Oasis of Tranquility

Sai greets you with an impeccable smile of a chance rendezvous with a long lost friend. Before you tread the unknown ambiguous path of introductions the people who know the meaning of maxim “atithi devo bhav” very well, have already spread a bed with a homemade quilt on it for you to sit and a jug of cool water ready at your service. That’s how the pastoralist community (be it Hindu/Muslim) in the extreme western end of Rajasthan are.
The area mainly dominated by the Rajput communities has a good number of populations of Muslim pastoralists too. The age-old nomadic lifestyle of people actually makes them oblivious of their ancestry and hence asking them if their forefathers were on left or right side of fence is irrelevant.
They have small but cozy huts amidst or at the top of tibba/ochre as they call sand dunes. Their hut is basically made of a local shrub leaves called kheep and base is of khejri tree logs. It tempts me to ask that does it get blown away by the common sandstorms in the area which is answered by a burst of laughter (most probably at my naivety rather on me). The settlement is mostly named after the head of the family or a well nearby. Locally called Dhaanis, these settlements could be of just one family or exceeding up to 30 or so. My archaic questions, regarding the number of members in the family or vehicle or land holdings of the family get best answer by their confused expressions. Then I understood that I Me Mine is obsolete in these areas because comparatively We, Us and Ours have deep root in their culture.
The huts are quite clean where opposite to entrance they have positioned a wooden table on which a number of homemade quilts neatly folded are arranged. The rest of the hut is mostly bare with occasional pakhara (seat for camel ride), few tin boxes under the table to keep some valuables or personal stuffs. The floor of the hut is of cool sand which is sieved in the morning as the livestock which is integral part of the households leave their droppings all over the place. The surrounding of hut looks like a menagerie as one can witness many animals besides the livestock (like Egyptian vultures, camels, desert monitor, Gerbils, and many reptiles) which can be a delight to any wildlife lover.
In spite of the sandy floor being impeccably clean, none of them will ever allow you to sit on it. They will seat you on a cot and themselves on floor. One very amusing thing was that if you ask them about number of livestock they say “ghaner” i.e. many; but that’s another thing that if you ask them number of “taabar” i.e. children then also the answer remains same.
For their livestock identification a particular marking for each household is made on animal to winnow them from the other household livestock. Even though the owner cannot put exact figure of livestock he possesses, but even if one strays he comes to know. But it’s a relaxed attitude if any animal is not found as they don’t go for lodging a police complaint. Whosoever finds it brings it to the household in exchange for a cup of tea and pleasantries. Sometimes I felt police station is not even required in the area.
The kids are quite inquisitive. Most of them are deprived of basic education and are oblivious of its importance. The kids do know the etiquettes bestowed to them by their parents. I was very impressed when one child grabbed the empty glass before his father could pour some tea into it and brought it back after washing it. I thought of capturing the smile of these kids in my camera but when asked for permission they would refuse and run away, once you manage to take a shot and show them then they all would be very enthusiastic to have photos in their clean kurta. Most of the girls were unapproachable. Beautiful as they were but their shyness enhanced their enigmatic personality and not a bit of rudeness was reflected. The girls literally did most of the household chores, keeping the house clean, taking care of kitchen and younger siblings, bringing water; taking care of livestock etc. In their spare time they help their mother in knitting “kanjari” which is characteristic handicraft of the Rajad Muslim women. Besides this embroidery they make quilt called “ralli”. This talent is not a big deal because they use it for personal usage and have no inkling that these handicraftscan actually fetch thousands.
The men of the house would be the ones who come forth to talk. None inhibitions whatsoever were seen on the women but their hesitant attitude I concluded was due to the fact that they converse in local dialect (Sindhi) which is quite difficult to pick. The children also showed the enthusiasm to interact but their reservation due to language could not possibly bridge the gap of communication.
The secessionists Dhaanis are probably major reason for the high illiteracy rate in the region. Government keen measures to bring the basic education to the doorstep of these people are slowly but hopefully progressing. Despite of the Government’s continuous efforts, the days seem a bit far when the autochthonous community has access to all the basic commodities that the rest of the nationals are availing.
The people are very contended with the lifestyle they have so adjusted for ages. Living in such harsh conditions the only concern at times they have (not complain) is about the rainfall. Unlike their urban and semi-urban counterparts, the smiles never evade their faces and the tranquility persists despite all the trouble.
bed for visitorhut of a nomad

kajarikid

ready for photoshootsmile to greet

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