In 2007, on a beautiful end-of-January morning, I drove into Pushkar, Rajasthan, with a group of friends. We were on a visit to Ajmer and had offered prayers at the famous Dargah Chishti. Whether it was the promise of spring hanging in the air, or the psychological relief after facing the claustrophobic experience at Ajmer, we were strangely relaxed and jovial as the winds of Pushkar touched our face. And not only our face, touched us somewhere deep within our souls. One of the members in a group is a creative film editor, and I also find myself to be of a creative bent of mind, and we both were nearly swept off our feet by the positive and artistic vibes of Pushkar.
Pushkar is a major Hindu pilgrimage center, renowned to have the only temple in India, dedicated to Lord Brahma. This is a slight misinterpretation of facts, as there are some other temples dedicated to Brahma in India as well as Cambodia. One Brahma temple is in a village in Goa, one in Khedbrahma in Gujarat and one in the village of Khokhan in the Kullu Valley. There is also a shrine for Brahma within the Bramhapureshwarar temple in Thirupattur, near Trichy and a famous statue of Brahmā, 52 km from Solapur district in Maharashtra. The largest statue of Brahma is in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A six feet tall statue was also discovered at Sopara near Mumbai. In the temple town of Kumbakonam, in Tamil Nadu and in Thirunavaya in Kerala, regular prayers are offered to Brahma and during Navratri, this temple comes to life with colorful festivities.
While Pushkar’s claim to fame is the prominent Brahma temple the sacredness of the place is subdued by the prevailing Bohemian culture. Pushkar is a haven for Israeli tourists, who flock to enjoy unrestrained abandon, and drug-induced nirvana. The streets of Pushkar are filled with Israeli travelers, who come here in search of spiritual upliftment, but get hooked to the cheap drugs that are smuggled across the borders of Rajasthan. While hash-filled aroma filled the air, and recklessly relaxed white-faces and blue-eyes met our gaze, I wondered why Pushkar was home to so many travelers from Israel. I soon got the answer during discussions with co-travelers.
Israelis serve compulsory military service and are conscripted young into the army. They lose out on vocational education and only gain skills in wielding weapons and see a lot of bloodshed and strict military schedule during their most impressionable years as individuals. While the disciplined life leaves them with a devil-may-care-attitude after they serve their conscription; the years of war and trauma leave their souls scathed. With few professional avenues and ample psychological impressions, these young adults, realize the futility of life. They are happy to have survived the years of war, and they want to enjoy their newfound existence.
India, as a land of spirituality, draws them into their fold. Pushkar hooks them with the availability of drugs, fellow countrymen, and the relatively lax law. I saw touts, beggars, priests and tourists, but I didn’t see a single policeman; not that Pushkar is unlawful or disorderly, but the travelers are usually left in peace. It’s a symbiotic relationship; Pushkar gives peace and harmony to the troubled travelers; they in turn give precious revenue to Rajasthan’s tourism industry!
The colorful hippie culture is contagious. The scene is almost picture-book like. Vibrant t-shirts, psychedelic kurtis, bell-bottom pants, elegant wraparounds, funny balloon pajamas, large hats, the strumming of a guitar, the hash-smoke from the hookahs, pretty white faces, and unkempt dreadlocks, huddled in small groups, looking on dreamily or chatting with the local shopkeepers; time stands still in Pushkar.
As evening draws the scene becomes more colorful, especially close to the Sunset café, which serves blissful ice-creams in the light of variously shaded lamps, overlooking a small lake. In the still of the night, as a light wind blows, and the city lights shimmer in the lake, the Bohemian Imp of Pushkar, whispers in your ears endearingly, asking you to stay back, to give-in to the charms of Pushkar, and vile away the rest of your life in a seemingly idyllic setting of dreams, drugs and music!
Back in Delhi, Pushkar still beckons me. There was a strange creative vibration in the airs of Pushkar. The free-flowing thoughts and carefree daily existence, lend Pushkar a strange artistic vibe that translates into a desire to draw, write, paint, sing, perform … to become one with Nature. The trip to Pushkar revived in me the desire to write again, and I have continued to pursue the creative side of me, but sometimes when my pen becomes lax and my mind refuses to see the art in daily existence, the Imp of Pushkar, smiles at me and calls me into its fold.