Day 6 - Fair Trade India Tour April 19 2014, 0 Comments

Several of us decided to wake at 5am this morning to jump on a tuk-tuk and head to a temple on top of one of the highest mountains in the city of Barmer to watch the sun rise. We rode through the dark city streets, void of all the commotion, noise and traffic at this peaceful hour. Our only traffic jam a large group of Burma cow blocking our path on a small street, completely unimpressed with our presence. We hiked up more than 500 steps to be at the top for sunrise, listening to the sounds of mosque prayers echoing through the city below. Leaving our shoes at the entrance we walked to the top floor, an open walled covered prayer area, with marble floors, marble columns and a spectacular view of the entire city below.

                       

                       

As we looked out over the sleeping dark sleeping city, Manish pointed out the presence of one bright star shining next to a crescent moon. He explained that this is the symbol of Pakistan and now I know the inspiration. Just as the sun began to rise, Kara led us thru sun salutations and several other peaceful yoga moves as an occasional worshiper would ring a large bell in acknowledgement of the particular god of this temple. Several in our group sat quietly in the center of the open temple floor, meditating as the city below began to wake.

   

     

We decided it so peaceful and beautiful out this morning that we wanted to walk back instead of taking the tuk tuk. It was such a nice walk back in the cool air of the morning, the streets relatively empty and watching some of the shop keepers beginning to open. Manish and Devendra took us to a small sweet shop that they explained was the location they decided to launch their company, an interesting thought that this little sweet shop may be somehow responsible for the wonderful relationship between Handmade Expressions and One World Fair Trade. We all squeezed into a table at the back of the shop and they ordered several of their favorites for us to share at the table. It turned out to be a really fun breakfast of sweet and savory treats, our hosts continuing to order until everyone was completely satiated for our walk back to our hotel.

          

Just as we arrived at the hotel we were informed that authorization from local government to see our artisan group today at the Pakistan border had not come through as planned but we remained hopeful it would by tomorrow. So, with this new found free time, we had time to see the sites of downtown Barmer and do a little shopping. Our hosts had given us an invitation to a traditional Indian celebration at headquarters of SETU and the home of Devendra & Rashmi, for later this week and requested that we all wear traditional Indian dress. So with this in mind, the ladies of the group all decided this was the place to go shopping for their new outfits!

After very limited free, (aka, I haven't had any time to shop) the girls went crazy! Standing back, as the photographer for the trip, I watched as what can only be described as frenzy. It was as if truckload of tropical fish were dumped into a shark tank, bright colors swirling around bodies, hoarding, unpredictable movement and territorial behavior. Don't get me wrong, the ladies did seem to be helping each other in fashion suggestions but all the time continuing to collect and hold on to any beautiful piece of fabric just in case it worked. Rashmi, knowing the traditional clothing, helped all the ladies pick out the appropriate Saris and embellishments to take to a seamstress for custom fittings.

   

Once all the ladies were finished gorging on fabrics, colors and sparkles, the water slowly calmed and we went out for a traditional Rajasthani meal. Here, in this vast desert, water is scarce and vegetables rare. The resourcefulness of this culture is impressive as the lack of vegetables does not limit the meals. Dishes include locally grown ingredients such as millet, lentils, onions, chilies and the only greens come from a type of tree that is worshiped in this area. Very interesting as the berries and needles from this tree make a wonderful green dish of no comparison. Much of the ingredients are dried for storage. I eat a ton of Indian food at home but I have never experienced any foods like this.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped to visit a beautiful temple made entirely of white marble, still in the construction phase. We watched as craftsman sat atop bamboo scaffolding, precisely hammer and chiseling intricate designs in the marble from above, a peaceful serene sight in a desert landscape.

           

Just as we departed the temple we received notice that we were granted access to our village artisans! We then closed our evening in celebration on our rooftop for Kingfisher beers and small bites while enjoying the evening breeze overlooking downtown Barmer excited for the day ahead.