Thursday, March 25, 2010


There is a funny thing. We all love success and enjoy it the most. We love the thought of overcoming obstacles and proving to ourselves and to the world that “Yes! I can do it”. The mere thought of achieving great heights gets our adrenaline pumping and our hearts full of zeal. We foresee the happiness and the position we’ll give ourselves with such success.

It can be imagining ourselves as a successful businessman or envisioning ourselves clearing one of the toughest exams in India (we have plenty of options in this case). Haven’t we all had the thought of oneself winning the match off the last ball? Almost all of us guys at least have seen this as a dream. The women may see themselves as doing something that shows the whole world that they are as strong, if not stronger, as the men. They may see themselves in power, be it at home or in office, being successful in whatever they do.

Yet sometimes, the thought of the fear of losing overpowers our thought of winning. “What will happen if I lose?”

“There will be so many eyes watching me. So many people with so many expectations and they all see me fail. I can’t disappoint them. I cant do it. I’m out of the game.”

This thought has crept into our minds sometime or the other, even mine. So what do we do, move out of the game? The answer is ABSOLUTE NO! Only a weak and timid person would do that. Sure there will be too many eyes on you. But that means you have a chance of proving yourself to too many of them.

And it won’t even be the first time you fail or the last one.
We have failed many
times, although we don't remember. We fell down the first time we tried to walk. We almost drowned the first time we tried to swim. Don't worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I began my Camel ride into the desert after a drive of 50km from the city of Jaisalmer. We were four tourists – me, Amedeo and two really old Germans – Christian and Heinz. There is nothing much, in fact nothing at all that you will see on your way to the dunes of Thar from the city. All you can do is ponder over the vastness of the barren lands that come en route. Also you won’t even blink your eyes considering the speed of the Mahindra Jeep even when there is vehicle from the opposite direction on the thin one lane road. The driver – Babu Singh Ji, proud of his skills, giving a twist to his big black moustache every time the two Germans in their late 60s squeal because of his fearsome driving.

As we reached the beginning of the sand dunes in the desert after about an hour’s drive, our hauling vehicle changed to a Camel-the ship of the desert. So two Camel-men: Narender Singh and Amey Singh took us on four Camels; late in the afternoon at about 4pm. Narender was 18 years old while Amey, just 13 was just starting his career as a Camel-man.

We started our journey on Camel backs riding through the barren lands and cactus plants. After about an hour of ride on the hump, we were crossing a small village called TEJ SIYA of about 40-50 people and decided to take a break.

The people of the village, like most others in and around Jaisalmer, were pretty used to seeing tourists. As we entered the small village, we could see that it only had mud houses and the most wealthy owned 3-5 goats but no camels. But still the big-hearted people find just enough to feed the stray dogs or make them their pets.

The ladies in the diminutive village invited us in their petite mud homes, with no electricity, for tea or coffee, mostly in the expectation that the foreign tourists would give them some sort of “inaam”. This was one of the only sources of income for some of them as about 20-25 foreign tourists visit the place each day!

As the awe-faced foreign tourists clicked the miseries of these poor people’s lives, suddenly a dozen small kids came running towards us with GULAL in their hands shouting “HOLI HAI”.

While I and Amedeo accepted their love with smiling cheeks now covered pink, the two old Germans were frightened of the infection all this could cause. The brood loved talking to us and asked for chocolates as and when they could find a chance to. The smiles on their faces grew with each photograph I took with them but went down whenever I told them I had no chocolates. So I took out the only packet of Lays I had and distributed to each one of them; much like Prasad in a temple but much to their delight.

The kids felt overjoyed and my fellow Germans looked even more confused. A picture to remember the beautiful moments of talking, clicking, eating, laughing and Holi I had spent with them made my day. The feeling that one got in that village cannot be explained in words. We soon bid farewell to them and continued on our Camels into the desert.

Kids (including me) at the Tej Siya Village

Soon after watching the sunset, we settled onto a nice comfortable sand dune and built a night fire. Lying down on the mattress that our Camels carried for us and looking at the full moon going up, Christian sat next to me, all confused and mystified by the colours of Rajasthan and beauty of the desert at night.

“I love India” said Christian

“So do I.” I said smiling at him

“But I don’t understand this place. In Germany people are so rich. We have all the money and comfort we need. India has nothing. These people are so poor. Yet, these people are always smiling. In Germany, people are always complaining and crying. They are not as happy as these pitiable people. Why?” Christian asked as the Camel-men started cooking food for us.

“I have no clue. Indians are content I guess. The poor, especially here, have accepted their fate and remain happy with whatever they get. And also, they thank god each day for whatever little He has given them.” I replied without any conviction myself.

“I love this place, India.. Indiaa” Christian continued, lost as old people often get.

“Pooch raha hai tum log itna khush kaise rehte ho, bina paise ke?” I translated to Narender as he started cooking some Rice for us.

“Aur hamare paas choice kya hai? Ye hamara Camel lenge agar hum muh fula ke baithe honge? Akele me ro lenge bhaiya ji, par sabke saamne to khush hi rahenge gao ke log” he replied with a huge smile on his face.

“8 saal se oont chala raha hun. 2 baar Visa apply kiya hai France ka. Jake wahan kaam karenge. Badhne ka kam chance hai to jab tak jo hai, khush rehte hain bhaiya. But inke saath maza bhi aata hai, bade alag alag se logo ke saath aate hain hum desert me. Hum khush, to ye khush, ye khush to thoda inaam bhi de dete hain.” he said sounding very happy, a bit too happy trying to hide his sadness may be.

“Sir, food.. less spicy. You like you like?” he said in the broken English he knew, smiling to Christian and Heinz serving them dinner and making them laugh with him.

All Amey did all this while is smile every time we looked at him. He understood neither English nor Hindi.

“This and the village trip are the best moment of my trip” said Amedeo as I translated my conversation with Narender to him.

“We pray thank you for little little, also before food” said Narender now serving us, with Moon glowing right behind his face.

The two kids-Narender and Amey fled to find some food for their camels, some thorny bushes and some desert plants. One could count all the stars, so shiny they looked. We sat there eating and enjoying the view of waves of dust stretching as far as we could see, with moon’s radiance making it even more beautiful.

The good old Germans went to sleep in their sleeping bags placed over the mattresses the Camel-men had got.

“God bless India” Christian said as he snored off. Me and Amedeo sat in the chilly wind pondering over our realizations.

The people led pitiable lives and sorted out means to some cash from their foreign visitors. And yet they found joys in the little things. The kids led a life of hard-ship and as Narender pointed out, they had fewer options. Almost all the people in Jaisalmer are somehow connected to Tourism. Still the only ones complaining were we guys. They teach us how to share, even with animals, even though you have little.

They taught us how to be happy and thank god for whatever he has given us. Not only that, he taught us that just thanking the God is not enough, you still got to work hard and be happy while doing it. He also made us realize how to deal with customers. Smile at them, make them enjoy and for that, you have got to enjoy each part of your work.

He also made me realize that even the unprivileged kids in the poorest of areas have big dreams in the pipeline. You never achieve something unless you dream of it. He dreamt of working as a travel agent in France. Maybe he will never reach there. But maybe, he will.

Sunset at the sand dunes in Jaisalmer

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Honest Man - Kalu Sa

So often we travel, and so often we meet new people. On my latest trip across the land of brave warriors, the land of great culture and heritage, I met a lot of such people, meeting who was a treat in itself. Yes I am talking about Rajasthan which incidentally is also the land of poor - living in mud houses and struggling to make their daily livings. One could find many such disfavoured souls and they all had one thing common, their smile and their resolve to still help you and welcome you with open arms. These were not the mediocrities but ones who had accepted their fate and way to live.

So this story begins at the end of my journey. I had a train to board at 4:45pm from the beautiful city of Jaisalmer bathing in yellow sun, after spending my life’s best Holi festival there. As I reached the top of the queue for my train tickets, my Italian friend Amedeo made me realize that one of my bags was missing. I soon realized that I had left it in the auto as I got off it in a jiffy to get the tickets for the train back to Delhi. I rushed out but the auto was no longer there.

So, I had lost all my clothes and a few valuables but that was not the point. Even at 23 years of age, never would my parents accept that I have grown up and can travel by my own if something of this sort had happened. I had to find my luggage. So I inquired a few auto-drivers. No, I dint remember the auto number or the exact look of the driver.

“Do you know where you took the auto from?” asked one of the auto drivers who seemed impervious to the situation.

“We have fixed areas” said another one of them.

I did remember it and so took an auto with Amedeo to the place I took the auto from. He was not there. There were a couple of autos who said that the only person missing is Kalu Sa, a dark, old Muslim man.

“Must be him then” I said, still irate at my own stupidity and negligence.

“You know once I lost my i-phone on a bus in London and found it 7 days later in the lost-found department. That’s when I fell in love with that city. Here, such a thing would be impossible” cited Amedeo.

As our wait continued for an hour the clock struck 5pm. I had already missed my train. Someone pointed out that his home is nearby, “Why don’t you take his phone number and call him?”

Good idea, I thought, probably the last one too.

As I took first steps towards his home, I heard someone shout: “Sahabji.. Saaaabji” I looked back and it was our man.

“You forgot your luggage in my auto. I looked for you on the station but could not find you. So I looked into each bogie of the train but you were not there. They did not allow me in the AC coach so I thought I had missed you. Here is your bag” said Kalu Sa, as I thanked my stars.

Before I could thank him, he said “Please check your bag, as some other ‘savari’ had sat in the auto and told me that there was already a bag”

“I can’t thank you enough. The bag must be fine, I don’t need to check” I said picking up my bag.

Checking the bag would have been a great insult to his honesty. I wanted to give him some money as a token of appreciation but again, I dint want to offend his candour act.

“You missed your train, how will you go? There are no buses today because of Holi” asked Kalu Sa.

“I’ll try and get the next train at night” I said again thanking him for his deed.

I booked a ticket for a train at 11:15pm and waited at a restaurant ‘TRIO’ at the same place where I picked the auto in the first place.

As I came out at 10:30pm, an auto approached me and Kalu Sa’s voice said “Station Sahabji?”

“Yes!” I said smiling with a little embarrassment and a little happiness.

As we reached the station, the fare read Rs.40. I handed him a 100 rupee note and walked away thanking him.

He smiled and said “If you ever come to Jaisalmer again, do visit. I’ll still be in my area – Gandhi Chowk

“I am a fan of this place, I love it and its people” said Amedeo as we boarded the train taking with us.. few realizations.

Autos outside Gandhi Chowk in Jaisalmer


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