- An Introduction
I visit Pushkar quite often for Cattle fair- the mela, I have a certain fondness for the place. It keeps calling me back and I feel at home here.
I'm intrigued by the people, not the original inhabitants as much .. but rather those who have wound their way here to call it home. Back in design school my room-mate had been in boarding school at the neighbouring city, Ajmer, Pushkar's a stone's throw away; she would describe it to me mesmerisingly. Bob Marley rang out in the streets and li'l white kids trotted alongside their mothers who carried pots of water on their heads like the village folk.
It was this complete blend of the goras and India, rural goras, who spoke marwari hindi, dressed more traditional than the natives and knew the intricacies of our culture with a clear questioning eye. The integration of the foreigner and the openness of the local is a fascinating blend. What is understood by an 'angrej' (foreigner/white skinned person) is translated to an urban Indian with the same air since western influence allows comprehension with logical reasoning. Indian culture is so complex that it could take many lifetimes to logically understand each minute detail, so we're told 'follow the grown ups' or 'just do it, don't question' .. it has taken me much unlearning from my convent mould to understand this.
I love to travel by myself; every once in a while I'd share an 'Italian' coffee with a fellow traveller at Salim & Nizam's Honey Dew Cafe this is where one usually meets the 'rural goras'.
One such person who arrested my attention since a couple of visits was a rustic looking man in authentic local costume, his features seemed those of a Sikh, but his garb? No Sikh would dress like that. I have a discerning eye for culture, textiles and detail which makes me dig for origins, he for one was a mystery. Now now now, who was he, was a mystery needed unravelling.
Every time I'd see him pace up and down the market place I'd quickly try and absorb all the elements of this interestingly dressed man. One morning at breakfast two years ago I heard Italian at the next table. I turned to look and there he was! I broke into a smile as I love Italian .. it's music to my ears. I still didn't have the courage to accost him, perhaps it would be intrusive. I'd always keep an eye out for him, maybe I'd get to know more. Now here was an Italian who had no give away of his origins except when he spoke the language which he rarely did.
At the mela I was drawn to this contemporary looking stall called Camel Charisma, an NGO that works to preserve the biodiversity by spreading awareness about the lesser known troubles resulting from the drop in the camel population. I volunteered with them and learned much from Ilse (the camel lady from Germany) Hanwant Singh (from Jodhpur) who spoke the local dialect and was genuinely concerned for the Raikas and their camels. That evening with Heva I met an Italian girl who I overheard talking of a man with the exact description, I couldn't help but ask more about him. Oh 'Jyoti ba'.. that's what people call him, yes he's Sicilian and he loves to talk, he knows so much about the locals and can tell you all if you walk around with him. I was glad! I had to search for him again.Next morning at Salim's I asked about him and they told me sketchy bits they knew; that he was a nomad, you'd spot him if you were lucky. I left a little note written in Italian for him. On my way back, voila! There he was, he'd got my note and was more than happy to talk, not in Italian or English but speaking the local dialect of marwari hindi.. hahaha!
We spoke, he told me of his origins and his stay in India, I was curious. When he was quite certain that I had genuine interest he began telling me more of who he was slowly unravelling his school of thought, ideas and ambition. He had quite a history but now he was one with India, with Rajasthan. He for one has lived his research through and there can be nothing more thorough I thought. He was not just any 'rural gora', he had a purpose and he was living it.
His disgust for modern schooling, left-over of the Raj which has truly broken the spine of our country in more ways than one. As we spoke I grew more aware of things I had thought of in the past and some that I hadn't. I couldn't agree more: we can pick out a mispronounced English word but are quite unashamed of our inability to light a fire.