15/10/09 - 14/10/10
Pushkar is lovely. Although its streets are jam-packed with tourist shops and it is nigh impossible to get a decent Indian meal at a decent Indian price, it is charming, calm and vibrant. It is also just what I needed. Pushkar has revived me and my fraying nerves.
It is a traveller hot-spot and I can see why people get caught here. Picturesque winding streets surround the ghats, leading down to the holy lake. However, at the moment there is no holy lake – but no one can quite agree why. Apparently the lake was stinking out the surrounding countryside and had to be drained. If given half a chance ‘guides’ or priests will drag you down the ghats and help you perform a puja for your family. You get to throw flowers into the water whilst repeating “luck for my father, mother, brother, sister. Promotion for my father, mother etc” A big red tikka (symbolic dot painted on the forehead) is smeared over your third eye and then money is demanded. I apparently did not give a satisfying amount and consequently ruined my karma and that of my family – sorry folks!
In the short time I’ve been here, I have met so many people. Lots of very interesting women travelling alone (we are a fascinating bunch). I have spent every night having such a good time. Well almost every evening...I have never been keen on sitting around listening to someone sing along to a guitar. I found myself sitting (crossed-legged of course) in a sari adorned tent with the ubiquitous scatter cushions, listening to a fairly talented couple performing. At times, it felt like I was as at a Manson Family love-in, as everyone turned their rapturous faces towards the couple and sang along. I can only ever mildly enjoy something like that – it will never be my ‘thing’. The evening took a further nosedive when we had to go round the group saying our names, home towns and ages. Why oh why? My skin was crawling with the horror and if I could have ran out, believe me, I would have. As we went round, with everyone dutifully intoning their particulars, it, of course, turned out that everyone else was under 26. I am even sure I heard a gasp when I said 31. They even introduced Eternal Flame by the Bangles as “and now for an old one...” An old one half the group had never heard of!
I have met a couple of people here who are just starting out on their trips, they are all fresh-faced and filled with anticipation and nerves. Just like I was. It occurred to me that I have been away for almost five months. Apart from it having gone so quickly, it means that I am nearly half-way through my trip. I was a little freaked out by this; I simply can’t understand where the time has gone. I started feeling nostalgic for the beginning, when I as running on nervous energy and something like fear – but in a good way. I was feeling down because everyone talks about the six month peak, or as we, in the travelling community all it: “the half-way point”. After which, you are moving towards the end. Like somehow, maybe the best has already gone, it is no longer shiny and new, but familiar and expected. And if the next six months go as quickly, I will be back in dreary London (sorry London/ers) before I know it.
But then it hit me... I have been doing this travelling shtick for almost five months now. I am a pro, a seasoned expert, an old hand. The feeling at the beginning was great; everything was heightened, exciting, new, otherworldly and unexpected. Now that has been replaced with an ease, not just in my surroundings but within me. I am sure of myself in the situations I get into. I know my position, my rights and how to get what I want. It doesn’t always work but that is normal, that’s fine. When meeting new people I feel much more relaxed, not continuously concerned with everyone else but comfortable with what I want and doing that. So yes, my leaving date is looming but it is still really far away. I have a lot of time left for new adventures, new countries, cultures and (most importantly) new food.
I will stay in India for now. There is still so much to see and experience and, I am sure, several scrapes to get out of. Not least, is trying to organise getting back to Bombay, for my flight, but not actually having to spend a single night there. I am building up trepidation for SE Asia. I am so excited about a new country. Some people only get to travel for six months, or three weeks. I am so lucky, I have got six months left.
Actually if I properly work it out it is more like seven – so I will shut up now and let you all get back your jobs. I am going back out on to the hot, buzzy market where I am haggling down the price of silk scarves in one shop, picking up a new salwar kameez I just had made at the tailors at another and then I am going to get a Thali, a proper one, at an Indian place I found well off the main drag.