A long dusty day in the sun
I came to shop and I confess to having been somewhat reticent until today. Not entirely financial withholding as everything here takes hours. Time is not always mine and the best laid plans often go awry off the bat. The last few days have seen my open-mindedness swell to exquisite proportions as I expand to allow for Muslim Demonstrations, Suicides int he street, arrests of politicians and credit cards being switched off.
Today it was the turn of the banks to slide my day into disorder. My first attempt to shop after my morning chai was thwarted by the bank closing down all my cards. I stood in a shop handing over one after the other until I have to give up. I returned to the hotel with not enough cash for a cup of tea and waited for the bank to open in London. Charm personified, mine, got things opened up again and I headed back out, this time into the nether reaches of Jaipur where, strangely, I have never been before. All army barracks, mess halls, smart soldiers and tree lined shady avenues with pavements. Quite bizzarre, but then lots about this trip has been odd. I feel as though nothing exists until I arrive to see it!
We, my delightful driver and I, were on our way to meet a Charity Bus that drives to a different temple each day to sell spiritual accessories. This day was the main Shiva Temple.
Arriving there was unexpected. I had not thought about it. It was like arriving at a farm. Cows everywhere and piles of methi or fenugreek leaves that they are given to gain boons. The perfume of cow dung and fenugreek was great. We walked down a long wall past all the beast and methi hawkers. Along the wall were ranged all the Shiva Sadhus with their begging bowls and colourful clothes. Shiva, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is the God of Creation and Destruction. He governs addictions, depression, our inner demons and in perfect balance is a delightful being but he is also all our darkness manifested. The temple was an interesting display of his darkness. Thick sweet piles of incense buring all over the place, the floor was awash with swarms of flies, trees bark blackened by the endless smoke from the burnt offerings and the temple itself had two huge statues of Shiva Rampant, looking really scary. I covered my head and went in to see the Lingham and yoni being washed and prayed to. Shiva is worshipped with a symbol of an erect penis set in a female vagina and it is always washed with water and venerated with flowers and incense. The act of washing is continual and very serious, the intensity of whoever is taking part is quite something to witness. It was a darka nd excessive place. Rather lovely, as I like that kind of thing. Lots of longing and desire all mingled with the malas and curling smoke. Om the way out I had a Shiv Tilak painted in blood red on my forehead and it is there, still.
We finally found the bus parked in a layby on the main road in the full sun. Packed to the gills with books, malas, incense, beads, trinkets and puja kits it was great to sit on the floor inside whilst the man unpacked yard after yard of beautiful malas. All perfect, all lovely.
Lunch at the Anokhi Cafe was the usual parade of westerners in Jaipur and the food was delicious. Pasta, good pasta, in India is such a treat. From there to the Lucknow salesman who is charming and efficient. I spent a fortune in almost no time at all and then decided to go back tomorrow and pick it all up. I walked the 3 miles back to the hotel and was harrassed every step of the way. If not by salesmen, it was beggars, women, kids, monkeys, chai wallahs, rickshaw wallahs, dogs, fruit sellers, chappall wallahs, rickshaw drivers, skinny boys in tight trousers holding hands with each other…. the list is endless but it was fun and I arrived back feeling clear headed and very happy.