A Desert Symphony

Geography, all this while has fed me intellectually. I never felt so physically observant to a land’s topography  as I did at the Thar desert that winter night. Living in the hustle of Bangalore, as traffic and smog sprawls across the city, wherein the difference between four seasons are beginning to blur, a sensual awareness of a land’s geo is either numbed or perplexed. It requires one to stay throughout the year, all four seasons, to perceive the nature of people in a community—to comprehend why they are, the way they are.

At the Thar desert, inhabitants are seemingly as enduring as desert plants, experiencing the wildly unstable monsoons and the extremes of temperature, 6°C to 50° C. The muddy water we drank, a modest variety of food we ate, a herd of goats that traveled with us in a local bus, the surrounding air that carried a distant sound of  a rajasthani folklore—I consider them all as blissful aberrations to our usual trips, taking in the spirit of the place one-stop deeper.

Our camel drivers warm up after spending a chilly winter night at the desert. The Sun rose minutes later. It appeared as if the Sun too, was warming up in the hot steam.How to train a Camel: Our camel driver and his lost and found camel.Camel Carttête-à-tête with desert sun-rise. Camels in action. Fine art nature.Silhouette of women fetching water from a well.This lost n found camel seem to have forgotten his master's instructions... The master, or the caretaker is being dragged by the youngest of all three camels, veering through the golden shroudFine art nature.Impressions of tiny creatures were seen on the dunes.They either led to a burrow or underneath the bushes. I followed these tracks in an attempt to identify a beetle or a gecko or a desert faux but no luck. The strength of mobile signals at the desert was unbelievable. But sadly, when I got to interact with children who were passersby, women who were mostly seen doing household chores, the reach of women empowerment or diversity or girl child education seems negligible. It feels like we are winning small battles here and there but losing a war.At this point, we were 50 km away from Pakistan.Sun-struck steppes. The sinuous lines left behind by a reptile (?)  was quite something to discover. Wind-sculpted dunes during twilight.Every morning women arrive at the wells to fetch water. In a land of horizons,women seem to appear from nowhere and disappear again into the vastness.Fine art nature.A Khuri village landscapeDo you believe if I say water has a caste? Fetching water from these wells are still based on caste system in Khuri village. Each caste has a separate well to use.  Men,women and children were seen cutting firewood. Oftentimes, it reminds us that life in a desert is all about survival.A shepherdess.Siblings who helped us in transit. These are not just pets but four-legged family members.A sister's care. My instant friends. These enthusiastic boys were on their way to school that morning. On seeing my camera, they flashed in a series of back-to-back poses in seconds.

December 23rd, 2015. Night. Thar Desert:

Twilight. The Sun was beginning to set. The cold wind was blustering all about us. We sat down on a dune for a desert-wine brewed out of cashews and roses. Occasional sip sent a warmth down the spine. The temperature fell close to 10°C. Our camel drivers were making rotis for dinner and the burning firewood was the only source of heat. The utensils and bowls were all washed in sand, as water was used only to drink. I could taste grains of sand in everything, probably a desert flavour. After dinner, a bed was made beside a thorny bush. I strongly felt that I will be spending the longest night of my life on a rusty dune with no tent or roof. A sheet of mist, lightened up by an upcoming full-moon, was slowly blanketing the entire landscape. I could hear the lingering sound of our camel’s bell. I was freezing to the bone, the chill was getting bitter. A next-day sun-rise was the only prayer and hope. The intake of too much wine pushed me to a state of trance. In the middle of the night, I woke up. Mustered up courage to pull down the blanket. I saw no mist. The sky was seemingly at an arm’s distance. The night sky was dense with constellations, big and bright. The moon and the stars were slowly traversing from one horizon to the other. A splendid sight. The temperature fell close to 6°C. The cold turned my fingers numb. I knew that I will have no proof of that fantabulous sight except for a memory.  I hid myself underneath the blanket and woke up to a scarlet sky, the next day. The steam from the hot tea was an elixir. The Sun caught the copper in our hairs and wrapped the mist into a golden shroud.  The moon at the opposite  horizon began to wane. The temperature gradually rose up to 14°C. I felt revived with energy. That chilly winter night taught me what it takes to physically endure a climate change. It was my first instance of having both a physical and emotional response to a land’s geography.


One Comment

  1. samuel November 4, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article. I wanted to write a litttle comment to suport you.

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