Take me to Pushkar, drop me down in the sunset café. You already did? Ahh yes, here I am, the sky is still bright and very pink. Inside people, locals and travellers begin to gather, for the nightly spectacle that is sunset over the lake. Neat rows of Formica tables are placed so that as many diners as possible get a good view. The best seats are right on the patio, and I’ve got one, under the curved and ornately painted arches, slightly raised from the pavement. I sink into a rattan bucket seat with a cushion made from recycled saris, red, orange and pink to match the sky. Babu comes to take my order, a mint lassi while I’m waiting for a masala omelette, ‘but that is breakfast madam’ he says giving me that look he gives to crazy English women, a sort of half grin as if he feels sorry for me. I add an ice cold cobra beer, Pushkar is so dry and so is my throat.
The smell of spice is suddenly challenged when two young women arrive, laden with backpacks big enough for their tiny frames to climb into, and with grubby salwar kameez. I don’t like myself for saying it, but I’m glad there wasn’t space for them. In contrast the musicians rock up, clothes gleaming as white as the Persil ads, and making a racket like the dustbin men at 7am. Now I realise why these seats were empty. Two drummers, a sitar player and another with an instrument that looks like a sack, a hosepipe and some bits of rope, sit crossed legged beside me.
The drumming begins, starting slowly and with little tune. It’s only when I look around and see people swaying that I realise I’m doing the same thing. For too long the drums continue, my lassi and omelette are both consumed and I’m on my second bottle of Cobra. They’re twice the size of the bottles at home and a few nights ago Muggan, our driver was horrified and amazed that I could contain one, never mind two.
The drumming is hypnotic and I’ve lost some time, pulling myself together, I put the music to the back of my mind and focus instead on the sky. Taking a photo wasn’t working, heads kept bobbing up and down between me and the view. Stay in the now G, stay in the now and imprint it on your soul. It is every bit as magical as promised. Every warm, glowing colour, that nature can create, is up there in the heavens. There might be sound but all I can hear is the noise of the universe, not even a sound, but a vibration, a distant echo that began light years ago. I’m standing now, we all are. With fairy lights around our heads, we watch as the sun slowly falls on the horizon behind the temple.
I am changed by India.