Pushkar was the official hippy hangout in India during the 70's It has continued to be a place where backpackers stay for indefinite amounts of time, experimenting with dreadlocks, drumming, divine teachings and drugs.
We have been in Pushkar now for over two hours. We were virtually attacked upon stepping off the bus; business cards thrust in our faces recommending "best hotel, cheapest price". It was confronting and unpleasant. Pushkar is also Little Israel; seems there are more Israelis walking around here than in Haifa. Signs are in English and Hebrew. Rickshaw drivers, inn and restaurant owners speak more Hebrew than I do, calling out “Shalom, Sai Baba, Manishma”. Bizarre. The Israelis are loud; they walk in packs, calling out to each other from across the road. Their presence is large and overwhelming.
It's hard not to feel distrustful. So many times I was fooled by what I thought to be sincere friendliness, when it was a means to get money from us. I know that's how things work here. I don't blame them, but I am wary in these super-touristy areas, and a bit disenchanted.
Just now, a man randomly thrust a flower into each of our hands; told us to walk to the Holy Lake, three minutes away, and throw the flower into the water to make a wish. Another man saw the flower in our hands and told us excitedly that he too was going to the lake. It was a holy and special day. He explained, in rapid-fire English, that throwing pushkar, flower, into the lake would mean good things for our family, for our karma. I became enthusiastic about taking part in a ritual, taking a step out of the normal tourist schedule of sightseeing and shopping.
When we arrived at the lake, a Brahmin priest dressed all in white sat me down and took me through the ritual steps: he washed my hands with water from the lake, placed my flower in my right hand, and asked me to repeat after him a mantra that blessed each family member by name. As I was thinking what a nice experience it was, he said: "Okay. now repeat after me: I, Sheli, at Pushkar Lake, offer donation." Offer- What?? You are selling this blessing to me? "No, no ma'am, we are not selling anything, just asking for donation to give to hungry Brahmin families! We give you this string, you take it already, it will bless you. Some people give $1.00, $5.00, $20.00, whatever you want. No selling here ma'am, I am holy man." Sigh.
We are in a cool and comfortable (and yes, cheap accommodation). Everything a tourist could want or need is at our fingertips, but there is something about the energy here that is making me tired. Maybe it's from today's long journey, yet I think it has something to do with the superficiality that lies behind each smile. Darjeeling is a world away.