Well, the plan worked. No surprise, we were awake early and before we left the hotel, got a few shots of the lake and a couple of hot air balloons flying over. I didn’t notice the signs until later today that, since the lake is considered a holy one, it is absolutely forbidden to photograph of it. Oh well, my bad….and many others who I’ve seen on the balcony with cameras!
We were out of the hotel by 7:15 and made the mistake of turning right going out of the hotel entrance and to the ghats. It was pointed out very quickly to us that shoes aren’t allowed on the ghats. We were given flowers by ‘priests’, who then started chanting mantras and blessing me and my whole family, putting a tilak on my forehead, getting me to throw the flowers in the holy lake and then sticking their hand out for money. So that cost me a few hundred rupees. What the hell, I got a shot of the priest and a string around my wrist, which he called the ‘Pushkar Passport’. As long as I wore that, I wouldn’t be bothered for more money. Yeah, right! Between that and the dot on my forehead, I was probably branded as an ‘easy mark’. Hey, it’s all in support of the local economy, but it is kind of ironic, when you think about it – being blessed at the holy lake and being ripped off at the same time. $6 goes a long way here!
Dass knew enough to tell them no, so he didn’t get caught. But what sort of non-supportive tourist is he?! It was all a good laugh!
Caught this great parakeet sitting on the wall eating seeds, just down from the hotel.
We continued in the direction of the fair grounds and it was a bit easier to navigate this early, since many of the shops weren’t open yet. There was, however, lots of cow and dog crap! I will say, though, that people do spend a lot of time sweeping the street immediately in front of their shops, but it seems to be a bit of a thankless job. They also throw water out on the pavement in an effort to keep the dust down. The closer we got to the grounds, the busier it got, particularly around the Brahma (sp?) Temple. Along the way, I gave Rs 20 to a guy sitting along the street to take his photo….well worth the 40¢!
We spent a few hours at the fair grounds taking in the sights, talking to some people along the way and getting shots. The sights included a guy getting his trained monkeys to do tricks and 2 pigs enjoying the fair. No shame!!
We spent a good part of the time in the horse area and saw a dancing horse. Someone along the way told us that there are a lot more horses at the fair this year and thought that soon they would outnumber the camels. It looked like some people were showing off their horses to potential buyers.
That could be, but there are still a lot of camels here….and some very attractive ones!
On the way back, we stopped at the ‘Out of the Blue’ restaurant for a tea and some lunch. There were 4 other photographers there, all Indian but lived in Dubai, one of them for 26 years. They were there specifically to photograph the camel fair. I got into a conversation with one of the guys about the cows. He seemed to think that it’s ridiculous and mentioned that they call them ‘cow mother’ and that they (the law) will kill a person if they kill a cow. He said that it’s not that they’re uneducated, there are a lot of smart people in India, but that’s the way it is. It’s hard for us to understand those things, but that’s their belief and, while here, you just have to accept it. It’s like I said in an earlier post, they are so steeped in tradition that it’ll take a long time for them to change, if ever. Later, I heard someone else on the street refer to a cow as ‘cow mother’.
We arrived back at the hotel about 11:45, had a shower, a nap and dowloaded the morning’s photos.
We left the room again about 3:15 and walked the gauntlet back to the fair grounds. This time, we planned to spend most of the time in the camel area. One of the sights we saw along the way was a young girl walking a tightrope while balancing a stack of tin pots on her head and carrying a long balance pole. She did the tightrope in bare feet and with flip flops. She also crossed the rope using her feet to turn and walk inside what looked like a bicycle tire rim.
Just a few points about taking photos of people:
- First, we almost always ask if we can take someone’s photo. If they want money, we don’t bother with them.
- There are many who ask us to take their photo and want money. They’re easy to pick out – usually women and often with babies.
- Some just want us to take their photo and don’t want money. That’s often kids.
- Men are more agreeable to having their photo taken; however, women are OK if they’re in a group.
- It can be very difficult to get a photo of one person without others joining in. It’s usually someone you don’t want in the shot sticking their head in somewhere.
- Families like to have their photo taken, particularly those with a young child or a baby.
- Many people just want us to take a photo of them, although not sure why, and some want a selfie with us.
- Some people have asked to take our photo and a few times, we’ve put out our hands asking for rupees.
- If you want a photo of a holy man, you’re expected to pay.
For some reason, we’ve been getting a lot of attention and haven’t really noticed that happening to other white folks. I asked one Indian photographer if I could take his photo, but then told him I was just kidding. He said, “Why not, I’m good!” We had a good laugh and I took his photo. I ran into him later and asked what the laws were in India about model releases. There are no such laws, although he thinks there should be and I must say I agree.
At the fair grounds, we spent all of the time around the camels. We used our longer lenses this time and were able to get some candid shots of the camels herders without being noticed. They also often ask for money. I also took some video clips. Unfortunately, a large group of Chinese people with cameras showed up in the camel area and whenever we set up to get a shot, one or more of them moved into the frame, so it got frustrating and annoying very quickly.
Close to the hotel, I stopped at a shirt shop that I had been in earlier. I had told the owner that I’d be back later to buy one, although I’m sure he didn’t believe me. I ended up buying 2 and a pair of around-the-house pants. I got a deal for the 3 of Rs 1,570, about $31.40.
Once back at the hotel, we downloaded photos, went down to the main floor to get on the internet and then had the buffet dinner at the rooftop restaurant. It was a very good meal. We learned that all of Pushkar is vegetarian; we hadn’t noticed that in the couple of restaurants we’ve been in, but then we’ve only been eating vegetarian.
For anyone looking for the ultimate street photography experience, I would highly recommend Pushkar. It’s a little close in the streets, but wow, what hotbed of activity!
A couple of comments about the hotel and the room: the hotel itself is quite good although, like several of the other hotels we’ve been in, the advertised free wi-fi in the room is pretty much non-existent. We could get connected on the balcony outside the room sitting right underneath the modem, but it was slow. To get a good connection, we had to go to the ground floor and sit on a marble step, which got kinda hard on the butt after a while. The shower was great, with the rain shower head. The problem was with the fan over my bed – it hung quite low and a few times when I had to lift my arms for whatever reason, I hit the fan. It drew blood on my knuckle once!
Tomorrow our schedule starts with Kamal picking us up at 9:00 AM for the drive to Jaipur, our last stop on the tour. We’ll be there for one overnight and then to the airport on Wednesday for our return flight.