Desert, until recently, was a closed book to me. And so were camels. It all came down for an experience. It was the time to get going. On a sweltering day in the Thar desert, camel
safari became an ideal answer to a maiden’s prayer: the ride was all about knowing camels and the desert, even as the real intention was, I should admit, to avoid walking and escape from the baking heat.
The bright and brittle dunes were pretty appealing for a walk. Likewise, one gamely longed to tread on those beautiful, serpentine trails full of golden sand, among the desert shrubs and bushes, heading in all directions.
Conversely, the boiling heat poured cold water on our wishes to explore the wilderness on trek. The well-decorated camels, therefore, stood for a thrilling alternative.
My cameleer was an innocently curious schoolboy. The chat with him during the camel ride was packed with fun, making me forget both the camel and the desert. To make me happy, he would do the needful to speed up his camel, and I felt sorry for the poor beast. ‘Please, let’s go for an easy ride!” I told him.
He said, “You may be thinking that the camels get tired,” (well, he had precisely read my mind), adding, ‘They never do. They can even reach New Delhi in one day!” (Well, that’s more than 1000 km away!). “And do you know where New Delhi is,” I asked him. “It’s in India, so it should not be that far from here!”
A momentary pause and pat came a query. “Where are your friends from?” he asked curiously. “From France,” I replied almost mechanically.
“Is France near Kashmir?”, thus thundered the most unexpected question. I broke — not derisively, of course — into peals of laughter and he stared at me inquisitively and rattled off, “If France is anywhere near Kashmir, then my father should have seen it. He often goes to Kashmir”.
Children’s idea of the world or of geography, visibly, is fascinating. My idea of going to the Thar desert was all about exploring one kind of vastness of Mother Earth. But the ‘vastness’ of beauty in the little cameleer’s innocence was as vast as the Thar desert itself. And, of course, what one looked all around seemed even vaster, from a camel’s lofty back!