Rain pours fiercely, flooding the narrow streets. A stream becoming a river. A wrinkled old woman chases a cow out of her house and proceeds to whack it around the head with a dustpan and brush. Clearly feeling a little guilty, she pours a little rice onto the crumbling concrete floor. It makes a lovely soupy mixture with the rainwater and is gratefully received by the beloved creature. Don and I watch huddled under a half-broken umbrella with the spokes sticking out at all angles. The cows are everywhere! Huddled in alleys, chilling on doorsteps, munching on cardboard and litter. Generally loving life! These humble kings of the road really do have it all.
Though we could have stood there all day, cow watching time was over. We had a mountain to climb. We set off in the general direction of the mountain, leaving the tiny spiritual village of Pushkar behind us. As we approach the foot of the rather large hill, an excited family sitting out on their porch call us over. We toddle on over and are given pride of place on two very random deckchairs. Offered chai and smokes, we smile for photos from every possible angle, with every possible family member. When I motion for the little boy to take a photo of us all, I swear his eyes nearly pop out with pride. I can tell he is determined to take the best possible photo of all time! He takes his duty very seriously and moves several times to get a perfect shot of the random foreigners out on his porch.
After our little pit stop, it’s time to conquer the hill and reach the temple. It is the quietest place I have encountered in India so far. We are only disturbed by a couple of donkeys, trotting their way down the hill with their bells jangling. It has been raining all day and at the top of the mountain, outside the temple, we encounter the eye of the monsoon. An elderly gentleman, dressed all in white, storms over to us. His piercing red eyes flash in anger. Oh god what the hell have we done? My mind races back, trying to decode how we may have accidently managed to offend somebody or everybody. I can’t think of anything. Timidly I offer the man some sweet rocks from my temple offering. It’s not enough.
“WHY DID YOU LEAVE THIS WOMAN” he yells furiously.
I glance at where he is pointing. An elderly lady sits on a concrete wall, shaking her head sadly.
“What do you mean?” I stammer
“She is very old. You walked past her on the mountain. Why did you do that? She needed your help!”
Oh. We’d obviously missed that. An awkward silent mist hung about us
“We’re sorry!” Don jumps in quickly, “We didn’t realise she needed help!”
The angry man studies us in disapproval. I swear his eyes are staring straight into my soul, expecting to find a black empty space. I’m dying inside. This is taking forever.
“So…” the man states finally “You really didn’t understand this”
Don and I both shake our heads. “We’re sorry!” We plead, both to him and the old woman of the hill.
“OK, Let’s sit”
Really the last thing I want to do is sit down with a bunch of people who clearly hate me, but we don’t seem to have much choice in the matter.
The next thing I know I’m practically carrying this little old woman down the side of the mountain whilst Don is bombarded with questions from his newly adopted grandfather.
‘And how old are you?’
‘And how many children?’ ‘NO CHILDREN??’
‘Well you must go and see a doctor then. Have you seen a doctor?’
‘You must see a doctor to sort out this problem.’
‘You have big problem.’
I popped the old lady down at the foot of the hill, who then announces I am her daughter from another life whilst kissing my arms. Meanwhile it seems Grandad is not quite finished embarking his pearls of wisdom on life and quite grandly invites us back to his village for the weekend. So we had gone from being the most hated individuals in Pushkar to firm friends in the space of a short walk down a mountain. We’d either charmed the socks off these people or they had plans to take us to the local witchdoctor for our ‘big problem’.
Perhaps we were wise to politely decline the offer considering the transport links.