Tabla School

After bustling Jaipur we headed to Pushkar, a tiny town popular with tourists (especially Israelis!) The town only has about 15,000 residents and is nestled around a small lake which is considered holy by Hindus. Ghandi's ashes were spread here after his assassination. There are a huge number of white temples in the town, including a unique Brahma temple.

Our first impression of the town was rather negative as we quickly found out about the local scam, the "Pushkar Passport". Whenever a foreigner approaches the lake, "priests" rush to them and force flowers into their hand. Then the bewildered foreigner is instructed to drop the flowers into the lake, receives a blessing, and is then pressured into making a donation in the name of their family members. The passport, a red ribbon, is tied around the wrist and supposedly provides hassle-free access to the lake.

When we visited, we had heard of the scam and just wanted to enjoy the view at the lake. As the locals saw that we weren't going along with the ritual rip-off, the situation quickly led to abuse and threats from one particularly nasty local who labelled us "f---ing Christians"!

We left, angry and annoyed at the local hospitality, and explored the main street, which had an amazing number of market stalls catering to the swarms of tourists who enter the town. We then walked around to the less busy side of the lake, where the hassling was less severe and we were able to enjoy the sights of the pretty town. At sunset we joined many others on steps near the lake to see the sun fade below the horizon. The white temples caught the light beautifully and the lake made for a wonderful shimmering mirror.

Whilst we watched the sunset, Georgia had her hand painted with henna in a pretty floral pattern. We listened to street musicians and watched some very funny western hippies dancing. Pushkar is a hippy heaven, with masses of hippy clothes, spirituality books and classes, and "special" bhang lassis available everywhere. The whole town is pure vegetarian, so there is no meat or eggs anywhere to be seen.

Pushkar has an incredible number of cows and stray dogs, making walking along the narrow streets without stepping in cow shit very difficult at times. Because of the Hindu worship of cows, the beasts freely roam the streets and hold up traffic. Of the many dogs, the most unusual was the crazy guard dog that lived on the roof of a building. This dog would ferociously bark at passers by (especially foreigners!) from above and never stopped sprinting back and forth along the length of his roof.

On the evening when we were scheduled to leave the town, we visited a music teacher who could teach Georgia some insights into classical Indian flute playing. He was extremely impressive on the tabla (indian drums similar to a pair of bongos), and on a whim we decided to skip our bus ride and stay for around five days to learn the art of the tabla. We bought a package which included lessons, accomodation and a set of tabla to be shipped back to Australia.

Learning the tabla was quite difficult, and one of the basic sounds was difficult and painful to produce. After hours of practise, we caught on and by the time we finished our classes we were able to do some interesting rhythms. However, our guru turned out to be very lazy, egotistical and incompetent at teaching.

Although the town was ridiculously noisy each night, we found Pushkar a nice place to relax after visiting three busy Indian cities. We spent lots of time eating good Indian and even better Israeli food, and had opportunities to catch up on our blog. Although we felt a sour taste in our mouths about the quality of the tabla teaching we paid for, Pushkar was a delightful change of pace in a country in which we had found very difficult to relax.


encanteiros said...

Hey! I just came back from Pushkar and I bought the same package of instruments.

Did your package arrived?

Marty and Georgia said...

We're still overseas but I don't think it has arrived :-(
We sent Birju an e-mail asking what has happened maybe three days ago but haven't heard back...