Right before the
such a fair-week can be very long for all involved parties, there are,
in addition, a variety of more or less entertaining events set up by
the organisers of the fair. In the large, semi-open stadium of Pushkar,
located between the campground and the city, several games between
local teams against randomly selected teams of tourists (‘visitors’)
are organized during the entire week.
For instance, the “Satolia
Match”, a type of traditional Indian baseball;
or the equally traditional “Langari Taang-Competition”,
a single-legged hopping race, in which the one of legs of the
participants is tied up like a camel's to prevent it from running away;
or the “Kabbadi
a rather strange game which is a cross between wrestling and playing
catch (may also be that I did not exactly understand it!); or the
in which the player must break a high-hanging pot with the help of a
human pyramid; or simply a strenuous football match in the sand.
Even very professional competitions such as the camel running
competition ('Camel Race'),
the camel beauty competition ('Camel
Decoration'), the 'Camel
Dance Competition'(!) or the 'Turban Tying' and
Competition' are organized, alongside a dance event ('Group Dance') with
countless pretty school girls, or Deepdan,
the lamp festival on the lake, or the Kathak Temple Dance
in one of the 400(!) temples of the little city.
Finale of the 'Camel
School girls before their dance performance 'group dance'
balloons are very popular ...
... they are always
Practise session for the 'Camel
camel dances to loud, hard but rhythmic drumbeats, which
would not expect of the young boy behind the camel)
the Light Festival at the holy Pushkar Lake
Portrait of a camel
They could even be described as “cuddly”
having waited in vain at the Pushkar Stadium for the Camel Race,
due to start at 11 but then postponed at the last minute to the last
day of the festival, but still having witnessed the training for the Camel Dance Competition
and the completely overcrowded Camel
I continued my tour of the fair. In the meantime, a large number of
camels have arrived, the dealers and the breeders sit in between with
their colourful turbans while chatting, reading or eating something, it
is an unreal, primeval and yet a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere.
The camels look at me curiously with their big eyes, they are a little
bit afraid of the camera and when I get too close, they make hissing
sounds, which I interpret, for safety reasons, as a kind of warning.
The turban colours of the camel dealers differ, depending on their
caste, profession or the community of the wearer, some of the patterns
and the colours however are also determined by the seasons or as the
occasion demands it. For instance, a funeral requires white turbans,
whereas a condolence visit needs a dark blue or brown. Even today, it
is considered sacrilege to wear the wrong coloured turban to an
A huge number of camels have arrived
The colours of the turbans
differ depending on ...
... the caste, profession, occasion or the community of the
A few turban patterns are also
determined by the time of the year
Tea stall ('chai
drinking an overwhelmingly sweet chai (I recently heard a Brit saying:
please get a little bit of tea to my sugar?”)
at one of the tent-stalls, I have a chat in English with a very
friendly, local fodder sellers. He reckons that the Pushkar Camel Fair
is still one of the biggest camel fairs in the world, but it is also
slowly becoming smaller and losing its significance. Every year fewer
and fewer sellers come, and in the last few years, the business is
markedly declining. Motorized vehicles are increasingly replacing
camels as a pack animal and a means of transport – and this
the year 2013!
More and more, the main reason for buying camels is their meat! I find
this terrible, as I have gotten to know and appreciate the animals, in
the meanwhile! Essentially, they are very peaceful, by nature rather
gluttonous, curious, stubborn but also very cautious in their dealings
with each other and with other people, yes, they are sensitive and
cuddly; in brief: one could even describe them as 'cute'! Admittedly,
it is not very easy to connect with them or take them around, as they
can get quite unruly and angry (see
also link to a short audio sample below the image on the left).
Camels can also be quite
camel disturbed during his night-sleep
anyone looking at
the pictures wondered if this animals weren't all dromedaries, they
would be right! The ones with one hump are actually dromedaries
and as such, they are also
camels! They are part of the camel family within the suborder Tylopoda.
This family can be subdivided in two categories: the first is camels
which consists of the single-humped camel or
the dromedary and the two-humped camel or the Bactrian camel; and the
second category consists of the New World camels such as the llamas and
Camp Ground has its own “Mother-Child-Section”
camp is equipped with several watering troughs
At the watering
|From time to
time, the camels must be taken to the watering trough. This can be a
very entertaining spectacle to behold. When many camels come together
to the watering trough, they can have a lot of fun. As camels always
inhabit dry regions, they have developed an extremely good water
balance. A distinctive feature are the red blood cells, which are not
round but oval. This form works in such a way, as to allow the camels
to absorb a lot of water in no time – up to 200 liters in 15
minutes – without the risk of "over-watering" (med.: water intoxication).
Special kidneys ensure a very high concentration of urine and even the
feces of the camel are very dry, in comparison to other mammals.
Therefore, it can also be used as fuel.
It simply needs to be collected, completely dried in the sun and then
it can be sold again for a few rupees. A simple but frequently used
business model, as the raw material is produced in plenty by the large
number of camels.
Camels having a good time at the
(an enlarged view is worth it!)
On the leash
Camp Ground: Camel-dung as fuel
'Uhh, does she mean me? It would certainly be an interesting name', I
think to myself and look downwards: an approximately 9-10 year old girl
tugs at my sleeve and looks at me with her pretty big eyes and with a
poorly-rehearsed distressed expression, all the while holding up her
small hand. "Give money,
Meanwhile, after about some months in India, I am sufficiently
prepared in such situations, and know what I have to
Hindi: "Mere pas cam
paise hai, maaf kijeeye", which translates as: 'I have little money, sorry'.
This works, and she turns around.
Incidentally this also works also with adults, as it is a clearly
understandable, yet respectful refusal. These children are sent by
their parents to beg and particularly 'set upon' tourists; begging can
also be a profession, it is nothing dishonorable, but involves hard
work! Or else it is out of real need, poverty in old age, infirmity,
etc. Over time, I am not as perturbed by it. If it is a result of
visible distress, I prefer to give a few rupees. One just has to gauge
the context, which is, of course, also understood by the people of
India. For the equivalent of one Euro, it is possible to eat your fill
at a suitable stall! And those who can afford to fly to India, can
surely afford to give someone fifty cents or one Euro, is it not!?
|Every now and
then, two to three young, much-too-heavily made-up women, plonk
themselves in front of me, pose smilingly in an exaggerated, mask-like
manner and perform theatrical dance movements with their arms. They
want to be photographed for a decent model-salary, calling on me: "Make photo, Sir!"
Even camel traders, sari-wearing women or small children have long
learned just how keen a lot of tourists/photographers – from
their perspective, the two are synonyms – are on photos. And
since everything is a give and take, virtually all of them ask for
money to be photographed: easily earned rupees! This has gotten to the
point that now even the camel traders demand money, often with
considerable insistence, even if you just want to take pictures of
But this goes against our understanding of artistic freedom, of public
space or the freedom of panorama, but also against our understanding of
travelling itself: after all, we have already paid a lot of money and
taken pains to get here, and we would like to be able to photograph. In
the long term, this is extremely exhausting – and this
both sides – and also not easy to avoid, and it only becomes
It also makes reflect on my own role in the drama, and about the sense
and nonsense of taking photos. Who wants to shoot a reality that he
himself, though not intentionally, has warped beyond recognition by his
actions and his presence? This reminds me a sentence from the German
Trojanov's book 'Der
Sadhu an der Teufelswand':
"And one day the world
will consist only of photographers and the photographed."
Hopefully I will sell my camera before that.
Some camel traders are
professional models for the camera
photo was the result of a previous, non-verbal hand gesture: You can
take a photo, but only for hard cash. Cost
of this photo: 50 Rupees (for all three 'models'). The satisfied grins
let me know that the payment was quite sufficient.
am also reminded of a small episode from this morning. Shortly after
sunrise when it was very hazy, I came upon a perfectly equipped group
of Asian photographers and thought: 'What have they been aiming at?'
and so I looked into the 'target
A young camel trader (in a red polo shirt) had been asleep and was
being awakened by the group. He got up rather irritated, grumbled and
– unmistakably – shook his hand in the air. Then he
into his slippers, turned around annoyed, and sat pointedly with his
back to the group. The group merrily continued to photograph!
at the edge of the Camel Camp, I see the first already-sold camel
herds, which move in the direction of the desert and stir up a lot of
dust. It is nice to watch how the herd runs after the leader of the
pack. Depending on the size of the herd, 1-2 camel drivers are
sufficient to manage the animals. I come close enough to a herd to
notice that the animals are delighted to be able to run again
indeed, they take obvious pleasure in the act.
herd follows the pack leader – making it easy to manage
makes the camels visibly happy
camels are already leaving
For dinner, rotis are being
rolled and baked
Beautiful atmosphere in the camp
onset of dusk, the most beautiful atmosphere takes over the camp, as
the sun retreats and the fire is lit again with people squatting around
it. The lights in the camp come on, and a cozy bustle accompanies the
fetching and heating of water, the rolling and baking of rotis (flat bread),
it is just like huge tent camp.
The tourists have now mostly retired to their hotels and tent camps,
camel buyers are also gone now, just a few photographers like me are
still diligently hanging about.
It is possible now to take beautiful photos, my suberb Nikon
– a D3S, affectionately known among photographers as the 'Lord of Darkness'
for its high ISO capabilities – now works in top form and the
light and the unique scenery make me feel energized once again. People
are now a bit weary, but very friendly, laughing, joking, telling
stories, now smiling more than before; we are all tired of haggling.
The lights come on in the
... a different time
it becomes so dark that it no longer makes sense to continue
photographing, and as I begin to make my way back towards the hotel, I
see a beautiful sight at the watering trough. Now what I am looking
forward to is a cold Kingfisher beer and a Palak Paneer with
Garlic-Cheese Naan, or something similar! Of course, I get caught once
again by the son of the trinkets dealer at the edge of the camp. As if
he had spend all day waiting only for me, with never an evening off!
His persistence and perseverance are commendable, indeed admirable. "Hello Sir, you rremembr me? You
prromisd me to ...",
I interrupt him and make it somehow clear to him that I am tired,
hungry and very thirsty after all the dust and the squadrons of
camel-dung and smoke and all I want now is to run straight home:
"May be tomorrow, OK?"
"OK, Sir ...",
a smile appears on his face,"...
may be tomorrow, Sir! You promise!?"
Once again across the watering trough
last photo of the day