The Contradictions of Pushkar

Trip Start May 04, 2011
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Trip End Oct 08, 2012


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Where I stayed
Pushkar Lake Palace
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pushkar is a good example of India’s multi-faceted character. I don’t know how to prioritize which is the biggest draw but Pushkar offers more than its infamous camel fair and holy Ghats. Tons of foreign wholesalers flock here to purchase textiles, jewelry and handicrafts in bulk.
Every little shop consists of at least one festival hippie type examining and selecting merchandise while negotiating over chai. Pushkar is also popular on the backpacker circuit for its unlimited access to bang lassies (lassi made with grounded hashish). However, the highlight for me was Sonu’s Juice Stand. I frequented this place daily for their amazing fresh fruit salad, muesli and curd or one for their supersize fresh squeezed apple, beet, and carrot juices for the equivalent of $.50usd.

Still within peak wedding season, there were plenty of parades and celebrations going on, including one for the owner of my guesthouse’s son. All guests staying at the hotel were invited to attend the big affair. It was fun to see a few of the westerners get decked-out in local dress; saris and kurtas.

Technically, Pushkar is a “dry city” aka no alcohol, so we started the evening with pre-wedding drinks at the hostel. Then we meandered through the village to join the other 500 guests for the outdoor festivities. Five hundred is a relatively small wedding for India, usually the guest list hovers at 1,000.

We cued up to the buffet to sample various curries, rice, samosas and curd. Next we found another assembly line serving only roti and nans. Hmm, I’m realizing how much this trip has become a lot more about Eat, Eat, Eat than Pray and Love. Anyway the westerners all congregated in a big circle on the ground consuming the extremely spicy food without any liquid to wash it down with. Before hitting the dance floor the next order of business was to congratulate the bride and groom. The poor couple was restricted to sitting on their throne on a separate stage, forbidden to eat until the end of the evening. Imagine these two near strangers about to consummate their marriage posing for photos for hours, probably wanting nothing more than to be with their close friends indulging and dancing.

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of “arranged marriages.” The ritual has been part of the Indian culture since the fourth century and continues to be the norm. As one friend explained it, “marriage is treated as an alliance between two families rather than a union between two individuals.” Although with modernization I have been pleasantly surprised to meet several couples who are products of love marriages. Regardless, many still recognize the value of the tradition. The practice reinforces the social, economic, geographic, and historic significance of India serving the Indian community in the following six functions: (1) helps maintain the social satisfaction system in the society; (2) gives parents control, over family members; (3) enhances the chances to preserve and continue the ancestral lineage; (4) provides an opportunity to strengthen the kinship group; (5) allows the consolidation and extension of family property and (6) enables elders to preserve the principle of endogamy.

Based on these principles I found it most peculiar to encounter a poster at another favorite organic restaurant titled “21 Suggestions for Success.” Suggestion #1 “Marry the right person, this one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.” Go figure in a society where the majority of the people do not have a choice. These moments of dichotomy reinforce a quote by India’s first prime-minister Jawaharlal Nehru, “India is a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads.” This metaphor is as clear as it gets for me when I search for the best way to describe the essence of India. Contrary to what people say, I neither love you nor hate you India.

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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