Running to Rajasthan

February 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

January 22nd:

Kumbh Mela. The first time I heard those words I said to myself, “Kumba what? Kumba Melon? And I care because why?” That was before I understood the meaning. For Hindus, which make up the vast majority of India’s population, Kumbh Mela is a time of celebration! The origins of the festival go back to the battle for supremacy between good and evil. In the Hindu creation myths, the gods and demons fought a great battle forKumbh: a pitcher containing the nectar of immortality. Vishnu got hold of the container and floated away, but in flight, four drops made their way down to earth and landed at Allahabad, HardiwarI, Nasik, and Ujjain.

If crowds worry you, stay away. This one’s big. Very big. Held four times every twelve years (2013 being a winner!) in the cities mentioned above, Kumbh Mela is said to the be the largest religious gathering on the planet, drawing crowds between 40-70 million. Try and wrap your head around that. I can’t.

Seeing as how Varanasi lands hot on the trail to Allahabad, the population was increasing at a rapid rate. After three nights it was time to hit the road. I came, I saw, I conquered. I was pining to get out. Buses and trains were experiencing major delays, so I took to the skies and headed east to the great state of Rajasthan.

After two flights, long delays, and a few stressful moments, I landed in Jaipur, also known as “The Pink City”, and the state’s capitol. Feeling relieved to have some breathing room, I found myself a decent place to say and settled in for the night. After only a few hours of sleep, I awoke with a fever that soared, and stomach that turned. I was feeling ill. Very ill.

I spent that night and following day curled up in a ball, moving between the bed and bathroom floor. My mind was plagued with images of Vietnam and the sickness that ensued, some six years ago. I begged, pleaded and prayed, that what happened there, not happen here. I didn’t have it in me to go through it again.

After a second night, with slight improvements, I forced myself up and out of the room. My first stop was to a local pharmacy. I was given three prescriptions to take for five days. I have no idea what they were, only that I spent 100 rupees, which is equivalent to $2. I can’t even buy a bottle of Aspirin for that.

As much as I wanted (and needed) to hide away, the clock was ticking. With a bus to catch the next morning, it was now or never. I made my way through the old city, which was a pleasant stroll. I visited City Palace, stopped for Chai, and posed for pictures. Monkeys rule the area and I was harassed more than once. They beg, screech, and scratch their nasty rear ends. They are foul little things, and sneaky too. Very, very sneaky. Africa taught me to never trust a monkey. They’ll take you for all you’ve got.

When I finally ran out of steam, I hoped in a tuk-tuk and headed back. Unfortunately, it wasn’t without a fight. The entire twenty minute ride was spent arguing with the driver about why I didn’t want to have a drink or get high. Is all I could hear was, “Miss, just one beer… or two. Miss, let’s smoke. Come on, Miss. Miss, I take you, not too long… just trust me. Why don’t you trust me!?!” At one point he even pulled over in an attempt to be more serious and persuasive. As if that was going work!?! Over my dead body. If that man thought I was going anywhere other than my hotel, he was out of his f-ing mind. I nearly lost it. I told him he better get his “helicopter” (his words, not mine) moving or he’d be out 60 rupees. Seeing as how money matters – here more than most – he swallowed his pride and zipped his mouth. Thank god. If only he had swallowed the key…

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