I love October; it’s the best month of the year. Reason? There’s not just one. Not only the season of holidays, feast, shopping and festivity, it’s loved for the pleasant weather too. And four holidays in a row, that too in October, is totally a golden chance to pack your bags and run away-far off. And why I am writing this is, because this golden chance turned into visiting the long desired Golden City.
Yes, I am talking about Jaisalmer in Western Rajasthan, another boundary of India (after Kerala for me). The vast expanse of barren land with merely a few thorny bushes at intervals was something I had never seen before. So in the train only, we received our bit of induction. Reaching the city was a pleasure to see some life around, but that too-‘all golden’.
While scanning through the hotel and its roof-top restaurant, we could not resist getting city’s top view. Cool breeze flowing, even in the peak of afternoon was suggestive enough to point out the difference. Long after lunch, we set our cab ride off to the Thar Desert. The straight and clear road through the blank land, with few patches of grass and bushes was quite striking that made us stop chatting and gaze ahead. After a few kilometers, even those resorts and hotels too vanished.
Now we joined the caravan with many other people ready to get enthralled by the bumpy camel ride and local travel agents with their camel owners ready to amuse the tourists. The names they had given to their camels were funny-Michael Jackson and Aamir Khan were with us .
As the camel strode through the sand dunes, I could feel the jolts despite the cushioned seat, covered on its back. Although it was engrossing; but its effect lasted longer. The beautifully textured dunes, which keep changing their shapes everyday, formed a perfect backdrop to the setting sun, which further rendered the whole sky-all red. I wondered how many residents of Jaisalmer actually enjoy this beautiful sunset which was explicitly visible from every house, almost every day. And before we could reach back to the parking, it was all dark and cold too.
Bidding adieu to the camel, we headed on to the camp fire which was like entering a family feast. You surround a stage in a nawab style, with musicians sitting on one side, setting their instruments to bemuse the audience. Folk songs begun with ‘Padharo mhaare des’ and soon their voice filled the air around. The flexible and energetic moves and use of props like number of matkas so skillfully was totally astonishing. The tempting and delicious Rajasthani dinner (its fragrance had already aggravated our appetite)-Daal baati churma, gatte ki sabzi, bajre ki khichdi, makke ki roti marked the end to the show.
After getting thoroughly ‘Rajasthanized’, next day we went out to explore local architecture of the place, for which it is widely recognized. Wherever you turn, you can see a single color-yellow-whether there are houses, havelis, temples, or even earth-it’s all yellow. The only break in that monotony comes from green patches at intervals, the wind mills standing far off or the colorful artifacts and handicrafts by artisans flocking the narrow streets. All this was prominent enough to characterize it as another world altogether.
Courtyards, narrow streets, jharokhas were a peculiar style of architecture to beat the scorching heat and create cool interiors. One can easily figure out the water scarcity in olden times as all the construction is done in locally available yellow stone with least dependence on mortar and water. One of the haveli caretakers even explained us, how water was recycled six times before disposing it off after use. I could well imagine the scenario that might take place few years later if we keep misusing water now.
Throughout the visit, I was making inferences how Rajasthani culture and cuisines might have developed, somehow due to their scarce resources. But something worth learning is-still they are making the best out of what they have and are having an identity of their own throughout the country. While trudging through the city you can’t miss those stalls of pani puri, bhel puri, chaach, neembu pani, jaljeera, tikki and much more.
After this mesmerizing experience, boating in the nearby lake was itself a respite from the hot sun. And hence with all the lessons and experiences, fun and pleasure we bid goodbye to the beautiful city.