Warm hearted people, cuisine prepared in desi ghee (clarified butter) and inner peace, is the least that I can write from my rural diaries of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
A road trip from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer marked the beginning of this 3-day rural immersion programme organized by Agrasar Foundation which promotes travelling and socialism with an objective to create social leaders in the long run.
On our way to Jaisalmer, we spotted different species of birds, stray camels and cattle. We interacted with hard working women who were engrossed in their road construction work. While we could barely stand the scorching heat on the road (the temperature was about 50°c), these women were relentlessly working. The MGNREGA scheme of the government (rural employment guarantee scheme) pays them Rs. 100 per day for 100 days in a year.
To beat the heat, the nature has blessed the desert with Meetha Jaal (Salvadora oleoides), a sweet grape-like fruit which occurs widely in western Rajasthan and is commonly known as ‘Peelu’. The taste of this succulent sweet Peelu (to be eaten without seed) induced craving which made us pluck a bunch of it.
On reaching Jaisalmer, the staff of beautiful Hotel Rang Mahal welcomed us with chilled Rooh Afza (sweet rose flavored cooler drink) which geared everyone for the Heritage tour of Jaisalmer.
The gigantic 860-year-old Jaisalmer Fort is the only living fort in India and is made of yellow sand stone which shines magnificently like gold. This invincible fort is assembled using sand stone dust. About 5,000 people still reside in this fort making it one of its kind.
A short walk from the Fort will take you to Gadsisar Lake. The beautiful colours of sunset can be caught at this historic rainwater lake while you row or paddle the boat admiring Hindu architecture umbrellas in the middle of the lake.
A few kilometres away are ruins of an abandoned village in Kuldhara which is known to be haunted. 200 years ago, people of Kuldhara cursed and vacated the village leaving it with uncanny silence today. While we did not sense any paranormal activity during the day, the architecture and ruins kept us engaged throughout. The blood-red hand prints on the ceiling of the temple at Kuldhara surely sends shivers down the spine.
Khaba Fort, which overlooks Kuldhara, is a twin village and the aerial view of Kuldhara from this Fort will compel you to unravel the mystery of these abandoned places. You may consider interacting with people of Soda community in Khaba village consisting of 60 houses which belongs to the same lineage.
Within Kuldhara complex, one can find Jurassic Cactus Park where variety of Cactus plants are grown and maintained. And visit to Jaisalmer is complete only after you pay your salutations to War Museum which preserves the heritage of Indian Army and glorifies the wars fought in 1947-48, 1965 and 1999 (Kargil).
The beautiful colours of sunset blend in the Thar Desert while the blowing sand plays with you, an experience which cannot be described in words. Do experience the joy of lying on sand dunes or rolling down the dunes, if you are more adventurous.
After the bumpy camel ride on the sand dunes, we, the audience, enjoyed the folk dance in the starry night resting our back on the cylindrical pillows arranged on mattresses on a circular ground. The folk performances concluded and the deserted silent ground became perfect for stargazing. We stargazed till our eyes shut gazing the moon lighting the desert.
Being Urbanites, we often think of how we can improve life of Ruralites. We assume ourselves to be smarter and better than Ruralites and that’s when we stop learning about their life. This rural experience made me realize that there is so much that we can learn from them and in ways we have not really imagined. And without us realizing, every experience, each person we meet, adds meaning to our life and makes us a different person.