10/04/2008 | by Paulo Brito Nicolau
March 14, Rajasthan, India
First awakening from an overnight sleeper train coming from Bombay, I rubbed my eyes as they adjusted to a creeping dawn and quickly noticed a drastic change in landscape. This looks like desert. Dry and arid, bushes over sand. But suddenly, disrupting the geographic monotony in clumps of two’s and three’s seemed to rise various pillars of color and light. Veiled and hooded figures wrapped and cloaked in every shade of the spectrum. Individuals layered in psycadelic, neon hues blended with deeper, solid, yet nonetheless brilliant shades, and bordered by strips of gold and silver. They were Rajasthani women, dressed in the incredibly modest and common sari of India- an article of clothing that somehow within its ability to conceal retains an indescribable power of seduction and sensuality. The attire of these women- thought to be the mothers of the first descendants of the Gypsies- and the fabrics that flow and fall from their shoulders and bodies, seemingly dripping into the ground beneath them.
If Bombay was the ‘real world’ of India, then now, Rajasthan was virtually surreal. The name itself alluding to some both distant and near exotica. I had arrived in a small town called Pushkar, and as I ate thali in a chair lining the main street I watched as some ridiculous caricature of India played out before my very eyes. Turbaned men with up-turned mustaches rode by on camels followed by children on huge, waddling elephants whose ears brushed opposite sides of the awnings bordering shops, followed by sacred (and mischievous) cattle, followed by dreadlocked, barefoot sadhu’s (holy men) in bright orange garb, followed by gawking tourists, followed by stoned travelers. I feel like I’m sounding like a hollow travel guidebook-
So fuck it, the ‘surreal’ can always be viewed on any travel channel on television. So what within this picture of old India is real? Noticing how everything in India is done openly, and visually on the streets. Eating, praying, shitting, talking, holding, joking selling, poking, begging, et cetera, et cetera. A people who are implausibly fervent. Stopping at every shrine to god to close two palms and raise them respectfully.
‘when there was no distance between what was said and what was felt…’
Learning the reality of how when you travel and go to some places you don’t necessarily ‘do’ things there, as in the phrase- ‘What’s there to do in____?’ Fucking nothing. And everything. At the same time. You go there, take it slow, joke with local people and/or travelers and make friends with local people and/or travelers.
‘Because good friendship is hard to find, and life is long.’
In Pushkar where you hear the Indians coming a mile away by the sound of their anklets and wristlets and arms stacked with clanking bangles. Every step- devoted. And they’re probably singing aloud together to a god. Praying the opposite of silently, in a relentless noise. In the language of drums and cymbals and rattles.