Paagle Pushkar, Loud Weddings and Repair Stress

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
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19
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Trip End Dec 16, 2010


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Where I stayed
Yash Star and later at Moonlake guesthouse

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dear all,

Summary:

The last 2,5 months I have been mostly in one village in India: Pushkar. Before ending up here, spend a few days relaxing in Bharatpur and visiting an amazing rikshaw family in Jaipur. Came to Pushkar for only few days, stayed almost 2 weeks, chilling at this lovely nature guesthouse Yash Star; cloth shopping and enjoying music camp fire evenings. Difficult to leave, but we are on our way South to celebrate New Year in Goa. After a few days in Bundi this stopped abruptly as we had a break-in and a car crash on 23 December, a dark grey day for us. Had the van towed back to Pushkar and stayed here ever since. Van for repairs in Ajmer, me living and socializing at my Indian home town…until further notice ;-))

Where to begin…

Last time I gave sign of online-life is over 2,5 months ago. For people who know me, this is very Paagle (Hindi read: Crazy)! I read my last story and for all of you I am still in Bharatpur! Well as you can see by the entry points I have moved on from there, currently living in Pushkar, the town I can call my "Indian Home", as on and off I have been here for 2 months now!

Please only start to read this story when you have time, because it will be long ;-))))

Jumping back in time….Bharatpur, moving on from Agra, my friend Sunil joined us for a day. Nice to spend time with him, without distraction from his friends who want to drink chai and ask me the same questions over and over “Where are you from?”, “What is your good name Madam?”, “Are you married?”. I know this is curious India and almost every time I answer them politely because they do not realize hundreds of people have asked the same things before. For them I am this strange foreign dreadlocks girl, whom they like to talk to and practice their little English. We end up spending a few days in this little village, relaxing and (Mira) visiting the local wildlife park. We meet up with 2 Israeli guys (Tal and Alon). They are traveling the same way, so join us in the van. We spend a fun, intense and paagle time with this amazing rikshaw-drivers-family in Jaipur. Via someone in Agra I got the contact of Raja and he  lets us to park the park near their house(s). We are invited into their family home, a group of rooms (one room is one house) next to each other, like a family compound. This is true family life! No need to make appointments to meet up with an uncle or cousin, they live next door ;-)) Things like 'privacy' and ‘own space’ are not part of Indian culture! We spend two days sightseeing. Too soon for my liking we have to leave again,  so with tears in my eyes I promise to come back again. Which I did, about a month later during Patang (Kite) Festival! This time alone, as Mira had to stay in Pushkar. 3 days with Bollywood music, beer and Rikshaw jokes, lots of hugs with the kids, time with the women and of course flying kites (vliegers), from the top of the roofs!

From Jaipur (the pink city and capital of Rajasthan state) we make our way to Pushkar, a little village which supposed to be less hectic and with a great vibe. We arrive in the night and park the car in the middle of town!! Mira, good chauffeur driving through the narrow streets…and more respect in hindsight as I now know the town well! The guys check into a hotel, we park in front it, next to the very smelly public toilets! Ah well, we are here. With the intention only to stay for a few days…..hahhahahahahaha!

Pushkar: A village in the middle of the desert state Rajasthan. Very different from the places I have visited in India until now. It is a small village full of tailors, shops, restaurants, guesthouses, cows, street dogs and without noisy rikshaws! This is THE place for cloths shopping, tailor work and cloths business deals! At least half of the foreigners I have met here are into the cloths business, for small scale festival sales, but also your expensive ‘Mango’ cloths are made here. It is the ONLY place with a Brahma temple and hundreds of other temples. It is the village with an empty holy lake (as 1,5 years before the fish died and polluted water was drained, cause stays unclear, many versions are told over a chai). It is a sad sight. Yet, somehow the magical feel remained. Moving away from the main market street, we go and park in front of Moon Lake guesthouse, in the (dried up) holy lake. On our way there we hear a woman shout something to us in Dutch….huhhh? She is surprised to see a car with a Dutch number plate in India, I am surprised to know her: Lila Pixie, we met during the Rainbow gathering in Thailand 3 years before and had only email contact after. How funny is that! Turns out she comes here every year to have cloths made, to sell on festivals later. She tells us about this great place ‘Yash Star’, where we could park the car on own grounds, more Shanty and with a campfires every night! Although our stay is slowly getting longer, we still have the intention to move on soon as we would like to see a few places on our way to Goa: The place where we want to celebrate New Year and meet up with Roos, Mira’s Dutch friend. One evening we visit this place and I immediately love it. This place is run by two brothers Umesh and great cook Chotu, with also a Belgium guy Bob and a boy named Shiva helping out in the kitchen. It is located in the middle of the trees, grass land and rose fields; there are only 5 basic rooms and 2 tents, hammocks and a camp fire place with lots of lovely people playing instruments and singing bhajans. We decide to park the van here and this is it! Somehow the place put a huge charm on us and tried to keep us here. In the 2 weeks we are in Pushkar we meet so many great people, locals and travelers, how possible to leave?

However, after a few days of postponing, we really have to get going…next stop; Bundi. Shiran ‘warned’ us not to go, that something bad would happen. She was joking, not realizing this would be our sad truth only a few days later…

We made it to small and more shanti Bundi on the same day, parking the van near the artificial lake with great views on the palace and fort. This place could well become the next Pushkar in 10 years time, but for now it only has few tourists around, crap restaurants and an amazing view from the fort. I meet up with a local guy who would like to get a few foreign coins. As we collected a lot, I promise to give him some later. We exchange telnrs and he gives me an address where there is a better place to park the van. Nice of him, but we are ok here. India, the country of Omens! I missed out on an important one!

23 december, a dark grey day in our travel period. On our last morning we want to visit the palace. On our way we decide to have a coffee first instead, in this garden on the other side of the water so we are able to see the van, how nice. Until I see someone circling the car a little longer then with the normal curiosity. I do not trust it for a minute so borrow the hotel bicycle and go over. When I arrive the right window is smashed… great a break-in! Luckily we saw it happen, so the guy did not have time to look around inside! No more palace visiting, but  spending the day at the police station getting a report made up. The foreign-coins-guy helping us out with translating the whole time, how nice of him! At some point he is mentioned in the report papers as well, which he does not like at all with all the corruption police practices in India. This could turn out into a blame-it-on-him-scam. I vow that I would help him out if need to be later. Even though the police claim they are working very fast, still it takes almost all day to get things done. Ignoring a few more Omens, we decide to drive to Udaipur anyway, as we supposed to meet up with Lila in the evening. Driving at night, something we try to avoid at all cost normally. All going well, passing Kota, getting on the double lane (unlit) road, possibility to drive a bit quicker as I see that it is still more then 250km to go. Then out of the blue a tractor with trailer is in front of me (no lights, no reflectors going 15kms/hr)…we see it too late, I try to steer to the right, but cannot bypass it…we hid it on the back with 80kms/hr crashing into it with the left nose of the car! We had a car crash…Difficult to put into words what happened after. Lots of people helped us out straightaway. Mira was helped out of the van as her legs got stuck and brought to the local hospital in a car. I was able to get out myself and had no injuries. The van was towed to the police station in Bijolia within an hour with me in it and Akram, one man who helped us out a lot and we are still very grateful for, behind the wheel. That evening I thought I had to say goodbye to my house-on-wheels, total loss for sure. Then in the midst of my tears I learned a very important Indian saying: India Me Sab Kuch Milega! (In India All Is Possible!)…do not worry madam, the van can be repaired.

As the break-in and the crash were not enough to handle, the day got even more crazy! When I say Mira at the police station, alive and in pain, I thanked all 36.000.004 Hindu gods that she is (we are) still alive! As far as we could judge, Mira had a nasty wound on her lower leg, possible broken toe(s) and brushes. The crash was very bad, but, learning from the Indian optimism, could have been much worse. Not trusting the local doctor, we want to go to a big hospital in Kota for a second opinion. So late at night Akram and a police guy take us there, to a new private hospital which we heard about via some people in Pushkar. That hospital visit… a story on its own. If we were not so in shock and tired I would have made photos! We get there, nobody around, no activity whatsoever, like as it had opened only 2 days ago. In the emergency hall there is 1 doctor (wearing a mp3-player) and 3 nurses who seem very bored. Down the hall there is one guy behind the payment-counter and 2 boys sleeping on the floor of the pharmacy room. The rest of the hospital seems deserted and eerily quiet. This ‘doctor’ checks the wound on her leg, but does not want to undo the stitches, it would make it worse. Now normally I kind of trust a doctor, but it showed in all his behavior that this guy just did not want to do any work that night! Also claims nothing is broken. As we have serious doubt, Mira goes of for x-ray of her foot. I end up running around for payment, medicine collection and so on. Feeling that Mira wants to have the wound redone, I look the doctor straight in the eye and tell him with a strong voice that “we would like to wound looked at and stitched again and IF he WANTS to do a good job, he can do it”. Giving me the look he agrees and prepares himself. Again I have to run around for payment and tools collection. When I get back he is already working on the wound….without using any pain killer! Mira being brave, tired and stubborn lets him continue. When he is done, I look him in the eye again and ask him sarcastically “Do you LIKE your job?”. Back in the emergency hall we get the x-ray back….of her ANKLE! I demand a new x-ray but Mira is fully worn-out and wants to leave, which of course we do, although I go under protest. Away from this Paagle hospital with its mp3-player-doctor!

Then on our way home one last surprise awaits us as a drunken guy tries to cut us off…good thing we have a police guy with us, who tries to book him. In rush this guy hits the gas pedal and almost crashes into us! Another crash?! We can only just stop our driver from going on an almost- hit-and-run-pursuit…23 December 2009, a very Paagle day for us!

The next day, after a short night sleep, I am still in denial. For sure this was all a very bad dream! But no, unfortunately it is not. That morning we go and have a look at the van. A very sad and scary sight, especially for Mira as the crash impact was on her side of the car. If she would not have pulled her legs to the side…better not think about this too much. Can this really be repaired? Yes is the Indian answer. How much / Where / How long will it take? We decide to tow the van back to Pushkar, both of us feeling we want to be with friends and familiar surroundings: Yash Star. The next day Chotu and Bob arrange a vehicle to tow us back, Chotu’s brother-in-law (thank you sooooo much!!!) comes along to steer the van. On 1st Christmas Day, after a very cold 13-hour journey (no windows in the car anymore!) we arrive back in Pushkar…which is nice, if it only could have been under different circumstances!

From that day I can call Pushkar my ‘Indian Home’ as I have been here all this time until now. Our plans stopped there and also no more traveling together in the van. A very abrupt end to our on-the-road-adventure… A lot and nothing has happened in these (almost) 2 months…

Of course we did not go to Goa for New Year, so also Roos changed her plans and came to visit Mira in Pushkar. We spend New Year’s Eve at Yash Star with bhajans, good food and friends. The first 2 weeks I did not have the energy to get started on the van, still in shock, feeling guilty (I know unnecessary), in denial and afraid about the financial consequences. At the same time I did not loose the connection with the car and was still sleeping in it until the move to Mechanic’s shop in Ajmer a few weeks later. Before the move I had several mechanics quote a price and I had to judge their capability, difficult to do even in my own country, so the choice was made on instinct mostly. Would loved to have the car repaired in Pushkar (with the possibility to check every other day), but nearby city Ajmer is more equipped. Via this French guy I got in contact with Hameed and he has been the best help so far, going to the mechanic every time with me, translating, buying parts with me and being my all-will-be-ok-mentor! At the time of writing the van is still under repair, but with strong feeling I can get her back to Pushkar this week! Things are cheaper in India, but also more slow and of course you have to take into account the days that the master mechanic has family problems so stays home for a few days / shop closed because of marriage parties / drunk workers because of festival days / one person not giving the parts so the other one can continue….only to realize 3 days later!!! This is India ;-))) At first this all drove me mental as I felt stuck in Pushkar and homeless as well in a sense. That did not improve my state of mind. Now I have turned my thinking and accept it is mend to be that I am here for such a long time. No more planning. What will be, will be.

Life at Yash Star has been divers. Nights of live music at the camp fire; Wood oven pizza dinners; lots of socializing with amazing people; Bob’s dad came to visit and has been part of the Yash Star family; Mor, Shiran and Gal made my prejudice towards Israeli people disappear; great Dutch connection with Cindy and Lila. Unfortunately things were overshadowed sometimes because of some family issues between the brothers. This resulted in Chotu closing the kitchen and us moving from the guesthouse. For me personally this felt like losing my second home (after moving out of the van into a room); my energy touching rock bottom. In the same week also Mira had to go back to Holland. Our last days were very hectic to say the least. Even when putting her on the train in Ajmer I did not realize this was to be the end of our travels together! And still it has not really clicked; I guess this will happen when I will start driving the van again, alone. It will be strange moment. Mira, thank you for traveling with me! It has been challenging at times, but I also learned a lot (and more realizations will follow).

So as of end of January I am by myself again, living in another guesthouse to take some time alone without hectic situations and too much socializing. I completely lost myself in the midst of it all. Good talks with Mira, my dear friend Miranda in Holland and people here helped to focus again. In between visits to Mukesh’s shop, Hameed’s home, Sunset restaurant chai evenings with Cindy and Lala, a motorbike trip into the countryside, a photoshoot with Padma’s design cloths, Chai at the vegetable market and attending 5 weddings (it is wedding season here!), I also read a book, slept a lot and even started to do some yoga again! When I needed some laughter back into my life, I went to visit Sunil in Agra. Cannot really explain but now we have a very strong connection, like as if I know him from past lives or something, and the best thing is: he makes me laugh, a lot! Thank you my Paagle friend for some great days in Agra!

The weddings in Rajasthan…special, loud, long and colorful!

I was privileged to be invited to several weddings, pre-wedding and engagement ceremonies. Great to be able to be part of this, see and understand the traditional ceremonies, family connections and being able to wear the local cloths!

Weddings in India are often arranged affairs, where the parents choose the partner for their son or daughter. When both families agree an engagement ceremony takes place at the girl’s house (see Pali photos), where she gets presents and a special puja (spiritual ceremony) is done by her soon-to-be-family-in-law. The wedding itself has 7 days of evening ceremonies beforehand. For the guy, he gets presents from family-in-law and 7 important family members receive some alcohol and little money. One chosen boy has to sit next to the groom acting as the protecting Ganesh god during these ceremonies. On the wedding day itself the groom, sitting on a horse, is lead to the wedding venue accompanied by dancing family members and a LOUD music system or LOUD musicians walking between people carrying huge lanterns. Once arrived, before entering more traditions are carried out. Then he sits on stage and waits for his to-be-wife to be lead to the stage. There they will remain the rest of the evening, on the photo with all the guest, family and friends….one after the other. And they are NOT allowed to smile. The guests are entertained with food (lots of it; in buffet style or given to you when you are sitting on the ground in huge rows) and sometimes music. At 23.00 most people have gone. In the night or the next morning the wedding ceremony is carried out by the pundit (kind of priest). It lasts several hours. E.g. they have to hold hands for some time with henna in between, puja is done with parents, they walk around the holy fire 7 times. Then it is time to go. As of today the bride leaves her parental home and will live with her husband and family-in-law for the rest of her life. People she only met once (or not at all) in her life. Find it hard to understand coming from a culture where love-marriage is the norm. I could not live with my family-in-law in one house, making chapatti for the rest of my life. Here it is part of culture in all cast and every layer of society. Divorce is (almost) impossible. One can only hope the bonding and love feelings will develop during the marriage.

And what are my plans for the near future…I decided to stay in Pushkar even longer ;-)))

Hope to get the van back this week. Have to do some work on it myself (solar panel back on top, reconnecting wiring, putting back the kitchen, wood panels etc.). Then probably celebrate Holy here (another festival) and as of the 3rd of March I will do the Vipassana course (a strict 10-day meditation course) about 12km from Puskar. After enrolling 3 times and canceling 3 times, now I am ready to face myself and do this. Still afraid in a way, but also know it is the time I need to do in my life. But more about this and other things later…I think the story has been long enough for now.

I am back…online ;-)))
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Comments

Michael on

hoi liekie, indrukwekkend verhaal schitterende foto"s blij dat alles toch nog op zijn pootjes terecht is gekomen,. Je zou een boek moeten uitgeven met je reis verhaal.
petje af!!!!!
het gaat je goed.
Gr M

Ramon on

HE Angelique,

Hier even de schademan uit Nederland. Het is toch ook weer wat. Helaas kan ik je daar niet helpen. Hoe de regels daar zijn is mij niet bekend. Maar na het lezen van je verhalen gaan ook wij het prachtige India bezoeken. Vanaf 04-09-2009 zullen wij voor 22 daagjes Inda en Nepal aandoen.

We wensen je nog veel plezier en mis zien e welkaar nog.

Ramon

Arjen on

Hoi Angelique,

Wat een avonturen zeg! Ontzettend sneu om te zien hoe de bus eruit ziet na het ongeluk. Gelukkig zijn jullie er relatief goed van afgekomen, zoals je zegt, het had erger kunnen zijn... Ongelooflijk! Ik hoop dat de Indiase reparatiemannen hun reputatie waar hebben gemaakt dat ze alles goed kunnen fixen. Het zal wel even wennen zijn voor je zonder Mira maar ik ben ervan overtuigd dat je je weg wel zal vinden. Ik zit alweer een tijdje in Nederland, heb mijn oude werk weer opgepakt en denk vaak terug aan de leuke momenten van de reis. Heel veel plezier en succes! Ik blijf je verhalen volgen.

Arjen

Марат on

Привет Анжела я очень рад за тебя что ты наконетца добралась до своей цели я просмотрел фото и вижу что ваы пришлось не легко

Tante Marry on

Hallo Angelique, Ja ook ik volg jouw reis door India. Wat maak jij veel mee zeg, ongelofelijk !! Ook van jouw moeder hoor ik wel eens het een en ander. Veel sterkte maar vooral ook veel plezier in dat "vreemde"INDIA. Hier gaat alles gewoon zijn gangetje. Allemaal gezond en Monique haar nieuwe huis wordt binnenkort opgeleverd. Groeten van ons allen.

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