Pushkar, India
26° 30' N 74° 33' E
Jan 01, 2007 01:37
Distance 0km

Choose another map, showing:


Text written in: English

Off with a bhang

  Pushkar can be a dangerous place for travellers, primarily for 2 reasons. The first being the special lassi, a yoghurt/curd based drink infused with spices, often with coconut, and (importantly) laced with bhang, a derivative of marijuana. Sometimes, though rarely, and only from the most enthusiastic of vendors, a touch of jam or some other fruity substance is added for flavour. After drinking, the effects take hold within about an hour, giving a floaty, slightly stoned feeling, mixed with a shiny fascination. It is the drug of choice for many, locals and tourists alike, in the vegetarian, alcohol-free zone that is Pushkar. Bhang is used as a fertilizer and as a spiritual venture for Yogis and Brahmins, neither of which hold any kind of employment, and who regard the experience as a means to get closer to God. I can see their point, although I, along with the majority of the local youth and many travellers, see it more as a way of getting toasted, nicely toasted. In terms of legality, I think it occupies a similar position to cannabis in Holland; not entirely legal but universally tolerated, particularly in Rajasthan. In Jaisalmer I had previously visited the only government authorised bhang shop in India, where I bought some cookies of various strengths. The weaker ones had little effect on the camel safaris, though i did really enjoy myself, and boy, did I sleep well! Special lassis are generally considerably stronger however, and there are many stories of tourists and travellers nonchalantly glugging down a glass of the milky elixir and then being struck down by what can only be described as a bad trip. Either that, or a total flake-out. Unfortunately, Flavio's first venture into the hedonistic world resulted in the former, and took some careful maneuvering to bring him round to the latter. It was New Year's Eve and he really didn't enjoy it, so I took him back to the room and allayed his paranoia by giving him some soothing music to listen to on my iPod. Within minutes his panicked, tense and uncomfortable stare had become a dreamy, euphoric gaze. Confident that he was now just stoned and monging, I went outside to celebrate the New Year with the other occupants of the guest house, sat around a fire in the raised courtyard, surrounded by trees and the soundtrack of distant house music. A surreal, but pleasant time. Flavio was fine.

 

The second danger in Pushkar is the pace of life there - it is very easy for a traveller, with all his plans and schedules to slow down to a halt insuch a small, comfortable and aesthetically beautiful place. Many are the stories of travellers getting stuck in Pushkar for twice as long, three times as long as they had planned. That time is generally spent wandering the streets, shopping, playing pool (without alcohol - very strange), losing a day to the effects of a special lassi, gazing over the lake and walking up one of the two mountains. Flavio and I took this last option early on New Year's Eve, heading up the smaller mountain to the shabbiest and least maintained temple I've ever seen. The view from the top was beautiful, over the city surrounding the lake on one side, and huge plains surrounded by mountains on the other. It was also here that we met our Yogi. He made chai for us and for the Australian couple who had also made the ascent (and he didn't want anything in return - very strange for India), and then he invited us in for some bhang. Not one to pass up an opportunity (...) I obliged and stepped inside his hut, whereupon he packed his chillum and talked to us about God, his family, his lifestyle and, of course, bhang. Now I can only assume this is what he was talking about, as his english was limited to the words God, mummidaddy, yes, no, Pushkar, Jaisalmer and bhang. The conversation, considering, was flowing when, after a few hits on the chillum, I asked if I could take his picture. He said yes, so I took a couple, and then he had an idea. He grabbed a wooden pole and gestured that I should take another picture. I prepared the camera as he stood up, lifted his robe to reveal his meat n two veg, then wrapped his ol' fella round the pole and stood there, posing, proud as punch. I stopped laughing, wiped the tears from my eyes and took the picture. The picture's down below. Take a look. Look at his face - "wheeey". When the laughter had stopped and the chillum was empty we made our excuses and headed down the mountain. The rest, as they say, is history...

 

Photos / videos of "Off with a bhang":

On the way up the mountain View from the mountain View from the mountain The temple's sign left something to be desired The shabbiest temple I ever did see Our Yogi/Sadhu's house There he is Doing his thing The funniest party trick I've ever seen, ever. Look at the smile on his face! Some colourful rubbish Crazy dancing hippy man (accompanied by drum) He was there the next day too The last sunset of 2006 (apart from the others) Flavio Flavio, just before he gets hit The guilty cafe - lassi pushers! (great place) A strange view AAAaaaaawwww, that's nice. sunset sky Pushkar  - fantastic more sunset more sunset more sunset ....no more sunset.