Rajasthan music, local cuisine and settings untouched by civilisation… Lakshmi Sharath is mesmerised
It starts drizzling just as I leave Pushkar. Even as the traffic inches its way, I can hear a medley of film songs and bhajans set to a beat. A chariot brings in locals dressed as Lord Siva. Dancers throng the streets.
My driver explains that it is the Shravan season and they are bringing in holy water from the Pushkar Lake. We meet different groups of people and the music changes with every procession. We wait as we are in no hurry, but as we enter Ajmer, we lose them in the melee and our journey continues towards Pali.
My journey is filled with largely nondescript moments but then, here and there, I see a burst of colour.
Sometimes, it is the highway and at other times it is the hamlets. And the latter lure us into a different world. Rustic Rajasthan is at its best, with the sparse vegetation looking greener after the recent rain but the driver complains that it is not enough.
The little lanes and markets call for a stop and I pause to take a bite into a delicious pyaaz (onion) kachori and drink a cup of chai (tea). We resume our journey and pass through dusty towns, until I see a board sticking out in the middle of some sparse vegetation that says 'Lakshman Sagar' on it.
A railway track appears out of nowhere and the landscape is fascinating. The station we are driving past is Haripur and the driver tells me that quite a few trains stop here.
We cross a market that is bustling with life and then we are heading towards the hills on the horizon.
The Rajasthan we see in postcard pictures with its brightly dressed women bustling about in an old market comes alive right in front of me. They are all wearing bangles that encircle their entire arm from the shoulder downwards, and they smile at me coyly and cover their faces.
As we drive along, though, the signs of civilisation come to an end and the wilderness takes over. And then, in the middle of nowhere, comes the shrill call of a peacock. The hills surround a lovely lake and the peacocks standing atop the rocky mounds are engaged in a never-ending conversation.
I enter the erstwhile hunting lodge of the Thakur of Raipur, Lakshman Singh Ji, built almost 200 years ago and converted into a resort. It looks steeped in history and blends with the wild ambience that surrounds it. A temple dedicated to the Snake God stands atop a rock. The villagers tell me that the Thakur built the shrine to appease the deity.
As I laze about, gazing at the chinkaras that graze on the other bank, the rain tumbles down. Slowly, twilight steals the day and night throws a blanket across the sky.