COBRAS AT PUSHKAR FAIR- IS INCREDIBLE INDIA STILL A LAND OF SNAKE CHARMERS?
This blog is a part of my series on the Pushkar fair of Rajasthan in Incredible India. I traveled solo in shoestring budget to Pushkar fair. Check out all my blogs in the series which apart from many interesting aspects of Pushkar fair, lists down information like – Best time to go to Pushkar, Best things to eat in Pushkar Fair, How to reach Pushkar Fair, Offbeat things to do in Pushkar etc. This blog is about the Cobras of Pushkar fair and snake charmers and rural acrobats of Pushkar fair, Rajasthan. It’s annual cattle fair of Rajasthan! Incredible India!
In Poha paradise. Pushkar fair, Rajasthan. Incredible India!
I woke up early morning in Pushkar and had fresh Poha (flat rice flakes, fried with potatoes and peas) from a ‘thela’ (hand cart) . All sorts of tourists and devotees , both foreign and Indians had inundated the narrow streets and alleys.
I smiled when I saw a little boy struggling to paste this outside his home: ‘Urinating prohibited;fine Rs.10’. A religious procession near the Pushkar lake distracted me. The roads were strewn with orange marigold flowers. The pleasant smell of marigold wafted through the air as people walked on the flower carpet.
A COBRA, 2 GUINEA PIGS AND A KID WITH MUSTACHE! ONLY AT PUSHKAR FAIR, RAJASTHAN.
I rushed to the Stadium aka ‘Pushkar Mela ground’. As soon as I entered the stadium, the first thing I saw was a mob arranged in a circle, all eyes down. Crowd mostly comprised of village folks and some curious foreigners.
I made my way through the crowd and saw a man , a cobra , 2 guinea pigs and a child with a fake mustache. What’s going on? It was a snake charmer, the kind I had seen for the first time. OK , I have seen the ones with monkeys and snake (Which Indian has not?). But this was different.
Pushkar was full of them. Their income depends solely on the tips given by the onlookers. Later in the day, I saw another father-son duo with a snake, a plastic crocodile and a plastic frog.
The child was casually goofing around with the snake and the father was busy defending his magic being challenged by some of the audiences. More than the silly magic shows, what was amusing was the chemistry and funny banter between the duo.
The child was precocious and good at witty retorts and repartee. I stood for around half an hour expecting something to happen between the real Cobra (snake) and the plastic snake, frog and croc.
The snake charmer I had observed have this modus-operandi of creating a mystery over some object such as making the gullible crowd curious to find out what lies inside, say , a closed box.
Given the short attention span of people they have to use this trick to keep the crowd glued to their ‘pay as you will’ show. Plus they speak very passionately and enthusiastically with right voice modulations to keep the interest level high.
THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INSULTED,
BE IT JAMA MASJID OR PUSHKAR FAIR!
They don’t hesitate in insulting the people in audience (and getting away with it). The victims are usually those who are not paying attention/questioning his tricks/not willing to pay etc! I was amused at this headmasteresque disciplining.
I remember, seeing one such show somewhere in Meena Bazaar outside the Jama Masjid in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi. The snake charmer there was good at fooling people but more than that he was good at insulting people at slightest of provocation.
Magic show may include some card games (Taash), popping out a stone from your mouth etc. (Picture above) It’s amusing but thanks to the repetitiveness it gets boring after a while. I have first time seen such shows. I had always known how India till some years ago was still perceived in the West as a land of snake charmers and madaris and sadhus. What I didn’t know that they still exist in all their finery.
THE SNAKE CHARMER WHO WAS KEEN ON CONNING ME AT PUSHKAR FAIR!
While exiting this area, I started photographing a sapera (snake charmer), thanks to his quirky dressing. He soon approached me and started reading some scary sounding mantra.
Then he opened his wooden box, and pop came out a menacing looking Indian Cobra intimidating me with his raised hood. Then he started playing his ‘been’ (musical instrument) for a special snake dance for me. He took out some weird torn paper, very small in size, and claimed that if I kept it in my wallet, my ‘kismet’ (luck) will take a U turn for good. I said my ‘No Thanks!’ and ran away, not having the heart to tell him that I am a hard core atheist and a wrong person to sell your superstition to. He and his snake did look offended when I turned down this ‘golden opportunity.’
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AT PUSHKAR FAIR, RAJASTHAN
I am against the use of snakes or any other animal/bird/reptile for use of human entertainment. This blog only documents what I saw. I don’t support such acts and wish for ban on the same. As a travel writer it’s my duty to report with detachment. I also condemn the use of camels and elephant for human entertainment. I reported about that in my other blog. (Pls see links below). I request you to not encourage snake charmers or take animal rides. If you do, you contribute to the misery of a living breathing animal who is supposed to roam free, just like you and me.
The view from my #SoulWindow is old world!
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