As he drops us off at the Camel Safari, Mr. Sharma, our Rajastani guide, smiles wearily. We are spending several days in the Thar Desert in Rajastan, India, and he is charged with driving us to and from our various activities. Our hotel is near the town of Jaisalmer, formerly the massive fort dwelling of the Rajput ruler, Jaisal, and now the residence of one quarter of Jaisalmer’s population who live and work inside its substantial walls. We have spent the day exploring the town’s temples and its labyrinthian, crowded streets. We have left the clamor of town and are now ready for the anticipated calm of the desert. After our camel ride and the dinner and dancing program which follows, Mr. Sharma will have to return to collect us. It’s already been a long day for him.
“Have you ever ridden a camel, Mr. Sharma?” I ask.
“Never Madam!” he replies, and, as he escapes to the solitude of his van, the thought bubble trailing in his wake clearly reads, “You must be joking, Madam!” (More...)