RAJASTHAN PART 4
Pushkar and Ajmer – for faith, January 02, 2016
The planned part of the trip was over. I had no idea what was to follow next. I was supposed to check out of the hotel at eleven but I checked out early. I closed the door behind me hoping to catch a bus to Ajmer and Pushkar. I did not have a ticket yet.
I walked down to the reception and handed over the key.
You a photographer sir?
Yes. Kind of. How did he know?
Please take a nice photo of the reception and give us a nice review on TripAdvisor sir.
Honestly- it was an average experience. Nothing special. For some reason these guys had not cleaned my room for two days – no change of bed sheets – nothing. I had asked for water and they were nice enough to bring me a jarful of it – yes – there’s another thing I did not like about Rajasthan – the water. It tastes – yuck. And then I had ordered some tea on the new year morning but nobody turned up. I guess they must have been busy. Besides I was getting late for my sightseeing so I left. That was that.
I turned to leave when he said – one minute sir. You have three extra items.
Impossible – I said.
Yes sir – you had three cups of tea.
No. I never ordered except yesterday morning. And it never arrived.
Did you not get the two complementary packages?
He called the kitchen to confirm. After a long conversation he said – Must have been a mistake sir. Thank you! And please give us high ratings. It would help get more business.
Screw you Son of a Bitch. I thought and left without speaking.
I called Deepak and Sanjana and asked them to see me. Right now, I said. They were staying in the neighborhood. They were having breakfast – But I insisted they come down anyway. I did not want to leave without seeing them. And I was getting a little late for Pushkar and Ajmer. We met again for a very brief time. I thanked them and walked straight to hotel Mewar for a ticket.
450 – he said.
No. 400. I will not be coming back to Jaipur – You can leave me at Pushkar or Ajmer.
Okay 400. One ticket?
The guy then asked me to hop behind him on a scooter. A bulky man of about fifty – very tall. And he drove me to this place from where the bus was about to leave. We drove through narrow lanes – partially lit by a January sun. Only mildly cold. His scooter was – oh so very blue – and my backpack very red.
The bus was white – and had been freshly washed. I did not get a seat inside the bus with other passengers but was more than happy to sit at the driver’s cabin. For some reason the driver did not like me. Not that he was rude – but I could tell. Or maybe it was just the way he looked.
This bus was less showy than the last one. People were still coming. I was asked to keep my backpack in the trunk. There were three other backpackers already waiting for the trunk to open. The four of us handed our bags to a bored-looking man in a white shirt. It was the last I saw of my luggage before finally leaving at Ajmer but I could not stop worrying about it. More than half my luggage was now at the rear of the bus. All the clothes that I was carrying – some cash – all chargers – tripod – laptop. I had other stuff in a smaller backpack with me in the front – the phones – most of the money – identification – plastic money – cameras – deodorant – the book on Rajasthan – sunscreen – another eyeglass.
I climbed into the bus – excited – hopeful – a little anxious. What remained now was a chasm. A void. A white wall I could color with many hues. But it could also end up being very bleak. Colorless – like the very bus. Be positive! The driver was expecting me to get behind him in a tiny seat where it would have been impossible to squeeze myself into. But the adamant me instead I sit atop the gearbox – which they had turned into a four-feet-by-four bedlike thing – where a few people could comfortably sit. A glass door separated us from the rest of the passengers. From me. Wasn’t I supposed to be one of them? Or maybe not? Perhaps my journey was different. Or was it? Wandering for an epiphany? I sat cross-legged – the windscreen right in front of me. My back facing other passengers as I rested on the door. I had the most comfortable journey. I loved the drive from Jaipur to Pushkar. The places. The people. The new terrain. We stopped on the way for chai before we reached Pushkar.
Pushkar is about 145 kilometers from Jaipur if you take the NH8. We reached pretty soon – given the distance. We drove through Ajmer to Pushkar. Pushkar was fun – we went to the Brahma temple first – no cameras – I managed to take a picture with my mobile phone though. After that we went to the Pushkar ghats walking through the bazaar which was like a cultural immersion although there were more tourists than locals. The ghat was fun too – I met another traveler who was sitting beside me in the cabin and borrowed my Rajasthan book to read. He was travelling with a friend. I accompanied them into the temple which on hindsight I regretted. They tore me away from the larger group and would not listen to my pleas to get back to the group. I was most worried about my luggage in the bus – I was worried I we would be late and the bus would leave. But we managed to get back on time and it was because of them that I got to eat the most delicious Malpua of my life soon followed by lip-smacking kachodi with kadhi.
We left for Ajmer once everyone returned. Ajmer was my test of faith – faith in humanity. We were asked to leave all our stuff behind in the bus – everything except – the phone, money and identity – with people I barely knew; with people who in my country are associated with thieves, criminals, murderers, rapists and whatnots – drivers and conductors. We visited the dargah- the buswallah stopped about 3-4 kilometers from the dargah. He said they’re not allowed to go near the dargah – we stopped somewhere between Pushkar and Ajmer. Where – I cannot say for certain. We were ferried away to the dargah in autorickshaws. What if the they drive away? I had the option to stay back with my luggage – but decided to go instead.
The dargah was pretty much like Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi – except for maybe – much famous and quite big.
I accompanied a family from our bus. We were one of the first to return. I was so happy to find the auto where it said it would be waiting for us. I was anxious on our way back. It turned out I was scared for no reason at all. We reached the bus and paid the autowallahs And I climbed back in to freshen up at the back of the bus. Most of the passengers were still gone. I checked if everything was still there. It was. I rearranged my bag and collected my backpack from the back of the bus- all covered up in dust. Thank God for the raincoat!
I asked the buswallah to drop me at Ana Sagar Lake. The lake was gorgeous. I wish I had time to stay. I took an auto to the railway station. The enquiry counter was very crowded so I walked up to a police to ask if I could find a train to Udaipur. All trains leave at night, he said. You should take a bus – you’d reach by midnight. My only concern was – would it be safe? Yes, he said. Don’t worry, this is not UP or Bihar. Okay – that was helpful – at that point- although it sounded a little patronizing. I thanked him and left for the State Bus Terminal in a rickshaw. The rickshawallah wanted to earn a fortune from me until I used the ancient walkaway trick to bargain and I ended-up paying a fraction of the price.
It was still early evening and the bus was to leave at 8pm. And they wouldn’t sell the ticket until the bus arrived. So I had to wait for two long hours – with frequent pee trips and no one to watch my luggage. The attendant at the washroom was particularly kind. He noticed that I had been waiting for quite some time and he took it upon himself to confirm if the bus had arrived. Also, I was getting hungrier by the minute and there was little to eat – except aloo patties. I had two of them.
When the bus finally arrived – I ran to the ticket counter. I was one of the first to buy a ticket – a window seat. Would the other passenger be a girl? Pretty? No. It was to be a man. Thankfully skinny – so that I could have much of the space to myself.
I went to the washroom for one last time – for all the water that I had been drinking. I made sure I thanked the janitor who had been particularly kind and helpful. I was the last one to board – the conductor said they would have left me behind- where were you?
The bus was a Volvo. And it was quite a comfortable journey. We stopped midway for dinner. People were having full meals. I wanted to have something light like a sandwich or a paratha. They did not have any so I ended up having a chai and chana – nuts. I took some photos and went back to the bus. I waited until the bus started to leave and then I closed my eyes.
When I opened. I had reached Udaipur.