Having landed in Pushkar we found ourselves a nice little guesthouse to call home for the next 12 days (though we had only intended to stay about 3). We used the time to slowly reintegrate into the real world, celebrate a holiday* and meet some friends.
Simon and Stana are a friendly couple from South Korea (though they just call it Korea) who we met on the final day of Vipassana. They’d been traveling for the past three years and just returned home last week. Having booked rooms at the same guesthouse, we spent a few days together in Pushkar drinking chai, sharing stories and learning about one another’s home countries.
We also met up with our friends Vaibhav and Nora, an Indian-Mexican couple from the course who enjoy yoga and touring India by motorcycle. We joined them one evening to watch a traditional Rajasthani dance and fire-breathing performance at their guesthouse.Pushkar is home to a lake considered sacred by Hindus. The lake is said to have formed when Brahma slew a demon with his weapon of choice, the lotus flower. In the process, the lotus petals fell to the ground and springs emerged at those places creating the lake (and two others as well). When Brahma came down to the earth, he named the place where the flower (“pushpa”) fell from his hand (“kar”) as “Pushkar”. The lake is surrounded by 52 ghats (a series of steps leading down to the water where people bathe, pray or wash laundry). Despite the cleansing and healing properties associated with the (rather murky looking) water we enjoyed walking around the lake without indulging in a dip.While in Pushkar we felt more like tourists than ever before. Every restaurant we found seemed to cater to the tourist crowd, as reflected by the contents and prices of their menus. We finally got a tip and found, tucked in a little corner of an alley, a hidden gem of a place. Well, it was more of a diamond in the rough. Or a hole in the wall. Whatever you want to call it, it was tasty, spicy and cheap and occupied almost exclusively by Indians. The kitchen consisted of a small area where the cook kneeled, surrounded by low shelves of ingredients and various bubbling, sizzling pans cooking over wood fires.We also enjoyed the new fauna Pushkar hosts: monkeys! The friendly and playful primates seemed to enjoy occupying the stratum of real estate above ground level and generally kept to themselves (though occasionally kept to the cows as well). We especially loved seeing the babies play together on the rooftops in what seemed like monkey kindergarten.*We were invited to celebrate Diwali with the family who owned our guesthouse. Diwali is also called the Festival of Lights, and is an auspicious day that celebrates prosperity and success. We joined the family in performing puja, a prayer ritual in honor of various deities, and made offerings of food, spices and incense at their altar erected for the occasion. Later in the evening we watched as the sky was illuminated by fireworks being rocketed from every rooftop, and cringed as children and adolescents managed to not blow their hands off while playing with firecrackers in the streets as motorcycles zoomed through the explosions. We were a bit amazed at the apparent absence of adult supervision or concern that children might get horribly disfigured and felt that at any moment we might witness a traumatic disaster involving vehicular accidents, exploding people or both.