Posted on April 29, 2014
I am back to the November trip, when I went to Jaipur. I have written all about the Jaipur part, and I thought that I would now write about the trip to Pushkar.
Pushkar is roughly 140 km from Jaipur, and the highway is not bad at all. It took us two hours by road. For those who want to go straight from Delhi, then you can take the morning Shatabdi train to Jaipur, and complete the last 11 km by road.
Pushkar is indeed one of the stranger towns of India. It is not that old. It was founded in 850 AD or thereabouts. It is a town full of temples. It is a town full of Westerners who come for religious peace, and like Rishikesh, they take up residence here. The restaurants have signs and menus in Hebrew, Korean and English, and it is almost impossible to find a restaurant serving Indian food. We did go to one restaurant that gave us Indian food (terrible), had a great view of the lake, and where the service to us Indians was awful. I was mortified to be discriminated against in my own country. The town has a German Bakery, though they don’t bake anything like the stuff you get in Germany.
The town’s local Indian population is made up of merchants, small time traders, beggars,and priests. Another way to describe the town’s population, is that it is made up of Rich Men, Poor Men, Beggar Men and Thieves.
The painting above depicts the Thief and the Rich Man…..
And so, the keeper of the flames, as you see him below, keeps the flames of worship alive, while the poor man begs on the street.
Yes, it is a strange and unique town. Now, for a little bit of Hindu cosmology. Our Holy Trinity is made up of the three Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As per the most popular version of our belief system, Brahma created the world. Vishnu preserves it, and Shiva is the destroyer. It is a bit more complex than this, as Shiv, if he destroys the world, then we are all ash. So, he also re-creates the world. It is a lot more complex than this.
The main message is, that Brahma created the world, and that is where his role ended. If I were to be completely iconoclastic and irreverent, I would say that he retired from active service. Accordingly, you will not find any temples to Brahma in the world, barring Pushkar. According to legend, the demon Vajra Nabha killed the children of Brahma. Brahma struck him with his weapon and killed the demon. Brahma’s weapon is a lotus, and three petals were dislodged with the blow. One of these petals fell in Pushkar, and so the lake was created. As you walk along the main market street, you will come across lots of bathing ghats, where you can climb down and bathe in the holy waters of the lake and purify yourself.
It is a town of great holiness.
The foreign “residents” are really like residents. They are absolutely at home in the place, and I clicked the shot of this lady sunning herself in the November sun, after soaking in a cup o’chai at the local tea stall. Our lunch was some local stuff that we had while standing on the street. Spicy samosas and something else. We then rushed of to get some chai! One of the things about Pushkar, and maybe I will post some photos another time, is the fact that people from Rajasthan all visit the fair during the famous Camel Fair. So, you get to see turbans from all over the state. The style of doing the turban, and I am no expert here, gives the curious onlooker an indication of where the wearer comes from. It is a hot, hot state, and I also think that the turban tends to protect the head from the heat. There were times, when I was young, and my hair was black that I used to travel in the villages of North India often wearing a wet towel covering my head and my face. Why my face? To protect it from the dust that is blown by the hot, summer winds.
Pushkar can get crowded, and we were advised not to carry wallets etc in the town. Good advice, as one chap decided to steal my friend’s lens cap for money! My friend??? Ah, he is the famous Mr Motu-Saheb Topiwallah from Dubai. I shall tell the tale of how he became famous another time!
Posted on April 23, 2014
This is an unusual post for me, and I am doing it as part of a WordPress challenge, or prompt
Which are the five places I would dearly love to visit? This is a tough one, as there are many places that I would love to visit. However, here are five, off the top of my head:
The scenery in this country is magnificent. I have seen many, many photos of the country, and it looks simply marvellous.
Visiting Mongolia has long been a dream of mine. I have been to Inner Mongolia in China, and I simply loved my time in the grasslands, and in the desert. There is something completely magical about this country, the freedom you feel when you lift your arms in the breeze, when you drink yak milk, when you wander off on the horses, and watch the sun go down. It is absolutely amazing, and the country has some of the best music I have ever heard.
Okay now, this country has become known as Tolkein’s Land, and not without reason. I loved the landscapes that I saw in the movies. Simply beautiful
Scotland & Wales
I have been into Scotland when I was a kid, and again a few years back. But, these were tame trips. What I would love to do, is to do a driving, walking and photography trip in these two countries
I did meet a very, very beautiful Slovenian woman once, and she showed me photographs of her country. I was stunned by what I saw. Definitely on my list
Posted on April 22, 2014
Now, I do not generally go around the place flapping my gums about a blog that I am starting, but I thought that I would do so this time.
When I started dabbling in photography years back, I was a young, broke engineer, and while I wanted to shoot in colour – using film – it was freakishly expensive. So, looking into the shallow depths of my wallet and my almost non-existent bank balance, I started to shoot with black and white film. Luckily for me, I soon fell in love with it and decided that this was a great way to go.
My earliest photographs were absolute rubbish, but my youthful fantasies convinced me otherwise. Anyhow, against the usual grain, I persisted, and improved. Lot’s of people started to praise me, and then I became arrogant. My photographs lost their (ahem!!) lyrical quality and became pedestrian. I quit photography for ten years, and resumed only when I arrived in the country that I consider to be my second home – China (Singapore is a close number 3!)
I then discovered digital, and stopped black and white. In fact, I stopped film.
I have, in recent times, become a lot more serious about my love affair with photography, and we have become closer. I have not been shooting with black and white film, but have resolved that I will do so at least every three months. It is, after all, my first love!
Ever since I started blogging, I have seen some marvellous black and white photography sites, for instance by Cornelia Lohs(http://strassenfotojournal.com), or Ed Mooney(www.edmooneyphoto.wordpress.com) and one called The Gravel Ghost (Merillee Mitchell and her blog, http://www.thegravelghost.com).
And so, borrowing from their example, I decided to start a blog focussing only on B&W photography.
This is called “A Gypsy’s Life in Black & White”. The address is http://crooked-and-black.com
I am posting in a somewhat chronological order, so you will see some rather badly composed, scratched photographs. But then, what the heck…. It is a life in black & white after all!! The story of a love affair, if you must!
Posted on April 15, 2014
As the Breathless Sky , in Softness, Awaits
The Loving Kiss of the Morning Sun,
Whispers Hover in the Shadowy Mists,
Singing in Harmony with the Renewal Begun.
As the Breathless Morning, lingering, Sighs
In Quiet, Delicate Shades and Hues,
My Waking Soul Draws a Perfect Breath,
Remember Love in the Beauty of Truth.
Breathlessness beats in Serene Accord
With the Pounding Rhythm of my Soaring Heart,
To Stand on the Mountain, in Veneration,
And Breathe in Love before the Day Starts.
The above poem was written by Cynthia Morgan, who writes some of the most beautiful poetry and prose that I have ever come across. Her blog address is http://booknvolume.com
The poem that she wrote about the Huang Shan mountains brings the photograph to life, and this is something that I thank her for. A marvellos poet and writer.
Posted on April 12, 2014
Oh Wow! Post Number 100!!
Now, Haridwar and Rishikesh, being religious towns (that is bad grammar, I know), are towns where no booze or meat is sold or served. You can get eggs in Rishikesh, largely because the hoteliers have bent the conventions to suit the desires of the tourists. I love my meat, but I disagree with this sort of religious convention bending. I am an atheis as well, by the way.
We were on the lookout for the famous Jain Chaat Bhandar in Haridwar. On the way, we passed a shop well known for it’s almond flavored milk, it’s kulfi and rabri and lassi. A western lady in these orange religious robes told me that the shop sold the best lassi in the world. She spoke pretty good Hindi, I must say. Anyway, the shop sells only sweet lassi, and it is not the best in the world. To get the best lassi in the world, travel to Amritsar in my home state of Punjab, the land of the five rivers. My home state was divided when Pakistan was carved out of India, as a result of the power games between Nehru and Jinnah.
We found the Jain Chaat Bhandar, and started with the vada that is shown above. I forgot the name. By the way, the ‘d’ in vada is not pronounced like the English ‘d’. It cannot be pronounced by a westerner, or an Oriental. It is, in that sense, like the unpronouncable Dutch ‘g’ sound. Anyways, I had never eaten that sort of vada in my life, and I must say, it was quite good.
Next on the menu was a paapri chaat, which is shown below.
This was altogether fantastic. I have eaten lots of this stuff in Delhi, and I have to say, you get really great chaat in Delhi. One of the more famous ones, is this guy who sells chaat from a little stand in the very upmarket Shah Jahan Road. His stuff is really good, but Jain’s was, at the very least, equally good. Now, there is something about chaat, when eaten on the street. I shall repeat this theme in a later post.
Now, the ingredients, apart from all the masalas, must include:
1. The diesel and dust from the street
2. The sweat from the skinny or brawny arm of the chaat maker, as he dips his hand into the sauces and pours them onto the chaat and potatoes.
Without these two crucial ingredients, the chaat fails to do justice to the palate.
Final on the agenda ( we were too full after that ) was gol gappa
In the Western part of the country, they call it Pani Puri. In the East, they call it ‘puchka’. Yet, none of these names matches the romance of the name ‘gol gappa’. This was a rather tame affair, as we got these little balls on a plate of sorts.
The way to have it, is on the street, where the vendor makes it and gives it to you piece by piece. As you are finishing one, the other arrives, and you grab and shove it into your mouth, before it breaks and the tangy liquid falls onto your socks, or bare toes if you are wearing sandals. Then, you drink up some of the tangy liquid after your lot is done, lick your fingers, and wend your way down the street, with the tangy after taste on your tongue reminding you of the little bit of culinary heaven that you have just witnessed.
Now, this is a little bit of heavenly shit that you cannot miss if you come to India.
And, there is more in the next two posts.
Sorry. It is the time for food!!
And, here is the inside of Jain Chaat, just for you
As a final note, we did want to come back to the shop opposite for his alloo tikki (potato patty), but sadly, his stock was over.
Another time, then!
Posted on April 8, 2014
After a week, I was back at Rishikesh. This time, we travelled around a bit. We stayed at a little hotel called the Rishikesh Inn, and when we checked in, the receptionist challenged us to find better food in the town. So, we took him on.
We ate at the German Bakery overlooking the river. Awful food. Expensive, and meant only for poor, gullible foreigners, or for Indians who like to pretend that they are discerning in their tastes.
Then, we went to the much recommended restaurant called Chotiwala. I have a photo somewhere, of the strange dude at the restaurant entrance. Awful food. One of the vegetable dishes was so unappetizing to look at that we did not even try it.
Then, we went to Flavors, which was passable.
Verdict: the food at our hotel was the best.
On the way out of Rishikesh, we went up into the hills, to a temple dedicated to the God Shiv, in his blue-necked form, called NeelKanth. Neel Kanth literally means “Blue Throated”. Many eons back, when the Gods and Demons churned the waters, to get the elixir of immortality, the waters first spewed poison, which Shiv swallowed. The poison turned his throat blue.
The Gods later deceived the Demons, and got the elixir of immortality. Cool ,huh?
Anyway, we went up to the temple, and on the way out, stopped at this little restaurant for pakoras and chai. This form of the “r” in the word Pakora is impossible to write in the English script and almost impossible for a westerner to pronounce. Like one of our “d” forms as well. Well, no worries. My tongue, which is quite happy with Hindi and Punjabi, just cannot get around the South Indian languages. It tries. It really tries, and then ends up as a confused muddle in my mouth.
So, we had pakora and bhajji.
We also had some pakora and chai! With some mint chutney and a tangy sweet chutney. Yumm. Especially on a rainy day. Or, a winter’s day. Now, this is great stuff.
For the brave ones, there is the wonderful Indian invention of break pakora. I am not a great fan of break pakora. But, the others…. yummmmmmm!!!!!
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