Friday, March 12, 2010

The Thar Tales

Going to Desert in March is not a good idea. There would be extreme heat, sand storm and moreover, without a proper hotel booking during the time of Holi festival., a strict ‘no-no’ even from the “not -so-puritans” friends and relatives.
And here we are, coming back from the trip sitting at the sleeper class compartment of Jaisalmeer Express, eyes closed and the heart roaming around the tour about to finish… an amazing adventure completely different from any other adventures we have experienced so far.

The Journey:
Delhi to Jaisalmer-
Unlike most of our journeys in the recent past, when we drove to our destinations, this time we chose to travel by train. Being the only train for Jaisalmer the tourist and travelers had no options but to dare the challenge offered by The Great Indian Railway. It stops at every small station thus offering a reasonable opportunity for the office goers to communicate by an ‘express train’. At the end, a ‘wholesome’ journey… six people sitting on one berth and having nothing but ‘Pakora’ in the entire 17 hrs journey… we reached Jaisalmer.

A look at the beautiful Station and it did not take long to leave the horrible journey behind. Never seen a station like this before… small, clean, planned and every construction around is made of Golden stone… hardly anyone around except for the people who got down from the train. As others went into the waiting room to get fresh, I went around the area and to my delight there was a marvelous view of the full Jaisalmer fort beyond the station premises…one look and yes- it was Sonar Kella, indeed.       

Jaisalmer to Khuri-
After a spicy lunch at roadside dhaba near station we reached the local bus stand. It was easy to find the bus that could take us to Khuri, but it was equally puzzling to imagine how one could get into it, especially four of us with all those travel bags.  The smiling conductor and a few locals came to our rescue... how can we leave our guests standing and suffering…their simplicity and hospitality won our hearts. And there we were all smiling and chatting with fellow travelers, packed inside the little tin moving at a speed of 20 km /hr. Soon we found ourselves outside the town, bus moving at slightly higher speed through the lonely road surrounded by thar desert. More we moved inside more the green disappeared and all that was left with golden stones and sand dunes. After almost one and half hr as we fought our way out of the bus, we bid adieu to the stone cutter Narhar going to his native village for playing holi with his little brother, the middle aged Amrit from Jaisalmeer, Ramu the teenager studying in class IX in a locals school also a part time tourist guide in Jaisalmer. 

Khuri is a small village less than 100 km from Jaisalmer surrounded by desert Thar, with a population of around 2000. Badal Singh the village mukhia was himself there to receive us at Bus stand. A little walk under the scorching sun and we reached ‘Badal House’. The family, two little boys, naughty Dashrath and responsible Narshim, extremely shy daughter, and Mrs. Badal occupied in kitchen all the time, all were happy to welcome us and we immediately felt at home. The little hut made of clay and stone cooled us down along with a cold glass of water that Badal brought for us.

The Thar Desert:
Oneness with nature
A little rest at the amazing hut and off we go again… all ready for an adventure so special and full of unknown anticipation. Badal gave us three of his best men, one being his elder son, along with four camels to take us to the heart of the desert for the rest of the day and night. Riding the tall serious looking guys was never going to be easy and it proved to be little more difficult than we thought at the beginning. But in a few minutes we were in complete tune with the ships of desert.

After about twenty minutes ride through the sand dunes Narshim, one of the Camel riders stopped the Camals and pointed towards the horizon. One incredible scene of Ray’s Pather Panchali always fascinated me… the unadulterated expression of bewilderment and joy and virgin happiness of two young kids - Apu and Durga as they run to see the first moving train of their life beyond the kash forest. Today as Narshim had pointed out towards the setting Sun, all four of us might have felt a Apu and Durga in all our heart for the moment. Mesmerized by the golden ball dipping beyond the horizon of Thar and the changing colour of the sky and the sand dunes within a period of some seconds four of us stood hypnotized. 

By the time we reached our ‘spot’ right at the middle of nowhere it was dark and chilly all around… music of silence all over. Some of us lost in nature with camera, some busy with the camel riders as they gathered some dry bushes to lit the campfire and prepare food for the night and some got simply busy in doing nothing. We felt a real proud and precious to be there as, after a unique dinner of dal, bati, and mixed vegetable, we slept on the sand bed. Little fox and deer all around, their eyes glowing in the dark, cold breeze blowing, silence all over, full moon on guard and stars blessing… and you never know when you passed into the world of dream.              

“Good Morning” Narshim came smiling with bowl of hot tea. For a moment we forgot where we were. The chirping avians and colour of the dawn on the sand dunes had us spellbound. Sunrise was as splendid as sunset. After another round of exploration and photo session (not to forget delicious parathas) we took off with our camels.

 This time it was another way for going back. The journey is an unmistakable reminder of your childhood memory of Tinitin’s journey through the Sahara desert. We again spotted number of black deer on the way running playfully with a safe distance from all of us.

Being part of a very ordinary day of a very ordinary village Khuri in the heart of Thar: 
Back in Badal House we spent the entire day roaming around the village with little Dashrah. Untouched by the stroke of so called modernity, the tiny village with its simple people, kids playing on the street (besides giving us some curious looks and some sweet hellos), cattle roaming lazily as if a magic pencil have drawn them all right from a book of Tagore's poetry.

Ladies deep inside their veils and roped by the unique ornaments still managing to do their daily routines and kids playfully busy with their morning chores

It was a privilege to be a part of a very ordinary day of a very ordinary village in the heart of Thar. Excited little kids showing us their school building and classrooms, village women doing their household business shy yet curious under the veils, young girls carrying water pots on their heads, group of men chatting under the small tree, the aged grandma coming out of her hut annoyed with her daughter-in-law and the little granddaughter pursuing her to come back home, and so many of those sweet little things made our day. The rest of the afternoon we spent lazily talking to Badal and our new friends Alex and Rothem from Holland.

Evening was more eventful than we thought. There was a local program of folk songs and dance. Time ran in the little village and as we came back after the little too loud event at around 10 pm the dinner were all ready. None of us wanted the day to end…and that lead us to the roof of Badal House for a long after-dinner chat session, Alex and Rothem joined us and the full moon kept smiling.   

Jaisalmer Fort:
The next day was the day of holi also the day of our saying alvida to Khuri. Badal had arranged an efficient Cab driver to help us reach Jaisalmer. Efficient was he indeed and how he drove his little tank all over the temporary road blocks made to stop cars by the locals to fetch some cash in the name of Holi. After a one hr horrendous journey we reach Jaisalmer fort and got down at sonar kella.
The “only living Fort in the world’, Jaisalmer fort was all the more alive with both locals and Tourists playing festival of colors with full vigor.
How we wished we could also be a part of the great celebration. But we had to come back to the Jaisalmer station to catch our train by the evening. The Station Master Mr. Vinod Sharma from UP, missing his family on the day of Holi, was kind enough to allow us to use the retiring room to get fresh and equipped to face the Great Jaisalmer Express all over again.  

Best time to visit - Sept to Feb
Essentials to carry - A jacket (nights are really cold), a torch (if you plan to stay out in the desert at night as we did), and some eatables


Unknown said...

the land of 'shonar kella' :) great adventure.

RegularExpression said...

Nice description. I felt like I also traveled with you as I went along the text. And thanks for the Camel's close up, anyway...

Unknown said...

No doubt, it is very good description and very cocise. I feel I need to go and visit these places. It is always amazing to see how different are people on those places compare to people in city.

Shailza Sood Dasgupta said...

@ Sankarshan - Yeah one of the best I have had till now
@ Expression - The Camel's face was much like the description you gave ;). Would love to travel with you guys :)
@ Amit - Yeah simple happy living, an uncomplicated life with limited expectations. formula for happiness I would say :)

Unknown said...

bhabhie great too see that u stayed in the desert,did camel riding,bonfire etc and at merely 2000 bucks..keep it up and u r the right candidate for the post of finance minister..jai hind..

manas.nandi said...

Very nicely captured.regretting why i missed such a lovely trip.

Shailza Sood Dasgupta said...

@ Agni and Manas - Ab to kabhi trip ke liye na karne ki galti nahi karoge na!?!
Love to travel with you guys, sachi :)

PradhanAbhishekCVG said...

Nice one ji...I liked it..

Unknown said...

who will allow us to travel without spending a single penny and taking any responsibility hence we are more eager to travel with u all..sachi bolu bhabhiesaa aap na le jaoge toh hum kattha javenge..

Shailza Sood Dasgupta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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