. People seem to look me up and down, I say "ram ram" (a form of hello that is far less well known amongst the tourists than "namaste"), they smile, and rarely even point to the goods they're selling.

It's worth noting that my style of dress - while common in the south (the lungi at least) is only worn here by sadhus... And so, with my beard, and long hair, I look enough like a holy man (or at least, a foreigner trying to look like a holy man). Sadhu's give up all of their possessions (they carry around a cup, some water, and a blanket or two), and so perhaps the merchants assume I'm equally poor. I don't know. But the outfit is comfy, I like how it looks, and it stops people trying to sell me stupid crap.

This town is full of sadhu's, or holy men - or, at least, people dressed like holy men. I don't blame the bogus sadhus really - it's a way to escape the caste system, a way to get money from people, they can ride the trains for free, and in a country which gives surprisingly harsh jail sentences to its populace for marijuana related crimes, the sadhu is free of legal problems.

I sat down with one (who I think was legit) yesterday, who seemed to be a very nice guy, sitting by the ghats (the steps overlooking the central holy lake). He'd given up his fancy life (and all possessions) to wander as a holy man. Quite inspiring, although, I think that even the holy pure people should still use toothpaste... but thats just my opinion

It was quite fun to chat with him, and look at all the tourists gathering on a ghat nearby. Brahmins (one of the highest castes, the original priests) mill around the tourist ghats, collecting fines from tourists who wander down to the holy water withou taking their shoes off. It's quite a smart scam, and much more pleasant than their usual 50 rupees for a puja (prayer).

It's cold as hell here. I keep saying i'll get some warm clothes soon, but I really mean it now.

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