In days of yore, it wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to say to you, “Top of the morning!” In India, by contrast, at some point you might just experience a “Top of the bus” morning. Here’s how it happens to me.
Arriving at the bus station in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, I’m disappointed to learn that there are no available seats left for the bus to Pushkar.
“Come on, man. I’m willing to sit on the floor. I’ll even stand the whole way.”
“Sorry, the bus is full. But you can ride on the roof if you like.”
“Yes, many people are doing it.”
Looking up at the top of the bus, I see a roof rack crammed with bags and packages, AND a number of brave souls settling themselves into the detritus. Always one for an experience, I climb up the back ladder and join the adventure seekers for the 4-hour trip to Pushkar. As the bus pulls away from the station, I am once again asking, “Is this the day that I die?” But that’s everyday, isn’t it? We never know what’s going to happen in life. In a world when you can always get hit by a bus, why not greet the day on TOP of a bus?
The 4-hour journey goes by pretty quickly and without mishap, with the occasional holding-on-for-dear-life moment when the bus takes a hairpin turn and all the bags shift in the direction of the turn. I must say, though, that the view of the countryside from the top of an Indian bus is pretty spectacular. Being an extrovert, I’m narrating the whole thing to my fellow travelers when the woman sitting next to me remarks, “Can you please be quiet? I’d like to enjoy the view in silence.” Ouch. But she’s right, of course. There are some experiences that are meant to be experienced meditatively.
The whole adventure getting to Pushkar is inevitably worth it. A pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs, the whole city is considered sacred, hence the prohibition on eating meat and eggs. What hits you right off about Pushkar is the quietude. As you walk around the shiny-blue pond that forms the center of the city, the noise and hustle of India fades into the background. Here and there, I see holy men standing on the ghats (the steps leading down to the water), administering holy rites to worshipful acolytes. What a peaceful way to end an adventurous day.
Note: If you’re in Pushkar towards the end of October, expect the city and environs to be taken over by the annual Camel Fair, when up to half a million people descend on the town to trade livestock and ogle at camels.
(When a one-of-a-kind “experience” is offered to you, do you take it, or do you talk yourself out of it? At age 25, there was no way I was going to miss riding on the rooftop of an Indian bus. Would I do it now? I’m not sure. In your mid-20’s your job is to push your limits, to examine who you are and what you’re made of. In my 60s now, I like to think that I’m still pushing my limits – like writing these posts, for example. In other words, choose your challenges, but don’t turn ALL of them down. Pick and choose your experiences, but make sure you choose some of them!)