“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
About 45 km from Jaisalmer lays hidden a gem called Khuri Village, and it is the ultimate desert experience one could ask for. Life here at this village, nestled around the spectacularly silken Khuri Dunes, is a stark contrast to what city people are used to. But hey, here, the locals are full of warm-hearted zest; the peacocks roam about unafraid and it’s just damn good fun to chase after them like a little kid; and a few extremely shy gazelles give the game of hide and seek an all new fun.
Not to forget the Khuri Dunes, which may not be as popular as Sam, but they are worth it if you’re looking for a wonderfully quiet experience with your personal sand dune to sit on and have a gander at the vast, dusted but visually striking and beautiful landscape and just watch the sun go down and rise up in its full glory. Most importantly, they are not littered with herds of public or plastics & bottles, or hawkers that try to ruin your peaceful tryst with the desert.
In between all that, there was camel safari as well because, let’s face it, what fun is it if you’re in the desert and don’t ride its ship? And add to that a semi-cloaked full moon night in a desert village, traditional Rajasthani food, and a super-charged cultural folk performance; together, they give the word ‘bewitching’ a whole new meaning: Khuri.
It cried, not of thirst, not for water; it smiled, coyly, because in its bosom were mysteries concealed, deep.
With its silken patterns and barren dunes, it allures, and quenches an unsaid, unexplained thirst that they long for. The Desert, it was called.
The women of the village head on a quest to find water for the daily household chores. Well, it is not so much a quest as a routine because contrary to popular belief, water here exists at places you wouldn’t believe in your dreams. Maybe it’s just the backdrop and the topography, I don’t know.
As I said earlier, it is not half the desert experience if you haven’t ridden its ship. The one I rode was pretty gentle. Although at times it was prone to mental fits of mindless running that made me want to jump off and run in the opposite direction but fun, nonetheless. I survived, so will you.
After riding around the village for an hour or so, accompanied by a local kid named ‘Gyan’, meaning ‘Knowledge’, who, true to his name, was full of local stories, and amidst blink-and-miss glimpses of gazelles, I reached the dunes. This is what transpired thereafter.
An eager crow. A nonchalant camel. A beautiful frame. And a quote by Anatole France, which I think still stands true… “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
For this one it posed as if it were waiting for it. I asked, “Have you always been Camera Ready?” It said, “No, I have always been Camella Ready!”
Then it just laughed, blushed, went ahead and did this. I let it be by itself, and went ahead to do the same.
After I was done playing in the sand, digging a hole and failingly trying to stick my head in it, I let it go and got hold of my camera. There was something in the distance that caught my eye.
The silhouette you see is of a dhol (percussion instrument) vaadak (player) who took a long walk through the dunes to reach us and play for us. Luckily, I had noticed him and had my camera ready for that one shot and I think it came out pretty okay. What do you think?
Looking at the shot above at the time, I decided to be a little more professional with it and spend some time wandering about and capture what fancied me. Here it is. Khuri, like so many other places in Raajasthan, has quite a healthy population of Gazelles. Every now and then one would pop out out of nowhere but alas, to my disappointment, it would scram off as soon as I lifted my camera. And so it happened, unexpectedly of course. I was busy shooting this beautifully barren landscape without realising what lay before my eyes. It was only when I uploaded the picture on my laptop that I saw that I did manage to capture a pair of Gazelles in the frame. Happy!
I don’t have any words for the photograph below. So I am replacing them with a quote. “This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, and indeed in thought.” — T. E. Lawrence
The clock was now striking half past six. After the scorching heat of the late afternoon, it was an extremely pleasant time to be in the desert, on the dunes, just being. And what I had came to see all this way was finally taking place right before my eyes. The Sunset; calm as anything.
The sunset then gave way to a cool breeze and a light good enough to please the shutter and the bug. It was an altogether different, good different, experience. The Deserted Dusk, just the perfect time to have the dunes to yourself.
It was turning out to be a beautiful evening. I headed back to the guest house, but this time around decided to a take a walk. It was merely 10 min from the dunes. As soon as I reached, my host welcomed me to my seating area and thus began what I could only describe as ‘Bewitching’.
A failed attempt to motion-blur a performer (wearing a heavy-duty dress loaded with sequins) during a cultural show. Didn’t come out as I’d have wanted but here it is anyway. I call it ‘Stardust’. The food, the performances, and a full moon night, what more could one ask for? Well, what I asked for I got it: to chuck the comforts and sleep on the dunes. And my bed was arranged for the night.
Looking at the dunes shining silver under the moonlit sky, listening to the critters amidst the silence, and a creepy bug getting under the bed, sleep, however, eluded me. But needless to say, it was the best sleepless night I have ever had, and the best waking morning ever, with views like these for company.
After getting a good look at the sunrise, I headed back to the guest house. Hunger had made its call and it was heard and responded to in a lip-smacking manner: Aalu ke Parathe and Masala Chai, post which I had regained the energy to stalk the National Bird of India. Khuri Village is inhabited by peacocks. Here, they are pets and roam around as poultry, and it’s just damn good fun to chase after them like a little kid.
It was now time to bid adieu to Khuri, and head back to Jaisalmer to catch my train back to Delhi. It remains but a temporary goodbye, for I will be back in lap of its life changing solitude, wonderful people, their warm hospitality, and a fine desert experience one could ever ask for: ‘Bewitching’.