Within the space of a month, I have succeeded with two much desired pilgrimages—the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Ajmer Shareef. I feel lucky and it feels very significant to me. How, I don't know. Just significant.
Both were good experiences, somewhat more cultural than spiritual, but good.
I was hampered in Pushkar/Ajmer by my companions. It was work, they were professional travel escorts and they couldn't help it. My weakness, I think. When I'm with people, any single other human being, no matter what their capacity—driver, guide or escort... I tune in, or try to be in a place where mutual access of thought is possible. I cannot cut them off, cut myself off from them, ruthlessly staying in my own mental space, pursuing my own train of thought. Their fault also. They were unprofessional, opinionated, pushy... and ordinary.
At the dargah, however, it was far too important for me, the haazri, and I did retreat into myself. Qawwalis were sung in one corner, another troupe sang in worship in another part. People milled around, moving into the shrine, sitting about gossiping. Around the musicians, people sat, listened, left some small notes and, when they felt like it, went away. Living music. The qawwali as it is at its core.
My guide annoyed me considerably here. 'Are they singing well?' he asked me. 'Sur mein to ga rahen hai,' I said. After all, I wasn't about to compare these singing parties to the King and his set. 'Actually,' he went on, leaning conspiratorially, 'these people are nothing more than beggars.'
It is curious though that such a holy place should be subject to such frenetic money-grabbing. 'Khwaja ki amanat Khwaja ko de do'... says one man inside the shrine imperiously, repeatedly. ख्वाजा की अमानत है क्या? सभी कुछ!
I learnt a new word— 'lapka', a tout. Lapkaism is rampant in Ajmer and Pushkar, apparently. Cars with foreigners particularly are chased on bikes, pressured to go this hotel, or that guide. I heard tell of one woman, an NRI, who came to Pushkar recently. The pujari whose hands she fell into assured her her problems were because her father's soul was tormented. One thing led to another and before she knew it she had performed a series of rituals that set her back by Rs 25,000.