In Pushkar Lake a girl introduced herself and asked if I had explored the outskirts of town. I told her I had just arrived, but that it seemed like a great idea to do so. The cheapest way is to rent a scooter, but since she couldn’t drive, she wanted me to go with her.
The plan was to visit a temple and meet Aloo Baba. In this context, Baba means someone who dedicates his life to spirituality and Aloo, as always, means potato. I’m an experienced driver, but this was India. No helmets, driving on the left lane, the use of horns instead of blinkers, total chaos in the eyes of a westerner like me.
Thankfully Pushkar was a small and quiet town and in its outskirts I experienced my first taste of freedom in India. There was not a single cloud in the sky, the sun was shining on the beautiful green hills of Pushkar and ahead of me, nothing but a long and lonely road. So empty that even street signs were missing and yes, you’ve guessed it… we got lost. Luckily, everyone knew Aloo Baba and if it wasn’t for a huge army of kids blocking the road, we would have made it to the temple in less than no time.
In the middle of nowhere… there were only a handful of houses around, but there was a truck playing really loud and fast Indian music with 200 people dancing to it. Everyone was pulling us to the “dance floor” and the kids, scanning us from top to bottom with their eyes wide open as if they were looking at a rare endangered species. Some would laught, others were too shy and there was even a guy who replied the usual: “Cristiano Ronaldo” when I told him I was Portuguese.
As we arrive in the temple a self-proclaimed Guru by the name of Narugi invites us to meet Aloo Baba and help him cook lunch for us. Narugi was a really nice and funny guy. He would often speak in rhymes and I still remember one of his poems: “India is great, a bit too late, but never forget”(and yes it does rhyme in his accent). He asked us if we knew why he said India is too late and oh boy… after 3 months in India I sure know why, but at the time he explained clearly that there is something called Indian time, meaning that 5 minutes in India can range from 30 to over an hour… How I hate that about India!
The dish of choice was Poha (rice flakes soaked in water), with vegetables, roasted peanuts, herbs and spices. Poha is eaten for breakfast, but we needed something fast and easy to prepare. We were all eating, besides Baba. Narugi explained that he has only eaten potato in the last 18 years, hence the name Aloo Baba. Wait… “What?! Why?”. “No particular reason, just because he is Baba” – said Narugi. Well too bad for him because he’s missing out on a delicious meal. Meanwhile, there he was, experiencing Shanti(peace), while smoking marijuana out of his chillum(Indian pipe).