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.
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.