As the full moon draws closer, it’s wedding season in India. We see colourful processions everywhere. The brides and grooms parade through the streets and towns, accompanied by blaring music, beating drums, fireworks and the occasional painted elephant.
The Indian Sunday Times has a special voluminous Matrimonial’s Supplement, where parents seeking an arranged marriage for their children place classifieds with particular emphasis given to the cast and education of the intended. I compose my own Aussie matrimonial message: “Bloke seeks Sheila with big tits, prefer own teeth and ute, tattoos ok. Please send pic of Ute.”
On a dusty Sunday morning in Agra we joined what seemed to be most of the 3 million annual visitors on a pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal, the Crown of Palaces or Palace of Love. It’s a monument commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shan Jahan to house the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, or so the story goes. A Hindi man I spoke to claimed the Taj was built on the site of an existing Hindu temple while a Muslin man told me that he has built a Taj for his wife but only in his heart as he couldn’t afford the real thing!
Im required to step over those sleeping rough on the stations platform to take our seats in third class on the Shatabdi express from Agra to Jaipur. We are the only westerners but feel quite comfortable sipping chai as the world rolls by. Train travel allows a glimpse into the real India, which appears to be friendly, open and accepting, but is seemingly governed by a cultural cast and religious system I find unfathomable.
A man is complaining about his sleeping arrangements. Apparently the pillow slip is grey and dirty. A heated discussion with numerous officials and onlookers ensues, an official complaint is made and signed in triplicate. The offending pillow slip is confined to a sealed plastic bag, perhaps to be used as evidence. I can appreciate the guy’s complaint, however, given I had to step over the poor and wretched so as to sit in air conditioned comfort, my sympathies laid elsewhere.
In the Pink City of Jaipur, we stayed with Rhonda an old school friend of Therese’s and her Indian husband. We spent a wonderful few days exploring together beginning with the annual five-day camel and livestock fair held in the Rajasthani town of Pushkar.
It’s one of the world’s largest camel fairs and men come to Pushkar to buy and sell their livestock, which includes camels, cows, sheep and goats. The streets are lined with stalls and the crowds so numerous that if you were to stand still you would be carried along on the multicoloured waves of humanity, which is made up of mostly of Indian tribal groups, rural and nomadic people. As well as the gaudy fairground attractions, food stalls and a huge marketplace, thousands of people line the shores of Pushkar Lake, swimming in its sacred waters where according to legend the Hindu god Brahma sprung up from.
I have never seen such wonders: It was as if I had been transported back to the Middle Ages. Camels, tribal families and livestock stretched out across the desert plane to the horizon. Around the nomads’ camps fortune tellers, mystics, holy men and colourful characters, laughed and shared stories, while women swooned about in swirling saris, all the while holy cows, decorated in garlands of flowers, pushed through the throng. Dancing minstrels and gleeful children added to the chaotic crowds, as deafening music, blew unceasingly from loudspeakers. we became part of the exotic mix, several times families stopped and asked if they could take a photo of us with their family members.
I watched as a small clutch of nomads formed a circle. They were whooping and laughing at a teenager who was clutching at his nethers and looking about, evidently a hypnotist had convinced him that his penis had fallen off!
You don’t have to be dead to be stiff!