At the beginning of the world a lone dog was sauntering across the plains of earth. After an unknown amount of time the dog knew that it was hungry and needed food to eat to satisfy his pain. It also knew that it was in need of company. With this knowledge the dog was able to communicate with God, Brahma, the Hindu God of creation. Brahma realised the problem and created man in order to prosper over the earth and live in cooperation with other beings.
This is the story Bhupi, our tourist guide and driver’s younger companion told us as we sat for lunch in the peaceful town of Pushkar. (However after a brief google search I can’t quite find this exact story.) I asked Bhupi: “And this is what you believe?” To which he replies: “Of course, this is how it was created.”
First though, let’s rewind to the beginning of the day as we set out from Jaipur for a day trip over to Pushkar, a two hour drive West. After a few games of Mafia, (or Gundi, the word for Mafia in Hindi) we leave the straight highway and wind down the road through the mountain. We gain our first glimpse of the petite town surrounding the Holy lake. I have tried asking Bhupi why the lake is holy, but he keeps answering a different question. So according to the trusty internet, when a demon killed Brahma’s children he retaliated and struck the demon with a lotus flower as a weapon. The demon died with the impact and the petals of the lotus fell in three places, one being Pushkar where the lake was created in its wake.
At the bottom of the mountain we bypass the main town and drive straight to the desert where we have pre-planned our camel ride for the day. After a group discussion we decide to extend our one hour planned ride to two hours, a subsequently wise decision.
I then meet Raja. With three piercings in each ear, a wide smile, dirty teeth and male confidence evident in his proud posture, Raja kneels in the sand relaxing before we begin the two hour walk. This is Raja my camel.
Also side note, Raja means King in Hindi.
Riding a camel for the first time is much like the first time you drive a car. The initial nerves as you realise the power you have over such a large vehicle equates to the nerves that surface when your camel rises out of it’s seated position and you see the ground from a new height. However, once the car has started moving and the camel has started walking, minor adrenaline is fired through your body and you desire greater speed. Finally once the novelty has worn off you can relax and appreciate the rhythm of the camel’s movement. For a continuos two hours this rhythm did not become monotonous but rather serenely hypnotising as you learnt how to adjust your body to the movement of the camel.
(Photo credits to Sarah Bowyer)
Sanja my camel walker/rider encourages Raja to trot throughout the journey and hands me the reigns at certain points in the trip. Sanja’s English is relatively limited but he points out things every now and then and sings a little throughout the journey.
(Raja yawning during our midpoint break.)
On the return leg of the journey, after we had stopped at our half way point to give the camels a short break, we ride through a small neighbour located in the middle of the desert. The friendly waves from the women, the bright smiles from their children and the sound of laughter welcome us as we ride through the meagre community. It is an internally conflicting sense of warmth that reaches out to us. Looking down upon them from my cushioned seat on the camel, their pure giggles resonate down the dirt street reflecting their sincere pleasure in the parade of camels I’m sure they would see almost every day.
In the last ten minutes of the trip, after two hours of riding, everyone is pretty keen to get back and so Sanja gets the camel’s trotting. Clenching on to the camel with my thighs we move pretty fast. While i’m laughing and screaming, my phone falls out of my bag and drops on to the sand. And we ride away. “OMGASH MY PHONE.” I think Sanja believes I am encouraging him to ride faster and so Raja is spurred onwards. Luckily Lucy, riding a few camels behind me knows what i’m saying and her rider understands enough to get down from the camel and pick up my phone. In hindsight this is such a superficial concern, compared to the sights i’ve just witness. How’s the saying go, the more you have, the more you have to unnecessarily worry about. Actually not sure if that’s a common aphorism, but it definitely holds a significant amount of truth.
The remainder of the day is spent finding lunch and exploring the market place. Seriously, I am extremely impressed with the atmosphere at these markets. Haggling is always fun but even better when it can be done at your own pace in your own mindset. I think the secret to the Indian markets are the male salesmen. Most countries I have visited, women sit by their stalls, call out to you are and more persistent in their desire for your money. Males tend to be more laid back and understanding when playing the bargaining game. I end up at a small book shop and walk away with one satisfied purchase.
Lucy, Allira and myself had separated for our market shopping and so we return to the remainder of the group who had stopped in a cafe called Nirvana to try some Bhang. Generally I’m keen to try everything, but this one I had decided to pass on.
In our last half hour in the town of Pushkar, we do what the town was built for. We visit the Brahma temple and follow Bhupi’s lead as he shows us how to pray to this Hindu God of creation. Circling shrines, bowing, following a path around the temple, paying our respects and finally accepting the food offered by the man inside the temple, we have prayed to the God of creation.