Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Send Off in Bikaner

One night in Bikaner I noticed a procession. It was past 9 pm and we were traveling in an autorickshaw. At the head of the procession was one man in his sixties wearing a suit and a garland of marigold. Behind him were around 30-40 men and boys of all ages. A few feet behind the men walked the ladies. One lady in the lead was also wearing a garland of flowers. About two dozen other women and girls were walking along with her. It was a relatively quiet procession with no accompanying music.

“Where are these people going?” I asked our auto-driver.
“Haj, sir. That man and his wife are going to this year's Haj. The people of their community are going up to the railway station to send them off.”

The couple would go to Delhi by the night train, and then fly to Saudi from there. I was impressed that on a workday evening so many people had felt it important enough to walk along to the railway station because two of their community elders were off to Haj.

In a world where a lot of the romance has been squeezed out from travel, it was refreshing to see some people still celebrating a journey with such pride.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Favorite Shirt

If you are the kind of person that gets attached to some of the small things you own (certain clothes or a particular pen, for example) you will understand this.

My wife pointed out that a few stitches were coming undone in my green striped Polo shirt, noticeable if one looked closely. Among my shirts, it was the one I liked the most. It had become a favorite and I took it with me on each and every trip. I knew what I had to do.

On the last day of this year’s Pushkar camel fair, I put the shirt in my daypack. In front of the Bramha temple, there were a number of people seeking alms. I hesitatingly took the shirt out the bag, because what they really wanted was money. But the elderly lady who took the shirt from me surprised me with her eagerness

Hopefully, the shirt will have a long second life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fauna in the Rajasthan desert

Being a city-raised guy, I only had stereotypical ideas of what animals there would be in the Rajasthan desert. Turned out that I was wrong about almost everything I had imagined.

First of all, there are no free ranging camels in the desert. They all seem to be spoken for and are now domesticated.

I also had no idea that there would be such an abundance of cattle (cows, buffalo, goats) everywhere we went. On a very tall sand dune, I once saw a cow seated perfectly still, looking down at us. It was surreal and looked like a PhotoShop image.

All over the desert, there are small deer that run fast. They looked like dik-dik. And I was surprised by the number of blue peacocks that were wandering about, mostly near where the humans live.

A town called Kheecan (near Falodi) has become a sanctuary for demoiselle cranes – birds that migrate down from Siberia and Central Asia to spend the winter months in Rajasthan.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Western Rajasthan Itinerary

Here’s our itinerary for the 3 weeks we spent in Western Rajasthan:

Mumbai – Mt Abu (the marble temples of Dilwara) – Ajmer – Pushkar Camel Fair (& Literary Fest) – Bikaner – Kolayat (Day trip from Bikaner) – Jaisalmer (+ 2 Day Desert safari) – Kheecan (Demoiselle cranes) – Jodhpur – Mumbai

If you have any travel questions about any of these places, just leave me a note.