Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In the desert

November 7th, 2008, Thar desert, Rajastan

We spent the day under the relentless scorch of the desert sun, moving across a scrubby landscape only softened by occasional low, undulating dunes. We visited a three-hut village where two men sheared wild-eyed sheep with ancient, rusted scissors that looked better suited for hedgerows. Women in dayglo-colored saris glittered with gold and silver thread against the sandy monochrome backdrop, brass water jugs, a pile of sticks or a sack of grain piled atop their heads. Midday, weathered men draped in white cotton dhotis, topped in brilliant orange or magenta turbans, lounged in the shade away from the grudging sun.

I love a man in a turban.

Here, girls are still sent off to their husband’s home in arranged marriages at 10 years old, maybe as old as 14. Extended families live together in stone or mud homes that remain closed up and tomb-like against the heat. It’s a hard life, with little water, scarce resources, and even now, heading into “winter”, heat waves ripple in 90-something degree heat midday. It hits 120 in the summer.

On the way back to our lodgings I lounged on my back, rocking on a camel cart beneath a canopy of stars. The sand glowed under the hanging sickle moon, bells tinkled on the dromedary's ankles, and a chill breeze brought goosebumps to my sunburned skin. I live for this.