After a very long day of travel, Debbie and I arrived in Pushkar at about 8pm at night. The grounds of Orchard Tents rests on over 32 acres of land and are home to fruit trees and beautiful vegetation. It was lovely having some room to breathe, a space for serenity, and a spot to feel separated from all the loud noises we had experienced in the other cities since our travels had began. Entering this large tent, you immediately felt like you were royalty vacationing in the desert (or at least that’s how I imagined it!). There were four rooms to this large tent – a bedroom, living room, dressing room, and a very large and beautiful bathroom. At night when we rested our heads, we heard flutes and chants from the close village nearby. It was soothing as I drifted off the sleep.
In the morning we woke up to go to the tented dining hall for our breakfast. We both noticed one older woman using a broom to cover the foot marks in the sand paths from the day before. It was such a miraculous and wonderous site….what pride they took in beauty, perfection, and their work. She must broom miles upon miles of acres of this property every day, just to have new footprints appear in the morning. It made me think of our own lives, how sometimes it is best to brush away the footprints from the past and have a fresh path for the present moment.
From breakfast our driver brought us into the main market for some shopping. This has been the best shopping yet! Pushkar specializes in leather goods and jewelery…everything being made from hand from the locals. Shop keepers seemed a lot more friendly here, less pushy, and took a lot of pride in their handy work. It was a less crowded market than I was accustomed to as well, compared to places I have traveled to in Central America, Thailand, or other foreign places. The afternoon was a delight and I ended up having to purchase a bigger bag to house all of my found treasures 🙂
While we were shopping a young man approached us and told us to hurry and follow him for we did not want to miss a celebratory ritual around the lake that would be ending in ten minutes. Debbie and I followed as we rounded several market corners and were asked to take our shoes off to enter this holy place. Walking down the stairs a priest greeted me and gave me a plate filled with flower, dyed powders, and rice. He held this plate over my head, having me repeat prayers that he was saying in Hindu. He asked me about my occupation, how many family members I had, and what my biggest dreams and desires were. He then washed my hands in holy water and said a prayer as I dropped flower petals into the lake at Pushkar. Afterwards he told me that I would need to donate 2,000-10,000 rupees to help feed families for their upcoming festival. I had felt a bit swindled into this all of a sudden, which cheapened the experience. On the other hand, I had been looking to give the poor a donation (you are told not to give money to beggars here), so I gave them 1,000 rupees which equals approximately $10 (this is considered A LOT here in India).
Debbie and I both feel in India that people offer rituals and blessings and then expect money from it. In many religions giving money is seen as good karma for people. Personally for Debbie and me, this has felt wrong since the beginning of our stay….several people have moved us and we have given money, but it has been out of the feelings from our heart not the good karma that it would deliver us. In the end, I learned that my money would be spent feeding the rich priest and that there was never any religious ceremony to feed the poor. Greed exists everywhere.
Later we arrived back at Hotel Orchard and were greeted by a camel that was attached to a beautiful decorated cart for Debbie and I to be carried on to watch the sunset over the sand dunes. I was so excited! A Christian Indian man named Soloman, came along for the ride as well and we were so happy he did. It was wonderful to learn more about their culture and his views as a Christian in India (which seems vastly different from the Hindu guides we had been with for the majority of our trip).
Before we took off on our adventure, I asked if I could actually hop on the camel’s back and ride a block. You wouldn’t realize how high up being on a camel feels like and how wobbly they are! Once on our way, we passed through the village and the climate began to change into sand dunes. Suddenly, a little girl probably the age of seven or eight started running behind our cart begging for money. She was absolutely beautiful and covered in dust and soot. She must have ran after our cart begging for a good ten minutes, which broke our hearts. Soloman (along with many other guides in India), explained that it is very bad to give these children money. Their parents make these children go out and beg for money while they sit back and collect the earnings, while sitting pretty and living in nice homes. They do not have jobs…their children work for all of the wages. I could not even fathom this.
Arriving at the dunes at sunset was breathtaking. The Indians absolutely love their tea so guides brought us Chai while we hung around watching the sun drop to the earth after another magical day. At that moment, I reminisced on my own sand footprints from the days before…realizing how much Debbie and I have seen and accomplished. What a life changing trip this has been. Feeling so grateful to have this experience, while so many people are unable to do the same. Feeling so grateful to be sharing it with my sister and really connecting on a deeper level with her. I see so much of myself in her and realize how much of an impact she made on me when I was younger. It is such a blessing to be back together after so many years to see we really never strayed that far after all. Namaste.