Thursday, November 18, 2010

Of Pushkar and towns

These are pictures of the Pushkar fair that happens in Rajasthan every year. You can find more pictures on my facebook album. In the month of travels, the next destination was Pushkar. This was almost a photography trip, eight people armed with seven SLR cameras only to reach and find another thousand odd camera loaded curious tourists around. However, this is not only about Pushkar. The inklings of the experiences I am about to narrate started in Gokarna and Hampi, a couple of months ago. Little kids running about offering to pose for photographs, women swaying their colorful skirts nod, heads slanted, perfect play of light and shadow, camels decorated so elaborate and their owners curling their mustaches. You almost want to rush and talk to them, how is it to live in a desert? How do you cook and what do you eat? Sigh, if you could only speak their tongue. Or, maybe not, what would you like Sir, Madam? Deutsche ou Francais? Hablo espanol, even better I am fluent with Hebrew, will that do? Tired of our local food, would you like some falafel or Malawach or Fatut? How about some peach flavored iced tea under the mud thatched roof?
To the unsuspecting Indian tourist, this might just look like a film set. Backdrop of giant wheels, bubbles in the air, turkish pants in the shops and one exotic photo for only five rupees pliss pliss
This is not to scowl or mock the exotic tourist extravaganza on which these places survive. Rather it is for those who like me realize late how the rural to semi rural spaces that used to define the essence of India are holding on to those huge colorful placards of charming Indian-ness while adapting to urban consumption underneath. The language of consumption is so skewed and firmly performed, managing to serve daal baati churma and Scotch in the same wink clearly shows things have changed so much.
Again, this is not to make a point or argue for some colonial dips that keep circus artists and camel riders in Pushkar and such towns alive. It's queer, almost unsettling, how the longing, aloof sand dunes that I was so eager to sleep on are a mere construct, towns of cardboard and nicely placed dolls. I move along, munching on Bruschetta, sipping on lemon tea, my embroidered jhola drags along.

The Taj hugging story

For those who wonder where I have been, I was off to Agra to meet the dead queen :P
Quite literally this month has been the most apt definition of adventure, not necessarily pleasant though. With a weekly record of losing almost everything valuable, including a phone (and hence no communication for days now on) I have done it all. This trip was with the Mumbai friend who had also (like many of us) not seen the Taj Mahal! Back when I was a little girl, my mother showed me pictures of her first trip after marriage ( I won't say the word!) and there she was, standing as tall as the Taj Mahal and touching its tip with her fingers! The photo caught my fascination and ever since I had been wanting to make "the" trip to Taj Mahal. We also visited the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri. A small advertorial note: choose youth hostel if you know not where to stay!
But, all the minute travelogue details apart, I have been asking myself, why write a travel entry? You would surely find a million others on famous places as such and once they are old, the information obsolete. Also, I have realized that increasingly, my travels are not about the place, they are about places within. Astonishingly how, while reprimanding a wicked bus conductor or bargaining with a guide, frowning at the fellow tourist or laughing as you eat aloo tikki in Taj ganj, every street, every wall, each man's two eyes and every woman's pocket holds just one little thing out to you: mirrors. They keep reflecting facets of you that come out, or are born in not-so-ordinary circumstances.
Coming back to this trip, as we walked patiently entering gate by gate to see the white marble monument of love and grandeur, people's voices kept ringing in my ears. Many told me how I'd be disappointed,how places don't live up to their hype. For me, it wasn't true. It was so gorgeous that we circled it for almost two hours before we even touched a brick of the main building. Almost postcard-ish in memory.
Such was the romance of the dead silent place it continues to ooze in bits and pieces, I can hardly visualize it entirety. While leaving, as I hugged it, I donated two beats of my throbbing life to the slumbering queen inside.