I Met some Boys On the Street in Pushkar

7:00 PM, Tuesday, November 23, 1999

I'm telling you, there's just too much to write about. Gimmie a break. That's what I say, and that's what I said to Tony and Pinky so I could chill. I explained that I'm writing my "autobiography" and I had to tell Tony to tell Pinky's family (all 10 of them) that I needed to be by myself. I said "Tell them it's a strange thing that westerners do – being alone – and I that I needed to do it 'cause I'm a westerner." I mean it's the truth and all, but in order to be heard I need to make it sound like I'm having my period. Like uttering the p-word to a bunch of 9th graders and sending the room into silence.

I'm eating outside and I'm listening to Indian classical music, I think for the first time since coming to India, and believe me, music is always playing. But it's always Hindi-Pop and film sound tracks. So I'm just writing and not telling you anything. Not saying much, the same way you just shrug your shoulders a lot here. Like yesterday when I must've shrugged my shoulders and did that "oh well" thing about 50 times. I feel the weight of a huge story on my shoulders.

If you must know, there are about 50,000 people bathing with God in front of me, Ok, damnit, I'll take a picture. Ok. Did it. 

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Oh, I found my book. Can you tell? So I read it this morning while the desert heated up. There's a freaky, painted, Hanuman dude with a wire tail walking around. While he was sitting on a piece of concrete earlier, a freaky Japanese raver-hippie walked over and handed him a Pepsi (ironically, to this American, exactly like the "universal goodwill soda gesture" of the old Coke commercials of the 70's) and that made a whole village-worth of villagers that were walking back from their bath stand and look at them. Hanuman is Rama's buddy who's a mythical monkey-man and always playing games and shit. Coke is life, is it not? It's funny that I choose to write that down. Why I picked that one out of all this weird shit is beyond me.

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I've just been spending too much time with Indians. They wear me out. They objectify you, as my tent-mate Guy said, and it makes you want to scream after a while. I'm an inexhaustible resource for their curiosity — but still merely a collection of mannerisms, products and features that faintly resembles a person.  Study me while I sneeze or yawn, "Ooooo, look at the way he drinks!" Please release all animals from all the world's zoos immediately.

My digestive system is working perfectly, churning out nice, firm turds. And all that after drinking tons of water right out of the tap. I was trying to stay clean but every house I go to they offer me water and I was asking if it was clean for a while but they'd all say "yes, yes" when I found out later they'd just got it from the faucet. I found out that "clean" means they've put a cloth around the tap to filter out the large chunks of dirt. Even people who I thought would know that I needed "double pure" water were dosing me. I was sure yesterday that I was gonna get sick again. I was real tired all day and constantly spacing-out. I even refused to go stay with this one family in their village out in the desert of Rajastan 'cause I didn't want to just get there and be sick on them. Plus, I haven't figured out how I'm gonna get back to Bombay 'cause the fucking train is "wait-listed four hundred and fifty" which means there's 450 people ahead of my in line. I usually don't have to worry about the queue 'cause there's a tourist quota in most big cities that I can get a confirmed ticket from.

Ok, so that's all mundane traveler stuff. So what happened was I was walking around Pushkar the night I got here and 2 western-ish Indians walked up and greeted me. That happens about every 3 seconds here but these two wanted to hang out and they had pretty good English so I said "I'm going to go get something to eat." Turns out they're buddies visiting from Jodhpur and one of them, the wiry, excitable chap who was nicknamed "Pinky" has relatives in Ajmer. Ajmer is the town right over the hills about ˝ hour by bus. A pretty big Muslim city. So we eat and talk and they offer to help me out getting a train ticket in Ajmer the next day. So I go back to writeoutside my tent with the guys (that's when I met Kalyan and Lacharram) and then I crashed out in my tent with 20 other tourists. The music and men screaming in loudspeakers and general din of the festival continues all night. It's a distant chatter from our tents but it's ear splitting when you walk by the carnival rides and circus. Only slightly more unpleasant that the visuals I might add. Total state fairground degradation.

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So the next day I meet Tony and Pinky and we go to Pinky's cousin's house and they offer me food and I eat and then I find out about the desperate train situation, then we go to his aunt's house and meet his aunt, uncle and two cousins, Mohit and Rehke. They offer me food and I eat and then we walk over to the main mosque in Ajmer. Ajmer is a pilgrimage destination second only to Mecca for Muslims and it's very holy to Hindu's as well. The Dargah is the name of the tomb for this Sufi guy named Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. It has no paintings or pictures . There's no focus of attention like in a church or temple and the symbols don't give me any clues. So I check out this big boiler pot, about the size of a small pool and Pinky tells me that the money people are throwing in the bottom will be taken out at the end of the day and they'll buy rice and then cook the rice in that big pot and serve it to all the people for free. I thought that was real cool. There were purple and pink flower petals everywhere and they were selling big plates of them. You throw them on shit to bless it. I covered my head with a kerchief and went into the tomb and man, what a crush of humanity! Worse than the pit at a Fugazi show or a local Bombay train. I saw some white people with red faces coming out of the smashing crowd and they looked upset. I had a strange calm come over me. A priest that was inside the little fence called me over and threw some rose petals at me and put a blanket thing over my head and held my head and said prayers for my blasted infidel soul.

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I have the worst chapped upper lip of my entire life right now. OK, so we were at the mosque and it's day-one in Ajmer. Shit, I can't remember what we did that night. Let's say I went home and went to bed, yeah. After I had a hot bucket shower with water heated over an open fire. Oh, but before that we went back to Pinky's aunt's house and they offered me food and I ate (again) and they invited me to Rehke's birthday party the next day. She's turning 15 and she's cute as hell. So we agree to come back the next day and also try to get me a train home. Let me just tell you that at that point, I had no idea that I'd be visiting all of Rehke's relatives in the Ajmer area by bus or that I would be offered the hand in marriage of her cousin or that I'd been drinking dirty water or that I'd end up playing Baba (father) to the whole procession.

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I was the oldest male and I was comparatively loaded so I paid for everything the following day. I had hoped to buy Rehke a dress for her b-day but after sporting for 3 meals, a few bus and rick rides, some Pepsi's and roadside snacks and a boat trip out to the island in the middle of the lake in Ajmer for 7 people I think I'd spent enough dough on the kid. God was she beautiful. She had the grace of 15 Miss Universes. I played event photographer and shot tons of pictures and sat there and listened to them chatter in Hindi all day. I'm trying to learn Hindi so it was a good chance to teach myself the song of their language. I got sick of them asking me to take stupid posed snapshots of their friends and family all the time. I'm not a damn wedding photographer for hire and I hate snapshots. I kept thinking in Spanish 'cause that's the only other language I know besides English. Hindi sounds a lot like Spanish to me.

We went back to Rehke's house and there were more relatives there so I whipped out the pictures I carry and my little portable viewmaster thing with pictures of SF once again for the amazed Indians. I was getting really tired of show and tell by then. I was feeling weak, feverish and had a scratchy throat all day so when another of Pinky's aunts invited me to go back to their village and stay with them I couldn't accept. They pleaded and told me how special and beautiful village life in Rajastan is and I could only agree. I wish I could have done that but I was also getting tired of not being able to talk to anyone and not being left alone long enough to even scratch my nuts.

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Indian hospitality often takes the form of coddling and patronizing. There's a term for people who need to be pampered, "sahib". If I'd sit down, someone's always got a better place for me to sit, "softer, more better", like I'm this fragile primadonna that can feel a pea under 13 stacked up mattresses. I'm a man, goddamnit, and I'm pretty tough (as far as I can tell, since I can have fun out here in bumbfuck India) and I don't need some bourgeois Indian punk kid grabbing my arm and telling me that I should get out of the way of a rickshaw or that the chair I'm sitting in is too hard for my rich white ass.