As I walk towards the camel fair ground, I have a preconceived image of the fair in the back of my mind. From what I have seen in the photos till now, visit to Pushkar is a very colorful atmosphere with decorated camels on sand dunes, tourists galore, stalls and so on.
The shops are open on both sides of this narrow road. It is around eleven in the morning and there is no rush to lure the tourists. Also, there is no sign of sand anywhere. Am I mistaken?
At a distance I see a Ferris wheel being fixed up. Oh that’s the ground! I run towards it. I hear some strange grunting sounds. Do camels sound so? I am excited. With rucksack, camera and water bottle I go in the direction where camels are parked.
My first impression on seeing the camels is a disappointment. There is only one color and different shades of it in the vicinity. Brown. There are more camels than men in this huge ground. The whole atmosphere is a little languid. Under the scorching sun I see people lazing on string cots or near their carts which serve as their temporary homes.
Walking is a bit difficult now and I realize it is sand under my feet! On enquiry I find myself standing in a camel market !
Camels are tied in a row or in a circle and fed some fodder. Some standing tall, some sitting while some other pretend to sleep! As I go near them, I find a few interesting things. By nature they are very calm animals. They don’t make a fuss about the food or the place. They chew and make faces, some cute, some unattractive.
I ask a man who tends to a camel. He turns out to be the owner and gestures me to sit on a cot nearby. He tells me what it is to come in this fair to sell a camel. For full one year they wait for these ten days where they can do any business. He has come from a tiny village in Jaisalmer and hopes to get a good return on his camel. While he asks his nephew to play Ramanta for me, he worries about the women in the family who are left behind. Except for some tourists, I have not seen a single woman till now.
Brown, brown & brown ! 😀
I notice the decoration of camels is of two types. Almost every camel has been tattooed. Henna mixed with black dye makes pretty designs and motifs on their body. Some camels are numbered as well. Few of them are groomed neatly with their hair cropped off or shaved to give a nice design. Remember Aamir Khan in Ghajini? 🙂
Hair grooming ! 😀
There is a calf numbered 386 among them, almost of my height. I try to go near it but shooed away by its mother reminding me that all mothers are same when it comes to protecting their young ones.
I walk by some shops selling all the accessories needed for decorating a camel.
Walking on sand I see a woman at a distance; the sole woman preparing chapathi (flat bread) on a stove made of bricks. Camera shy, she does not utter a word but a man hurriedly comes to her rescue. He tells me she has to feed five men of her family. Anyway this is a temporary arrangement till she goes back to her village where she has a pakka chulha.
As they say, the hot chapathi power ! 😀
At sunset, a major portion of this vast expanse becomes lively with more people than camels. The nautankiwala, bioscope wala, chai (tea) seller, women attired in colorful dresses and jewelry, photographers and tourists. The brown color is subdued by vibrancy of other colors. My initial impression of the Pushkar attractions undergoes a sea change.
Some of the camels are decorated for the tourists, mostly foreigners. The colorful saddles, halter and nose pegs and carts are attached. These camels are tame and obedient. The charges for a camel ride are exorbitantly high but after a failed attempt at bargaining nobody minds paying for it.
Night at Pushkar ! 😀
This ground is home to none. Everybody has come here for a purpose. Me too.
After soaking myself in this spectacular affair I bid adieu to Pushkar for the day to catch my bus for Ajmer where I stay. Tomorrow is yet another day on this ground when different contests for camels start.