This photo story was published as a winning entry for Holidays by Shatabdi contest run by Lonely Planet India – http://www.lonelyplanet.in/2334/guests-column/holidays-by-shatabdi-winner-1-gitika-saksena
This cold foggy November morning was different. Instead of being tucked under a snug, warm blanket, I was manoeuvring my luggage wheels through the bustling crowd at the New Delhi Railway Station. Out of the dense fog thundered in the Ajmer Shatabdi. I hopped on, excited about my first trip to Rajasthan.
On my itinerary were the historical cities of Ajmer and Pushkar. I had planned the trip around the time of the Karthik Poornima so as to get a first-hand experience of the famous Pushkar Cattle Fair. The train journey was comfortable and convenient and peppered with snacks. Conversations with fellow passengers only added to the experience.
Local women in colourful clothes at the Pushkar cattle fair
Reaching Ajmer, I checked into the hotel and immediately chartered a taxi for Pushkar. Pushkar, for the uninitiated, is a treat for the senses, and no amount of research can prepare you not be overwhelmed by the exhilarating sights, smells and sounds. I felt catapulted back in time as I navigated through the sandy alleys on a camel cart, flanked by camel and horse sheds. The special attraction this year was a blue eyed horse, which if the driver of my camel cart is to be believed, was sold for 5 lakhs.
The dry and dusty landscape was a perfect setting for the bright juxtaposed colours all around. There was an constant blur of reds, yellows and blues – locals wearing their dazzling best and not to forget, the decked-up camels revelling in their colourful splendour. I passed a group of people, nervously watching a rather composed young girl walking a tightrope with a pot perfectly balanced on her head ten feet above them.
Always happy to be clicked.
As I approached the Brahma temple, the alleys gave way to a buzzing market full of traditional Rajasthani souvenirs – jootis, puppets, even daggers. Two excited little boys started following me, curious about the bulky camera I had slung over my shoulders. ‘Photo madam, photooo please!’ I stopped at a shop in front of the temple to hand over my shoes, walked a few steps and then turned back to frame the boys in a moment for posterity.