March 10, 2006

The rain and a Khan

So it wasn't sunrise over Jaisalmer, but it was lightning the night through, and a fabulous rainbow over Fatehgarh, an hour short of Jaisalmer. We drove through Gujarat and into Rajasthan most of the night, watching the lightning orange and pink light up the ink-dark sky, shivering in the unseasonal cold for which we were unprepared, every time we got out to stretch or sip chai or fill up or pee. Somewhere north of Sanchor, the rain emptied on us. In sheets this desert region of Rajasthan could hardly ever have experienced, it came down. Fatigued from the drive and trying to stay awake and then peering through the rain, we finally pulled off the road at 330 am in the fast-asleep town of Dhorimanna, shut the windows tight and caught some sleep. Rain beating down on the car for the next three hours, traffic on the highway trickled out to nothing.

630 am, still dark, rain a little less, we got going again. Cold to our bones -- I had on a thin cotton shirt, no jacket of any kind, who'd have thought I would need it? Went to Rajasthan, says my irony-heavy driving companion, and forgot to take a raincoat! Can you believe it?

The rain slowed as the sky lightened, and by Fatehgarh we had watched the sun rise to our right over a pancaked landscape and through tingling-fresh air. And to our left, suddenly, a rainbow rose over the spare land, like a conductor's wand placing an exclamation point on the sound and light show that was staged for us through the night.

So no sunrise in Jaisalmer, but never mind. The view from our tiny hotel room high atop the walls of the fort is stunning, the muted colours of this town are strangely appealing, I wish it was cleaner, that's all. Clean like the air, clean like that rainbow.

Drove the 40-odd km to Sam, got out and walked into the huge expanse of sand dunes. Shouts behind me, I turn to find three guys on camels racing after me. Camel ride, camel ride! Leave me alone, I asked, I want to walk, I don't want a camel. But sir, how can you walk, this will be our boni, please take us. Please take my camel, says the last persistent and disconsolate fellow, following me around as I climb the sand, much of it caked from the downpour, please don't walk sir, please get on my camel!

He finally understands that I just want to walk and clamber, and turns to go, still disconsolate. (The camel looks fine). You're angry, he says to me. I'm not angry, I say, I just want to walk over these things, OK?

Anyway, I ask him, what's your name?

Dilip Khan, he says. Khuda Hafiz. And he's off, racing his camel over the dunes.


Ashish Gupta said...

Check this if you have missed it. Don't know the amount of truth, but sounds like.

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