I have always wanted to visit places that are unheard of. Therefore, I have not visited the most well known places in India. This winter I had two reasons to go to Pushkar. To start visiting the well known touristy places, and to escape the choking smog of Delhi. In the end, I stayed for a week capturing street life of Pushkar in my camera.
This shop used to by my favourite breakfast joint every morning where I usually had Kachori, Malpua, Jalebi and tea. Not only was the breakfast hot and spicy, but also light on the pocket given demonetization by Indian government. Thick creamy milk in earthen pots was a staple breakfast for the locals here, and unlike that in Delhi the milk here was pure.
The streets of Pushkar are always crammed with tourists. Especially during the fair, people were bumping shoulders everywhere. I liked the spiritual connection that locals have for Pushkar and Brahma temple. Maybe it is because of the spiritual connection that the city still has its charm. Otherwise, it would have been converted into a museum meant only for westerners. There are thousands of people who come purely to pray and bathe in the Pushkar lake for spiritual reason, which gives the city its character.
The gentleman here sat exhuding his masculine self in those black sun glasses at every passing fair skinned woman. The thing I didn’t like about this city was how men chase white women blatantly.
I still felt that these local women from small villages around Pushkar had more charm than the white women. Ironically, all the Indian men seemed to be interested in western women, while all the white men were more interested in Indian women. Grass is indeed greener on the other side of the road.
Locals often feel uncomfortable when you click their photograph without making them comfortable or before striking a conversation first. But this lady seemed to be very happy and posed with her alluring smile and body language for the camera. Can you notice that captivating intense gaze?
These child artists were a treat for the photographers. But I believe they should be studying in school rather than walking on a rope. Poverty makes people do everything. Moreover, their parents know that people will give money to a child more easily as compared to an adult. I asked one child if she studied in school. She replied that she used to, but has discontinued now. She said that she didn’t liked the school. But I am sure that they were made to leave school in hopes of having them support the family financially.
We do trips in Indian villages under our company ‘The Folk Tales’. But I may never include Pushkar in it just because children are being made to work here. And because of the thriving irresponsible tourism, there is good opportunity for parents to make their children leave school and perform on streets.
While the whole city was buzzing with activity, for some people time seemed to have stood still. Like this gentleman below who owned this shop of home made snacks that we miss in cities. The packed snacks that we get in supermarkets lack the taste that the snacks of these traditional shops have. I am glad to see that these shops still exist in smaller towns of India.
He knew that I was standing across the street taking his photograph but he seemed least bothered. I hope he smiles a bit. Maybe that will attract more customers to his derelict shop. I was tired of seeing cafes and souvenir shops everywhere. This one was a refreshing change from all the monotony.
Yes, the photographs of old men with big colourful turbans have been done to death. But then can I get away with just one in this article? I liked the expression on his face. The deep lines of experience and a life lived the harder way are quite evident.
This vegetable vendor sat right at the busiest center of Pushkar near Varaha ghat. People scrambled all around him, but he had secured a peaceful corner for himself. One evening I saw a group of people making ruckus near him while smoking joint, but this guy seemed to be as cool as an ice cube. Just like the word painted on the door behind him, he indeed seemed to be ‘happy’ watching others, fidgeting with his phone, and often selling a vegetable or two to the locals obviously.
I was in a fix when I saw almost everyone buying sugarcane in Pushkar fair from the farmers who had come from Chittorgarh. I had only Rs. 40 in my pocket, and due to demonetization the cash wasn’t easily available. I decided to leave things to fate and buy a pair of sugarcane for Rs. 20. They were as sweet and juicy as they looked. It has been ages since we had sugarcane in its raw form. No one sells it now in Delhi, and the only vendor I know of sells juice. Once I was back in Delhi, having raw sugarcane while sitting under winter sun remind me of my childhood days.
Pushkar fair is perhaps the only time that locals wait for the entire year. And for owners of sweet shops, the closer you are to the fair ground the more you may end up selling. This guy seemed to be very happy despite of the commotion happening right next to him and cheap Bhojpuri movie songs blaring on loudspeakers. Its time for business after all.
On the last day of my stay in Pushkar, I bumped into the Picasso of the east. Kishan Singh who served in Indian Army till mid 1970 retired and setup his tiny stall of paintings in Pushkar where he lives with his family. One day a white guy came along and got so inspired that he called him ‘Picasso of the East’. Kishan Singh didn’t consider himself anywhere close to being a Picasso. Instead he settled for a new ‘KIKASS’ name for himself.
If you have any interesting street shots of Pushkar, do leave a comment below with the link. I would be happy to see your collection.
Feature image: Pushkar fair, Gaurav Bhan Bhatnagar
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Software Engineer turned Travel Writer, Photographer, and Public Speaker on Responsible Travel. Entrepreneur in Responsible Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com