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India

We had one full day in the holy city of Pushkar. How did it go? As any good day in India should go, full of the unexpected. This morning, the unexpected was salty coffee. (Those super fine granules at the bottom of the sugar bowl that we thought were just crushed sugar cubes – not sugar.) This afternoon, the unexpected was a Hindu prayer by one of the holiest bodies of water in India.

I had a lovely encounter with an older Sadhu during my first visit to India, that time on the banks of the Ganges. Perhaps my memories of that experience made me a little softer with this white tank top clad Brahmin priest than I otherwise might have been. The Pushkar exchange started with a gentle suggestion from priest Carlo to walk down to the ghats along the water. I had already been and so was patiently waiting for the gentleman to leave before continuing my walk back to the hotel. This, apparently, was obvious, and soon I was, with little choice otherwise, following him down to the edge of the lake.

Ignoring the stairs covered in pigeon poop, I removed my sandals and proceeded barefoot. Ignoring the trash and plastic bags floating in the green water, I took a seat on its edge. Watching and listening to Carlo chant was magical. He filled my cupped hands with water and with minimal resistance on my part I began tossing handfuls of the holy water into the lake, wishing for the long life of my family: husband, father, mother, sisters, brother, and grandparents.

As I walked home later, vermillion on my forehead, a red string on my wrist, and 100 rupees lighter (a donation of course), I thought about my unexpected events for the day: 90 rupees for salty coffee. 100 rupees for a long life full of happiness and prosperity for those closest to me. Of the two, I knew which was the better bargain.

We almost missed this temple during our ride from Udaipur to Jodhpur. The temple closes at 5pm and we rolled into the gate at 4.20pm. We had one person in shorts (a BIG no-no in Jain temples) and cameras in hand, but we were in a stubborn mood. Not wanting to spend the money and time on camera passes (200 INR) and rented pants (100 INR/ pair), our person in shorts decided to stay outside the temple take care of the cameras. We thought this was a great idea until we got inside – the temple was breathtaking. By being stubborn, the only people we were hurting at this moment were ourselves. We rushed out, grabbed our shorts wearer and ran to the ticket booth. 300 more rupees spent. This place was worth every cent.

  

First, let me say that yes, I am back in Goa. We were only supposed to be back for a quick weekend to see friends, but we quickly became held hostage in Goa by Indian Railways.

In the week that we’ve been here, we have attempted to purchase train tickets north from multiple entities in three different towns. Only today have we finally succeeded (with a 2 hour taxi ride, a hurried Xerox exchange, and much elbowing through the lines at the Margao train station – at one point I actually thought my husband might be trampled alive by the dozen Indian men behind him in the, at that moment closed, “Foreign Tourist” line) to purchase an “emergency” ticket for 2 days from now. Geez.

To fill the next 48 hours we decided to stay somewhere out of the hubbub of Margao but still within an easy 10 minute taxi ride – looking at the map, we picked Benaulim Beach. My guidebook called this beach “quiet”, and yes, at 4pm when we showed up it felt relatively empty. A late lunch and short walk later and it was 6pm and people seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. The place was packed. We barely found a spot to sit down. To our right were several paragliders, to our left an impromptu male model shoot, and all around families, couples, and gaggles of friends swimming and talking. I even saw THREE Indian ladies swimming, for fun, each with their significant other. (I have to note that for others this may seem a small thing to note, but for me it was amazing. In all my time here, I have seen plenty of Indian families at the beach. The men always in their boxers splashing around in the water, and the women fully dressed in sari or salwar kameez, just sitting on the beach or timidly sticking their toes in the edge of the surf. That three women of varying ages would be fully immersed in the water for no reason other than their own pleasure, was unusual enough that both I and my husband noted it independently.)

This sunset was unlike any other I have experienced here. It felt like we had suddenly entered a party where we didn’t know anyone and could just be flies on the wall. We had stopped to watch the sunset, but the people watching was so intriguing, I didn’t even notice when the sun went down. We have one last night in Goa before we head north to Gujarat. I know where I’ll be for sunset tomorrow.