“Walking along with the people I met, Calvin from England, Riva and Shelly from India, and more the day was a potpourri of the Rajasthani culture pouring and spraying out from the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, fort walls and cuisine. Little talks and more on selves, it was a mixed day for me. Seeing off Calvin… admiring the European beauties in the midst of desert dusts… and a rendezvous that I felt more like a friendship… are now in my Jaisalmer memories from day two.”
Jaisalmer memories from day two
“Pushkar Project…” she replied.
I discovered that there is a whole lot difference between Indians and India. Still the remote villages, even topping as tourist destinations in India, are still in dark… are still living naked… are still seeking for words to communicate… and are still starving. That’s India? Or is it because for some of the Indians who differentiate the class of people? We, the educated people of India often taunt the international tourists who look for to capture the poor side of India BUT we forget that there are some people among them who end up as a philanthropist.
I acquainted a Danish girl on this very day who visited India last to last year and thereafter she became a part of my motherland. After being with her two days I came to know that the beautiful Danish girl is in love with my country. She started to educate the children of Pushkar free of cost. Pushkar, which is one of the renowned Hindu pilgrimage destinations in India and frequented by thousands of tourists every year… especially during the Pushkar Camel Fair, is still one of the backward villages in India. Today, she currently runs the Pushkar Project by inaugurating a school that is brushing up fifteen children. School is a big word right now… so it’s better to say a “pathshala”. In the midst of the royal colours of Rajasthan, Pushkar is a harsh truth of life. Hats off to the Danish girl!
‘Shit! I got a blocked nose’, I cried out myself when I woke up. One of the porters brought me a glass of bed tea and I kept wondering that whether I had my dinner last night or not. Once again I was in a disagreeable state of continuous and profound contemplation on a subject of an abstruse nature… “Meditating in hangover”. It usually happens to me and so it fell upon me that morning too. I could still smell the taste of rum that seemed to remain like dribs in my mouth. I promised myself that I won’t touch liquor further on this trip.
‘Hey… Rik! Good morning!’
‘Hi. Good morning. Calvin? Are you having a hangover?’ I asked.
‘No, Nothing like that,’ he replied.
‘… I see, but I’m having a bad headache…’
‘…oh! You got a blocked nose too!’
‘Yup but at least I thank Old Monk that it protected me from catching fever.’ That was a kind of relief to me after spending the whole night under the open sky… cold and breezy. My bed that was set over the sand was actually half covered by sand by the morning. I was breathing sand, eating sand and drinking sand. Even my pockets were filled with sand… although I was covered with three blankets whole night.
Riva and Shelly were having breakfast BUT my stomach seemed filled, burping rum. I was still recollecting that whether I had my dinner last night or not and this thought occupied me for further ten minutes till I burped once again that smelt out like some kind of stinking leeks. May be that was the result of the mixture of rum and dinner… if I had. But somehow I felt good.
‘What’s the plan for the day?’ Riva asked Calvin.
‘I’ll be leaving for New Delhi this evening…’ Calvin replied.
‘Hey… why don’t we go straight to the stadium? I don’t want to miss the tug of war competition.’ Shelly suggested.
‘Ya… we came here for this tug of war specially…’ Riva added.
‘What is this tug of war? And what’s going in the stadium?’ Calvin asked.
‘Not again…’ I cried out once again when the porters were packing the beddings and loading them on the camels.
‘… yaar… abhi tak kal ka dard gaya nehi… ki aaj subeh phir se bumpy bumpy khelna padega iin Raju Jackson’o ke saath… (… dude… yet to recover from the backache after such a ride yesterday… again now we are getting ready for another bumpy ride on Raju and Jackson…)’, Shelly roused to aggravation.
‘… areye madam koi nehi… iis bar shortcut le lenge taki oot ki yatra kam samaye mai ho jaye… (It’s ok madam. This time we will take the short cut so that it reduces the camel safari time.)’, one of the porters clarified.
‘Toh iis bar kaha se chalengey hum log?’ Riva asked to one of the porters.
The camel safari till we got on to our jeep… took half an hour less but that was more dangerous. The route was like a thorn in our journey, passing through burred bushes and high sand dunes. I was still meditating in my hangover with eyes popped out, hairs that seemed like spines and body that was literally boogieing with each step the camel forwarded. ‘Horrible.’
[The Camel Safari. Photo Courtesy @ Calvin Davies]
Tired but four of us were still looking forward to fight another battle. We reached the Saheed Poonam Stadium in Jaisalmer city at around 11. At the gate there were two policemen and just at the entrance there was the “lavatory on wheels”, which was not moving then. (I mean a vehicular toilet that was fixed temporarily and “lavatory on wheels” is a creative name that came from “palace on wheels”.) But the lavatory at that time was more than a palace for us. I don’t know about Riva, Shelly and Calvin… but the throne inside the palace was worth dropping off dumps. I got back to my devil-may-care state and the morning heat slowly melted the ice that was blocking my nostrils. I took a deep breath. That was a relief and right away it steered me to act on track. “PHEW”.
The stadium, which looked like can occupy approximately 500 spectators, was filled with thousands that day including locals, domestic tourists, international tourists, Border Security Force personnel and their family members, VIPs like ministers, tour operators, media personnel and food pedalers. The stand was further extended with fabricated structures made of bamboo spars for seating arrangements and the events were organized in the field that was surrounded by a railing made out of bamboos. There was a separate seating arrangement made for the foreign nationals in front of the main stand and hence we were lucky enough to warm our back in the midst of various countrymen and women. “Thank you Calvin”.
[The Saheed Poonam Stadium, Jaisalmer, Desert Festival 2014]
Thousands buzzed when the announcement of the winner of the Camel Decoration Competition was made. Unfortunately we missed that starting but once again we were lucky as that was the first event. So we had in our pocket the tug of war competition between the Indian women and foreign women, camel polo, matka phod and camel race.
Slowly three ornamented camels came in front of the gallery. Locally this event is known as “mirakah”. The camels were heavily decorated with multi-coloured textiles, including mori, gorband, kantmal, loom, parchi, pilan, tang, mod, payal, ghooghra and poonch bandhani etc., which were covering their humps and whole body and hanging down to knee level. The VIP handed over a certificate and price money to the winner. [Below, in this picture the one on your right hand is the winner of the Camel Decoration Competition at the Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014.
[Camel Decoration Competition at the Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014]
‘Tug of war kab hoga?’ Riva asked Shelly. They sounded as if both are going to pull the whole world within the Indian border.
‘What’s this tug of war competition?’ Calvin asked once again.
‘It is a game of two teams of eight to eleven that marks the strength of both the teams against each other by pulling a rope. The team that pulls the other to their side wins the game,’ Shelly briefed.
‘The next competition is the Tug of War. We have already received the names of foreign women. Indian women those who wants to participate in the Tug of War competition… please enroll their names.’ The announcement was finally made and Riva and Shelly hurried up to enroll their names. I looked at Calvin and expressed, ‘what do you think… who is going to win?’
‘No idea…’ Calvin said keeping his cute smile intact.
‘Hey all the best…’ Calvin and I hoped for the best for Riva and Shelly.
Both the teams got ready and I zoomed my video mainly focusing Riva and Shelly and two beautiful blondes from the foreign women team. That was a terrible reel captured. Out in the stadium it was hilarious and in the field I could imagine how hard it was. The beauties who never tried to play with needle and thread at home were straight away given the task to pull eleven with a rope using their strength. [Let’s see what the below video says.]
[Participation of Riva and Shelly in Tug of War Competition, Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014]
‘Damn! Losers!’ What else I can say.
Followed by the tug of war competition was the ‘matka phod’ race. My eyes fell upon another beautiful woman… wearing a blue coloured tunic, tight fit jeans that formed each and every curve of her legs and hip. ‘Did she notice me?’ For once I thought she saw me when I was shooting her BUT alas! She was busy posing for snaps to the media personnel. I controlled my emotions but she came close to the gallery and I regained my feelings once again. This time I was more civilized and admired her beautiful face. ‘Gawd! She is one of the prettiest ladies I have ever seen… she is even beyond Hollywood.’ Things apart… I concentrated on the ‘matka phod’ race that was about to start. The ‘matkas’ (earthen pots) were filled with water and were arrayed in a straight line. There was a distance of approximately 10 feet between each pot. One of the staffs demoed the participants on how to deal with the race. There was a hilarious commentary in the air as the final whistle blew and the participants raced to pick up their ‘matkas’… there went one ‘phod’… two… Aah! Another beauty wins. [Let’s see what the video plays.]
[Matka Phod Race, Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014]
In the meantime before the Camel Polo between the BSF and Camel Polo Association of India, I shot a short interview of Calvin, Riva and Shelly on their experience on Jaisalmer Desert Festival. Let’s take heed on the air from the below video.
[Riva, Shelly and Calvin on Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014]
By the time the Camel Polo was started and it fetched lot of eyeballs. People must have seen polo playing on horseback. But when it comes to desert festival, camels take the centre-stage as witnessed in Jaisalmer. During the ongoing desert festival at Jaisalmer, camel polo is one of the awaiting moments. [Below here is a shot of the Camel Polo betweeb BSF and CPAI]
[Camel Polo, Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014]
It was going to be 1.30 in the afternoon when the Camel Race competition was announced. Riva, Shelly, Calvin and I went to look for some food. Calvin was trying out ‘bhelpuri’ for the first time… which he really slurped. I was having ‘phuchka’ (panipuri or golgappe). We headed to the bamboo fence to cover the Camel Race as the final announcement was made. [Below is the video of the camel race]
[Camel Race, Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2014]
That was it on Jaisalmer Desert Festival from the Saheed Poonam Stadium. Thereafter we headed to our respective hotels, Calvin came along with me.
I went for an awaited cold water shower to cleanse the sand and dusts accumulated from Dundee to Saheed Poonam Stadium. Calvin went out for a leisure walk within the fort city. The time was cutting and running to tick to 5 pm… ‘I mean what’s there to hurry? It’s still 3.30 and Calvin has got plenty of time to board the train back to New Delhi.’ It was hard to believe that the guy was about to leave and the last thing that I could offer him after Indian rum… is a pure Indian delicacy. Rajasthani Thali knocked my mind and I decided that the English tongue should slurp the best of little India he travelled and burp its taste in England.
Calvin came near the square where I was waiting for him to go for lunch. I made up my mind that to offer him Rajasthani Thali and hence I was looking for some good rooftop restaurants outside the fort city. We stepped into a restaurant that overlooks the lake. The ambiance was quite friendly… having a thatched area with floored seating arrangement and square tamburil coffee tables and an open space that maintained four tables. The cornered two were already occupied by some European group and once again … BUT TWO at the same time… I felt my heart pounding for them. I kept staring at the two pretty ladies. One of them was wearing a traditional Rajasthani Kurti and tied a “dupatta” around her head like a turban and the other one was wearing a black kurti and black shade… it was simply glowing vividly over her blonde skin. My eyeballs were stuck at both of them but were kicked by the words of Calvin when he asked, ‘So… what are we going to order Rik?’
‘One Rajasthani Thali, Sahi Paneer and 2 butter nun… one beer…’ I suggested and he accepted and placed the order and within a micro-second my eyes were back to the European smiles.
‘Calvin… I think I like those two ladies…’
[An European group at the restaurant]
‘Both… one sitting in that corner and the one in the other corner…’
The way Calvin turned around to see the ladies I affirmed myself that Calvin too is good lady watcher.
‘Calvin… in England…does guys stares at pretty girls like I’m staring…’ I asked and laughed out.
‘Oh Ya… we do a lot… but we also respect women…’
‘Ok. Here also we respect women but when it comes to shoot the arrow to the prettiest… I don’t know how our mind plays.’
Calvin and I had a comical time and in the mean time the waiter served us the beer and after few minutes he came with the Rajasthani Thali and Paneer and Nun.
‘Wow! This is huge and looks spicy…’ Calvin remarked.
‘Just try it and don’t leave anything.’
‘What’s this?’ He asked pointing out the sweet in his thali.
‘That’s rajbhog… it’s yummy… have that after you are done with your food.’
We concentrated on our lunch and at the same time I was continuously tossing on the two pretty ladies. Alas! They left soon.
[Calvin having Rajasthani Thali]
The Rajasthani Thali turned heavy, spicy and tasty for Calvin and my decision was perfect. He even liked the ‘rajbhog’. Calvin has a hobby of collecting coins and I was having some coins of Canada, Japan and Australia. I gave one from my collection of Canadian coins and in return he gave me a sticker of David Beckham. The hours he walked with me in Jaisalmer city, he was always asking me what to buy for his girlfriend… but fortunately none of us couldn’t make our mind and I told him, ‘it’s better you buy something from New Delhi.’ I hope he did.
It was a nice time with Calvin in Jaisalmer.
After seeing off Calvin for the Jaisalmer railway station I thought that I would have to travel alone. But there again… returning back to Shiva Café I encountered a pretty young blonde girl sitting close to the reception desk… wearing a white tee and cotton trouser. Beside her was an Indian guy who was sitting on the stairs. I took a chance to grab this opportunity to get introduced. I sat down near the reception desk and ordered a cup of black tea. ‘Thank God… the guy from the Shiva Café also asked the girl for tea…’. That might have killed lot of time for them but to me I was utilizing the right way. This time I got smarter after spending some good hours with Calvin.
‘Hi… it seemed you just arrived.’ I inquired looking at the girl.
She faintly replied, ‘yes…’ and started to look at her cell phone. But still I didn’t lose any hope.
‘Where are you from?’
‘Denmark. And you?’
‘I stay in New Delhi but belong from Kolkata. I’m Indian.’
‘Ok… so for how many days you are here in Jaisalmer?’
‘Ah! I came yesterday. Actually I went for the camel safari and overnight camping and thereafter the Jaisalmer Desert Festival at the Saheed Poonam Stadium this morning.’
‘Where are you guys coming from now?’ I looked at the Indian guy who was staring at me.
‘Pushkar…’ he replied.
‘How was the safari?’ The Danish girl asked me.
‘That was really adventurous. I was accompanied by an English guy, Calvin, and two Indian ladies, Riva and Shelly. We went to that Dundee Dunes via Kuldhara… what are you guys are planning for the day?’
‘Aa… we are thinking to go to the sunset point. I’m waiting for another friend of mine. Then will leave.’ She replied.
After a moment pause I asked them politely, ‘may I join you guys?’
‘Oo… sure… what’s your name by the way?’
‘Rik,’ I skipped the “Swai” part from my name straightaway and continued, ‘yours?’
‘… and your name?’ I asked looking at the Indian guy.
After having our tea we headed for the sunset point, which was approximately 10 minutes of walk from the Jaisalmer Fort. Trine, Jeetu and I were accompanied by William, who is a friend of Trine and belongs from Karlskrona, Sweden. William is in Jaisalmer for approximately last three to four months and is well acquainted with all the alleys inside the Jaisalmer fort as well as the city outside the fort. I don’t know what he is doing exactly for such a long duration in Jaisalmer but he finds India an adorable country. Bit of talks on our way and we reached to the sunset point, which is situated atop a small hill, wherefrom one can get a broader view of the Jaisalmer Fort.
[Trine and Jeetu]
‘What’s the plan after this?’ Trine asked, looking at me and William.
‘I don’t know… I would like to have rum…’ I replied.
‘I might go to the cultural dance show…’ William said.
‘I see…where is it? I asked and continued, ‘then we will also join. I heard it’s very nice.’
‘If it’s within the city then Jeetu and I are in.’ Trine confirmed.
‘I don’t know exactly where it is going to held… I need to ask someone.’ William clarified.
By the time the sun at the western sky started to change its colour…slowly and slowly. There were few patches of clouds BUT that gave me a different CLICK in my camera other than the usual sunset clicks. We waited for the cherry red bowel and the chromatic horizon… the final click of the day.
[Broader view of Jaisalmer Fort from Sunset Point]
[Sunset from Sunset point in Jaisalmer]
Thereafter we were actually heading for the cultural dance but William and I couldn’t map out the direction even after asking couple of confused passerbys. Ultimately we landed up at William’s guest house rooftop restaurant from where I captured a lighted view of the Jaisalmer city under the moonlit sky. That was one of my best views and to me it seemed more beautiful than the sunset. On the way we bought a bottle of rum, which was equally divided to Trine, Jeetu and I.
[Jaisalmer city at night]
‘Let’s order our dinner.’ Jeetu suggested. I wondered whether he suggested or not but he actually ordered without even asking… two thalis for himself and me and one noodles for Trine.
‘So… what are you doing in Pushkar?’ I asked Trine and poured my second peg.
‘“Pushkar Project…” she replied.
[Statutory Warning: This article does not promote any kind of alcoholic beverages and smoking. It is solely presented as an experience from author’s end. Consumption of alcohol and smoking is injurious to health.]