The Sam sand dunes, an odd 60 kms inland from the Indo-Pak border, are a major tourist attraction, especially in the winter months where thousands throng to ride and ” navigate” across the dunes of the desert. Sam has a vast expanse of dunes and you could practically get lost here if you do not have a local to guide you around. And I soon realized that, despite me not wanting to bury an already, burdened animal called the ship of the desert, the best way to get around the desert was only on a camel back. The presence of sparse vegetation, extremities in weather and lack of proper civil habitation around mean, you are dependent on that one man and the camel he pulls along with him.
So here they were – Khan and his camel Sultan- my knight in not so shining armor and his dear animal friend. When I first saw Khan standing outside my tent with his partner in crime Sultan, the first thing that taught my eyes where there teeth. I did not know camel teeth could be so white, and I did not know chewing pan could stain your teeth so much, because Khan's teeth were a dark red.
Since Khan being overly-friendly (well everyone in Rajasthan is), I managed to convince him that I will not mount on to the camel, and would prefer to walk by its side, with Khan serving as my guide. And Khan agreed, just making a strange remark that I should later on blame him for anything. But here I was all proud of myself. Proud that I would not be troubling an animal.
My first few steps were comfortable. But soon I realized something was not. What was it? Hmmm my shoes. You do not walk in the desert with shoes. I noticed Khan and Sultan were bare foot. And anyways it was December and the sand felt cool. So I slipped out of my shoes and walked barefoot. Up and down the dunes took me. I ran gleefully like a little girl. As we navigated through the desert, the dunes just got bigger. And it just got tougher. I huffed and puffed and within twenty minutes, I was exhausted. I suddenly felt parched and dehydrated. I gulped down those precious drops of water, when Khan said, “Madam please listen to me and sit on the camel. way to go “. Panting, I saw no option. I just let my principle of not troubling an animal fly away in the cold December breeze.
From upon the hump of the camel as I stared into the vastness of the desert, I realized the truth. No one can navigate through this terrain better than the camel. I casually asked Khan at that moment what he made for a living. He replied back, “Around 8,000-10,000 during the season months between November to March. Other months I farm Jowar.
“What does Sultan do in these months?” I asked. Khan smiled and said, “He just sleeps all day and in the evenings he comes along with me to the market.
I heard Khan out that day and realized the coarse lives lived by people in such harsh terrains. I did not feel like protesting anymore. I just watched the sun set across the desert sand from the humps of the camel and hoped Khan and Sultan would someday see a better life.