It was a bit past midday. The sun had reached its zenith. We had just stopped by the side of the road outside Khuri village, where we met our guide and our camels. The guide was a young local man from the village named Anil, who will rather be referred to in this story as Maharaj. We got three camels, one female named Lakshi and two males named Disco and Michael Jackson. Disco, being apparently the weaker one, got the greatest bulk of our supplies. While the other two were to bear us together with some fewer things. We tied them all together in a caravan, the French guy rode Lakshi, I rode Micheal, everything was ready and Maharaj started ambling in front, leading the small caravan into the desert.
Micheal Jackson raised his front legs to the point of kneeling. Then lifted the back portion of his body on his two-meter-long hinder legs. And, finally, with a swift movement, leaped on all his four and started on a forward-moon-walking-like pace.
The noon in the desert was of a profoundly serene character. Only the wind, whipping the immense, flat, sandy landscape, and the occasional songs of the above-passing birds were interrupting the silence. That was so, until, a while only later, that faint, dull, metallic sound started tinkling from somewhere behind. In the beginning, I didn’t pay much attention to it, hearing it was there, behind us, but only in a musing-minded state. It was only when I took that sound for a cowbell, it approaching steadily closer, that I turned my head back. I saw that quadruped, resembling in all but size a camel and bearing an erected hair-tuft right on top of its hump, running hastily towards us. It was Lakshi’s calf, the baby camel. He was just two months old, fresh in life, but already as tall as me and quite heavier. He was to follow us for all the rest of the trip.
At about 1.30 am we stopped for lunch under the fair, relieving shade of a khejri tree (Prosopis Cineraria). We ridded the camels of their burden. Maharaj tied their front legs with rope, so reducing their strides’ length to some only 30 centimeters, and they were left to roam and graze freely. We started to work on our lunch. We collected a few stones and firewood, lit the fire and got to pick up some of the fruits and vegetables our food supplies were comprised of, while Maharaj got to knead flour, water, salt and a bit of oil into dough for chapatis.
It was an exquisite lunch and an exhilarating digesting-nap we had at that unknown piece of land within the Thar Desert. The day had progressed some good deal when Maharaj quit the comfort of the shade and set out to fetch the camels. Me, meanwhile, I decided to head for a short stroll on that dune nearby. As soon as I reached the purview by its top, I found myself confronting a small gazelle some 20 meters away. She stayed staring at me for some few seconds, till she got over her wonderment, turned around in something even less than an instance, and started bouncing briskly towards other lands.
We rode the camels and advanced some way further into the desert, till, almost by sunrise, we were standing atop that other tall dune. Besides the vast desert with its numerous other dunes, there was a tiny cattle ranch down in the valley to the east. I discerned the figure of what I soon got for a young boy advancing slowly towards our part. He came to greet and offer a bottle of milk.
After a cup of chai, made after the boy’s contribution, a fat dinner and the uplifting meditation one necessarily experiences when witnessing such a rare, unique desert sunset, it was time for bed – metaphorically of course. We laid a rug each for mattress down-sand, got yet another rug for a blanket and fell prostrated watching the boundless black sky overhead.
It was just about the time the first glimpses of dreams had started to infiltrate into my consciousness when I took one of them: a strong wind hissing furiously and blowing ample loads of sand onto my face, for not being a piece of unconscious sensation, but physical reality rather. I opened my eyes and saw a blacker than the black sky, mushroom-shaped cloud mass heading straight towards us from the east, periodically releasing its wrath in form of electrostatic discharge, diffusing the night sky with light. I had my tent with me, and that was the only tent we had. We got up, all the three of us, and, struggling a good deal against the sand-whipping wind, we managed to set it up. We then placed inside all the water-sensitive material we had and waited to get wet ourselves. The wind’s fury grew steadily stronger. The edge of the clouds passed nearly 90 degrees upon our heads. A few drops fell. And, it just by-passed us scratchingly and kept its way drawing away from us.