Hey, You, Wanna Buy A Camel?

Pushkar 111 We had Pushkar high on our list of places we wanted to see during our India visit, since we heard great things about it.  It’s not easy to arrange, but our travel guide in the U.S. pulled it off.   And, truly, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.  But, for me, the first day and one-half of Pushkar was spent lying in bed in a tent.  Ouch!  I came down with something and, for a while, felt like I might never make it out of India.  But, the symptoms cleared, thankfully, and I got out to the fair grounds our last morning at the camp.

Pushkar 073 Pushkar is an annual gathering of people and animals from all over India.  They meet almost entirely for the purpose of bartering livestock, especially camels.  It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to see acres of fields covered by all sorts of camels, many dressed quite festively.  There are camels of all sizes, ages, and personality.  I mean, if you want to learn a lot about camels in a hurry, this is your fair!

Pushkar 109 I suspect the big questions on everyone’s minds these days are things like . . .  How to get out of the mess in Iraq?  How to begin to address global warming?  How to make the world a safe, happy place for our children to grow up in?  Well, our trip sheds no light on these pressing issues, other than to encourage everyone to support Barack Obama.  But lurking just behind these questions, and what many people in the U.S. wake up each morning wondering about, is “Just how the heck does a camel chew?”   And we’re here to provide you with an answer in a video, fresh from the grounds of Pushkar!

Pushkar 094 One highlight of the Pushkar was seeing, at very close range, a pair of cobras.  We are pretty sure these snakes were de-fanged, much to my kids’ disappointment.  We can hardly count them as sightings in the wild, no matter how wild Pushkar seemed to be.  But, despite the temptation to buy a cobra or two as “stocking stuffers” for our kids for Christmas, we resisted that urge, and I am sure my in-laws in Seattle (where we’ll be for Christmas) won’t be too upset with this decision, although they may change their minds after viewing this snake video.

Pushkar 097 Camels aren’t the only animals at Pushkar.  Lots of horses show up, with the most unusual ears.  The ears are naturally curved and the horse is more highly prized if the ears curl in and touch each other.  I don’t know much about horses, but some are beautiful, as horses go.  With the free flow among all Pushkar participants, it shouldn’t be long before we see an animal that represents a cross between a horse and a camel :-)

Pushkar 077 Pushkar is not everyone’s cup of camel juice (or tea).  I didn’t think it would be mine, since I’m pretty unenthusiastic about markets (physical, not financial).  And being sick as a dog for 36 hours didn’t get me off to a great start at Pushkar.  But I have to say, Pushkar taught me a lot about India, its people, its culture, and its economy.  And, for the time being, the population at Pushkar is primarily animals and market participants — with tourists a distant third.  Very little of the focus there is on selling stuff to tourists.  It’s just wild to be in the middle of such bustling activity among people still going on much the same way as ancestors from centuries ago behaved. 

Pushkar 112 We stayed at a tent site put up by the firm Peirce and Leslie, which are probably the nicest you can find there.  Given that the “season” is just 15 days, it’s amazing they put such a functional site up for tourists.  Pushkar is a holy city in India, so no meat was available for meals.   But the tents were air-conditioned, and given the amount of time I spent inside them, I was quite grateful for that!

Pushkar 054 Words and photos — at least not mine — probably aren’t able to capture the feel of Pushkar.  The sad thing is that the number of participants is gradually declining as India becomes more developed.  Camels and other animals just aren’t as important to India in the twenty-first Century as they were historically.  And as people like me write about how fun it is to be at Pushkar, the number of tourists will mount.  I rue the day when Pushkar becomes overrun with tourists, all ogling a dwindling number of rural Indians who pack up their lives, march to Pushkar, and hope to improve their position through a few shrewd animal trades.  But, for now, Pushkar remains a magic spot where you can see centuries of India’s past in a morning stroll through the fair.

Feel free to check out our Pushkar photos.

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