When I go out to meet the light, the shadow of my body follows me, but the shadow of my spirit precedes me and leads the way to an unknown place
- Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Death and Ajmer

There are 3 primary deities of the multitude in the Hindu religion - Brahmā the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Śhiva the destroyer or transformer. Together they are known as the Trimurti and describe the unending cycle of life. Today we temple we visited on the hill is described by our guide as the only one in the world devoted to Brahma. But it is perhaps Shiva's stamp that we seem imprinted with on this day.

Departing Pushkar for Jaipur we stop for lunch at a restaurant with a walled garden courtyard, on the way to the temple and lake earlier we had observed acrowd gathered a little ways down the road outside. The presence of a police vehicle compels our driver to walk over and investigate the commotion. Upon his return we discover that the locals had found a body loosely wrapped in cloth and abandoned overnight by the road. It was obviously a murder victim since it had been burnt and assaulted, it was already quite decomposed. It is a sobering find, here only on my second day in India, to remind us of an current of savagery that seems to still run through segments of Indian society. From what I observe, violence is doesn't seem to be a far option to settle disputes or insults. But it also this unbridledness that connects with a part of me, that strikes me as authentic and bespeaks of a level of passion existing within me but subdued by my own concept of who I ought to be, a concept that has been delivered to me largely in part by my upbringing. It has been my task the past few years to familiarize myself with this passion, albeit not in the form of violence.

Later in the day we come to the crossroads of Ajmer, Pushkar and Jaipur. The driver stops and asks us for our confirmation to proceed to Ajmer. If we goto Ajmer we will need to walk quite a distance to visit the mosque, it is an important mosque for muslims. He cannot bring the car up the narrow streets through the crowded markets. It is quite far. I ask if the walk is pleasant and his response is not encouraging. At this point the consensus seems to be to head back to Jaipur and as the vehicle starts back in that direction I override the driver to take us to Ajmer instead. We've come all this way to India, it seemed wrong to find refuge in our hotel and pass up on Ajmer when the opportunity was upon us.

The visit to Ajmer turns out to be the best part of the day, we embark on a thrilling tuk tuk ride through the chaotic tight streets of the town. It is our first such ride. My father Tom and I share the small noisy cabin and the driver masterfully maneuvers the sputtering and screaming contraption, squeezing us past flashes of people steppingaside. After 10 minutes, the tuk tuk stops and we are escorted by the driver through more uneven corridors and steps to an crowded bazaar that extends in a whirl of sights, smells and sounds. The man gives us directions to themosque and how to return to where we had began the tuk tuk ride, my mother and our guide/driver were awaiting us there. We walk through the bazaar trying to appear as nonchalant as possible while drawing the curious attention of the locals, they obviously do not get many foreign visitors. The usual touts calling out for our business are missing, and the beggars we find here ignore us entirely, they only beg from the locals. The entire 45 minutes is a kaleidoscopic feast for the senses. This is a pure unadulterated India and I feel privileged.

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