“India is incredible”, in a way the tourism department wasn’t bargaining on. It’s incredible in that open mouth, shaking head kind of way.
And it doesn’t always make sense, which has a way of frustrating the ordered Western mind, which is programmed to know “why”.
- Why transvestites and transgenders beg for money and get it in a country of maimed and lamed (they are outcasts too)
- Why Indians throw everything, from perishables to plastic into the streets (because everything lands up in the same place anyway)
- How such delicious food comes out of such dirty kitchens (bacteria killing chilly and spices help)
- Why they supply plastic serviettes at restaurants (to discourage usage?)
- Why you can’t find and omelette in Pushkar restaurants (eggs and alcohol are banned within 1km of the sacred lake)
- How they created so many varieties of sauces (so grateful for cultural differences)
- Why the train booking system is so complicated (to give agents and touts a job?)
- Why would you bath and drink from a river with an Ecoli count that can descale fish or put feet on an eel.
- How are you a leader in the tech and It industry and yet have such unreliable and unbelievably slow Wifi? Even Nepal is better.
And so the list ticks over in your mind, making you feel like a three-year old, discovering the world for the first time. But why India? Why?
Sometimes you find the answers, occasionally you get to nod away the explanation and more often you just learn to accept that there might be a greater rhyme and reason for why they pretend it’s “pure silk madam” or that they drive on the right hand side of the road, but you aren’t tuned into that particular vibration just yet.
In the end you amuse yourself by making up your own explanations, piecing together the random cultural and religious facts you know /have read/ been told. India is a great philosopher in that way because she teaches you to observe, extrapolate and question all the stimulus that is being thrown at you all the time. At home, my brain believes in understands (correctly) the stimulus it is fed and the signs it reads. I disagree, but it’s hard work reprogramming yourself to look at old signs with new eyes, ears and without old fears.
So when I started seeing a street scene suddenly appear and then repeat itself, I observed my western mind processing this new information. Or trying to. It seemed like an ordinary food stall, like many I pass each day on my walks around Pushkar. In fact I had already passed by it a few times in my stay. So why was it suddenly so popular? Why were people rushing to get at its fried snacks? It happened so fast that I didn’t actually see what they were selling. It was only when it happened again, the same scene at a different snack stall, that I started to think something was up and what they were selling – pakora (like tempura) snacks.
The quick explanation:
These few food stalls bring out a specific local snack, but only at a specific time of day, which is why I have missed this phenomena previously. Yes. That’s it. Specialty store. Speciality hours.
On more detailed thinking:
But why are most of these patrons children? And are they actually patrons? Did I actually see any exchange of money? It looked more like a grab and go situation. Perhaps these children are orphans? Perhaps their parents have an account with the stall? Maybe it’s an activation? All ridiculous questions that only give rise to inconclusive answers. The brain will just have to be dissatisfied until it finds someone to ask “why????”
The real answer:
In the lead up to the kite festival on 14 January, the local restaurants, shopkeepers and hotels all give some money (whatever they can afford) into a kitty that gets used to make these savoury and sweet pakora snacks, which they hand out (looked more like hold out and see who can reach the furthest) free to the masses of children (mostly) who have the inside scoop on when and where these snacks come out. Now, so do I. Bonus.
Musing on how the mystery and magic makes sense to the heart but not to the head.