Sunday, February 27, 2011

Faith Market

An interesting observation from my recent Rajasthan trip has been playing on my mind.

This trip to Ajmer and Pushkar was more of a spiritual sojourn for me than wanting to just see some popular tourist attractions. Some friends and umpteen blogs had given me enough dope on the do's and don'ts while taking this trip, especially while visiting the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. Since the initial plan was to travel all by myself, I just wanted to be a bit more careful, so my research I thought had prepared me well.

Only on reaching Ajmer and while walking on the main street leading to the Dargah, I witnessed something that I wasn't prepared for that took me by a very pleasant surprise. Selfless help.

(But all the while, my mind kept wandering about how people seem very helpful in some of these touristy places and then at the end, quote their fees while parting ways. This mindset stopped me from depending on what these shopkeepers were sharing with us including their stories of the Dargah. In a loop, I kept telling myself ''I don't need any help. I have done my research well and I can manage on my own.")

So we finally entered the Dargah premises and one after the other, there were these young boys showing us around the significant spots and leading us to the main shrine. We discouraged them and thought they were guides looking at earning some quick bucks. Not realising that they were all a part of some kind of a relay race in taking visitors to the shrine and then just vanished in the huge crowd after someone else took over their job. This didnt end here. Inside the shrine, someone who I thought was a qazi was actually a volunteer who guided us to another destination within the premises for donations, waited till we finished, helped us solve our curiosity about the Dargah's history and again, just disappeared.

On our way back, the shopkeepers from whom we had bought the flowers still charged us only Rs 15 and with a warm smile parted ways by saying "Hope your prayers get answered."

Cut 2 - We reach Pushkar in half an hour and head to the Pushkar lake and offer our prayers through a small puja. Now comes the next surprise -
Priest - "How much would you like to offer?"
Me -''Rs 100."
Priest (with a surprised look) -"100? We have donations of three kinds ranging from Rs 1100 to Rs 5000. Aap Shraddha se jo dena chahein, woh aapki marzi".
So I quickly retorted, "100 rupay mein bhi bahut shraddha hai" and
Priest quickly replies "Lekin yeh bahut kam hai."

However, I still managed to offer what I wanted to and left.

Two distinct situations are just a few kilometeres away from each other. If only faith wasn't so marketable.