I must mention that waking up at 5:00 am in the morning without a mom around is Tough Work. In the train, the ‘beds’ were so uncomfortable that we couldn’t wait to get up. So it was smooth sailing there even though a little bit of can-you-get-up-already did happen. But in our hotel room, with three equally tired girls snoring away to glory on nice, soft, comfy beds, it’s really difficult being the one who takes the initiative to get up and start the day.
I wasn’t that girlMy friend was (thankfully). She switched off the alarm (after it had been snoozed 3 times in a row by me), got up and started muttering sleepily in a bid to wake up the other two sleeping beauties. Eventually of course everyone was up and ready (after many casual fights over who would use the bathroom first, second and last). Friends from other rooms dropped in to say hello or to enquire about whether we were just as late as they were. After a decent period of time though, everyone was nice and ready and in the dining room/restaurant. We had a hurried breakfast and got back onto the bus. We were off to Jaisalmer!
Bus rides are usually quite interesting, especially with so many hyper-active girls. Though the hyperness did wear off during the second half of the journey, during which everyone was either asleep with their mouths wide open or looking listlessly out of the windows at the now boring desert landscape. We reached Jaisalmer around lunch-time. Our hotel here was a bit of a let-down. It was right next to a truck tires workshop and this was somewhere near the outskirts of the city. The rooms were stinking for some reason and the bathrooms did not have any hot water. This did nothing good for 36 tired, irritated and grumpy individuals. But, the show…must go on. *sigh*
We freshened up a bit and went for lunch. Then we were told to assemble in the lobby and board the bus again. After the fiasco the day before regarding the shopping plans, none of us were sure about where we were going to go right then. So we just got on to our trusty bus and many girls promptly went to sleep again. It was only once we started moving into more arid land that many of us realised that we were going to the place called Sam Sand Dunes, a place in the Thar where a lot of enterprising individuals had decided to set up desert camps. We all knew that we were perhaps going to ride a camel and then walk amongst the sand dunes. But a lot of people hadn’t ever been on a camel before (I’d already had that
experience years ago with my cousins at Sohna Village) or walked in a desert (now this I hadn’t done) so needless to say, everyone was pretty excited once we reached. There were some 12 camels waiting right outside one of the camps (there are a lot of these camps on this particular road through the desert) and we had to catch hold of one other person to be our partner on the ride. There was a lot of nervous giggling before some people took a deep breath and went and started climbing on top of a camel. Seeing their courage, slowly everyone else began to go up to the camels and clambering onto their backs. My friend and I went up to a camel and I took the brave decision of getting on first, trying to show my friend that there was nothing to worry about. Just as I got on, I heard a scream somewhere next to me. I looked up to see a classmate hanging on for dear life from the top of a bemused camel. She’d somehow managed to fall off with one leg hooked onto the beast and the rest of her hanging from his back. Now a lot of us laughed ungraciously at this sight, but it also worked in a bad way for some people who were already quite scared about getting onto such a mode of transportation. But anyway, by and by everyone was up and we were off. My friend, who was sitting behind me, almost clawed my arm off as she clutched onto me all throughout the ride, and kept muttering stuff. She screeched out a sharp reprimand to the young boy guiding our camel when he decided we were lagging behind and should speed up and made the camel start trotting, with us bouncing on his back. In short, it was a hilarious ride. I had a whale of a time, only getting scared when the camel got up and when he sat back down because these were the times when I feared I would slide down his long neck and fall face-first into the sand. Embarrassing predicament that would have been *blush*
But I didn’t fall (Yay!) and we safely reached the actual sand dunes and my dear readers…it was beautiful. You see, we were there to watch the sunset and already the sand was bathed in the last gentle rays of the sun. The wind whipped all around us, making the sand create ripples upon itself. It was an experience I shall never forget. Our professors now decided to get onto a camel cart and go a little further into the desert. So we all followed suit and again an entourage of some 3-4 camel carts moved into the Thar. Now this had been a Good Decision. The quietness of the actual desert can only be experienced when you move further in, away form the main road. You hear only the wind, see only the sand and the sky which is flooded by the rays of the setting sun. We were all, for the first time on the trip, completely silent.
The sunset was beautiful.
It reminded me of something Anne Shirley of Green Gables once said –
“If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into the great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods, and I’d look up into the sky-up-up-up-into the lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to it’s blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”
I think I know now what she meant. I felt a prayer, sitting there in the middle of the desert watching the sun go down and slowly seeing the sand dunes turn a gorgeous orange before going back to their own colour. Eventually, as if a spell had lifted, we all got back to chatting and musing over what we’d be doing next. Before long, our camel cart had got us back to where we’d started from. We walked back from there to our camp, not wanting to get onto a camel again, because it’s tiring work and your back takes a real beating. So we slowly walked back to ‘Camp-e-Khas’, not knowing what on earth we were doing there. We went in to see that there was a sort of baithak (a floor seating arrangement) organised under the open sky. We all took our seats and were served snacks (which highly relieved a lot of people who had been predicting ominously that we weren’t going to get anything to eat till we reached the hotel, which was a good half an hour to 45 minutes away. Camel riding and walking in he desert is hungry work!). Then we heard some fabulous folk music and I at last heard the proper rendition of ‘Kesariya balam Padharo Mahre Des‘, something I’d been humming on and off ever since we’d reached Rajasthan.
After some time, two folk dancers also entered the baithak. For people who do not know, I must mention here that these folk dancers are generally males dressed in a female dancer’s costume. So a few of my classmates who didn’t know this fact, were a bit stumped when they saw the dancers, one of whom looked quite masculine (yes, the other one didn’t).
Anyway, the dancing was good…till these guys decided to start picking up people from the audience to go and dance with them. It was fun ^_^
After the performance and all, we were called in for an absolutely Rajasthani dinner, complete with Kair Sangri, Lal Maans, Gatte ki Sabzi and the works. And it was delicious of course. But I think what turned out to be food for the soul was something as simple as looking up at the night sky. For people like me, who’ve lived in cities all their lives, I assure you it was a heartbeat-skipping view. Each and every star could be seen, twinkling above our heads, some so very bright and some a little dull. We could make out a few constellations and if you’d been there at the time, you would have seen a lot of girls, all with their heads turned upwards to the heavens as we caught sight maybe of what may very well have been heaven. For the second time that same day, I felt a prayer. Because I’d never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. It was as if the heavens had opened up. I kept looking at the stars even when we were going back in the bus and that was what came in my dreams that night. A piece of heaven :)