Best Performance by a Foreign Tourist
Nov 13, 2005
|We leave Pushkar on a high note, and even though we bailed out during the crescendo we thought it wise to quit before the rhythm (or the mayhem) overtook us.
One final word about Pushkar perhaps is in order - and one episode to answer the possible FAQ - "What is the worst thing you saw a tourist do on your year long travel." To be quite fair, most tourists (or travellers) we have come across are gracious, open-minded, conscientious, and - for lack of a more specific adjective - good people. We try to be the same, although most would have to admit that sometimes the small trials of travel get the best of even the best of us. We have instinctively done things we wish later we hadn't. Sometimes we make a cultural mis-step or in a bad moment we lash out at an innocent ticket seller or eager vendor who invigorates our wrath at a vulnerable moment. Of course, we can only be responsible for ourselves in all situations, and being human sometimes has little bearing on acting civilized at all junctures. On the other hand - some things are downright rude and, one could argue, inexcusable. I think it's safe to say we witnessed one of these episodes on our last night in Pushkar.
The night previous we had been treated to one of the most glorious photo opportunities of our trip when we wandered far out to the most western dunes - beyond the fair, beyond the tent cities, and yes, even beyond the human shit field that bordered the camel camp. But beyond this poop mine field we came upon a crest of sand that rose to meet the following orange sun. You've seen picture of this in the last entry, perhaps, and for us it was a sight we had hoped to see but not expected. It was a postcard moment and even though our shots are poor excuses for professional images we were happy for what we got. A small gang of camels, their drivers, and even a few minstrels had gathered to lend real drama to the scene. It was, if not a bit staged, breathtaking.
So it was the following night that we thought we would, without pressing our luck, wander again to the western edge of the fair to see if we couldn't relive a little bit of this bliss. We chose a different dune - one closer to the actual fair this time. The sun was falling much the same and indeed there were camels gathered on the ridge framing their eloquent selves in wondrous light. The only big difference tonight, however, was that due to its proximity to the festival itself, and without the protective poop barrier, there were many more tourists enjoying the romantic view. As they should, of course, and we didn't begrudge them. It was only our previous night's luck that prevented us from being as aggressive for the 'perfect photo' as some of those who had this night gathered. And so the worst-tourist-performance begins.
One large man, doing his best to frame the largest of the camels, is supplanted by a rather younger (and skinnier) version of himself. Both don canvas khaki vests and cameras that scream 'I also drive a Humvee!'. The little fellow sees a shot, but unfortunately for the larger man, this happens to be in front of his frame.
"Hey, you are in everyone's way. You!" The larger man says.
The small man turns. "You may all come up here then," he says, motioning to the crowd of twelve or fifteen amateur photographers. As the smaller man turns back towards the sunset and kneels for a photograph the large man approaches rapidly from behind.
Now I think, at this point, that the big guy is going to give the little one another earful, or at worse, grab him by the arm (which, by the way, I had witnessed the day before during the foreign tourist turban tying competition - also probably worthy of a "most regrettable moments' entry). He does not grab the man by the arm. He does not yell at him. What he does do is body check the poor skinny guy to the ground. The crowd, we included, can't believe it. And while the guys on the ground, picking the sand out of his face and trying to believe what has just happened, the big guy goes back to his spot in order to take his photograph. Before he can snap it off, however, the young guy is back on his feet, and although he doesn't know what to do, he knows enough to make sure he stands in front of the photogenic camel while he thinks of it.
"What do you think you doing?" He demands in a not-so-good English.
"I asked you to move, and you wouldn't."
By this point, it is obvious to Mandy and myself that our sunset bliss is not to be, and already I can taste the bad taste in my mouth. This is the bad taste you get during a Hollywood romantic-comedy when the soon to be wed couple discover something petty about the other and need to call off the wedding... for now. This is the point in the movie when I go to the bathroom, then come back for the ceremony. We start to walk away as the other tourists get in on the action. One wants to know what country the offending photographer is from. "Never mind that," he rebuffs. (You want to know if we were relieved, somewhere inside, that he wasn't American. Well, I think we were, but there's no need to tell you what country he was from - besides I'm not so good with British accents.) But again, these sorts of things have nothing to do with nationality, and the skinny Belgian guy didn't think so either. His only concern by this point was to make sure that he ruined every single one of this other guys pictures for the rest of the day. Realizing he couldn't "fight" this much bigger guy he decided to simply stand in front of him - at about ten feet's distance - and heckle him whenever he tried to take another photo. I didn't know who to be more embarrassed for. Those of us other tourists standing around exchanged short remarks to let the others know how deplorable we thought these two guys were, but I don't think any of us were ready to stop taking photos of what was still a fantastic sunset. It was like drunks at the bottle and even with the chaos of these two chumps going on around them most people took the opportunity of the distraction to get phenomenal photographs of the camels, who didn't care, and the camel drivers, who couldn't probably believe what they were seeing.
The last we saw of the big guy and the little guy was when the bigger one took off in retreat back down towards the festival grounds with the smaller one following close behind asking, "What are we going to take photos of now, you shit?"
By then, it was a good sign that we had stayed just long enough in Pushkar, disrupting the wild life and helping to ruin the most wonderful sunsets the desert could offer.
I only wish I had got it on video. Goddamnit, next time I will!