Their tanned smiling faces are still etched in my memory. On my way to the Sufi Durbar in the Nagaur Fort in Rajasthan, there was a large cloud of dust, meaning only two thing in the still desert. A dust storm or an exodus. It turned out to be an exodus all right but joining the humans and their monster trucks were cud chewing cows, Arabian looking horses, scared goats and loads of haughty camels. Inspection and business were the order of the day along with some good old cattle wrangling. Buyer and sellers had arrived from all over Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and even Gujarat to bargain their way into a new herd or at least a few heads.
Mini-temporary encampments had mushroomed up everywhere and by the seventh invite to partake a meal, I realised there was a spirit of camaraderie as well. This was a expo, picnic and excursion all rolled into one nice thick, spicy aloo ki paronti. As you might have assumed, I didn't wait for the eighth invitation to tuck into the aromatic delicacies tempting my olfactory nerves.
After plenty of handshakes and sometimes forced, sometimes voluntary petting of what seems like 500 animals, I felt like I was part of this wandering group of livestock farmers. Accepted into the fold, if I may. But two days later as I passed that way again, straining to see that cloud of dust, I was disappointed to see the well behaved desert once more. Vast, arid, shrubby but completely devoid of all life. My temporary family and other animals had disappeared like a mirage.