A bright sun rises stealthily from around the corner, its sacred glow glinting off the arch-shaped stone pillars as the car speeds along the dusty road. Popularly known as “The Golden City”, Jaisalmer indeed lives up to its name. The landscape is engulfed in a tryst of yellow and brown and with the sun in its mightiest form in this part of the country; everything seems to be made of gold. The buildings, the kiosks, the streetlamps and even the dust.
We fly past golden horizons, looking on, as landscapes change drastically. Posh hotels give way to traditional restaurants which further change to archaic-styled buildings. As our car swerves the last bend around one of the orange-rocked roadside structures (that seemed to be existing right since the medieval times), the desert comes sprawling into view. Little milestones stand bordering the road and marking the beginning of the Great Indian Desert that spreads out like eternity before our unbelieving eyes. We travel on, taking in the breathtaking sights of green shrubbery growing on golden forts and erupting out of cracks in walls and eagles flying around the lone desert rocks; all enveloped in a vast abode of gleaming sand.
Sam Sand Dunes, where we are headed, is a camel spot with the usual group of camelboys, hawkers, ticket-collectors, urchins and tourists caught in the sway of people swarming around the dunes. On reaching there, swirling up little dust whirlwinds, we find three camels waiting for us, along with a boy of about five who is to be our guide that afternoon. My camel walks in a lopsided stride, as if the weight of two people had suddenly turned him into a drunkard. Leaving apart the saddle which is lurching and jolting dangerously from side to side, the view from top of the humped ruminant is unimaginable.
The sand dunes are strewn about like mushrooms and even as we ride, the wind blows the old ones off and creates some new dunes in places they had never existed! It is all so transient, so dynamic. Meanwhile, the other members of our group gather in a circle to watch an artist play a plaintive note on his flute. Some other little girls dressed in colorful Ghaghara, choli and dupatta dance to a traditional Rajasthani folk song. Everything is so heightened by contrast, the solitude against the riot of music; the colors against the golden monotone…
I watch as clouds scurry overhead, casting long, crazy shadows over the stark landscape and the evening sun in the west of the sky hovers around the horizon and finally, dips into it, giving way to yet another fantastic night.
Swasti is a member of LSD. She wrote this piece on her first visit to Rajasthan.