Back on the Camel
Jaisalmer, India – July 18, 2019
Catapulted back in history, I’m sitting in roof top cafe overlooking Golden rock temples with highly ornate carvings of horses, cows, dancing ladies, Saints, and detailed sex positions—the Kama Sutra. Before schools existed, the church was the main center for education, so families would show their children down the colonnades to be sexually enlightened. Inside, nude statues of men and women were rubbed with greasy fingers in order to increase fertility and deepen the love within marriages. Someone told us that Jainism and Buddhism both stem from Hinduism?! We crawled through tiny passages that connected seven Jain temples, and avoided “priests” that begged for money by jingling change in an outstretched pan, despite the signs behind them saying, “Do not give money to men, place your donations in the box.” Our guide referred to them as “businessmen priests” or “mosquito priests” and got us laughing at his clever comparison.
In the whole of India, Jaisalmer has the only livable fortress, so we decided staying within the walled city amongst the 3,000 other inhabitants was a must. Slippery cobblestone roadways led to the old-town through a series of several massive marble gates. The narrow streets wound around the scalloped city wall where people hid inside their shops, away from the scorching heat. From one rooftop cafe, your line of sight connects you to plentiful other cafes and herb gardens. The sheet-metal or thatched roofs are all decorated with colored lights, billowing tapestries, tufted fabric tassels, and lucky bells that surround you with a constant magical clanging sound. Out of stark silence, air flurries through your hair and through the red tethered ribbons on the tops of temples. Jingling bells are hung all around “to wake up the Gods and make sure they’re always listening.”
Passing by a hidden storefront, a man spoke up, mentioning, “You’ve been colored by India.” He took a guess, “You’re in the business of helping people for a living.” He hypothesized my posture, presuming, “You’re the oldest of three children and you’re on a spirit quest.” Inspired by his speculations, I followed him into his shop. We sat on woven tribal carpets where the four wooden pillars around us seemed to turn into a temple. He read my palm, my eyes, and my soul and asked to help me with my energy blockages. Over the last few years, I’ve become aware of my weaknesses and have been ready for a dramatic change. Awareness is the first and most important step in any process. Prodding my third-eye chakra, I could feel the energy he pushed through the palms of my hands. His intensity scared me, but simultaneously made me feel like I’ve known him my whole life. 5 hours passed unexpectedly, and when I exited his shop, it was dark outside. Time was warped in his little sales-sanctuary.
Sipping a milk-coffee, looking out past the fortress, I watched the distance disappear as waves of sand rolled in on the desert wind. The low-lying town became suddenly swallowed up by a white sand-storm sky, making for sleepy eyes, gritty teeth, dust-covered skin, sandy feet, and a crusty brown sneeze. Anything left outside longer than a minute is instantly covered with a silty pink powder. Thick peeling paint, dirt-filled fingernails, stacked yellow bricks, blueing skin from oxidized jewelry, cracking purple lips, worn leather straps, and salty fraying hair fill the desert with texture. After my scary experience with a very angry, spitting/biting camel in Israel, I thought I’d never “get back on the horse” again. But, I’ve observed myself clinging to MANY fears, so I’ve decided it’s time to face them.
We took a 1-night Jeep and camel safari to the dunes about two-hours outside of Jaisalmer. My camel’s name was Johnny, and he was a badass! With scarified tattoos burned into his neck and legs, a spiked rocker-piercing running through his nose, and my fearful squeals piled atop his back, he waged war with our 1-hour ride. Riding a camel for an hour is actually SO PAINFUL and awkward. In my mind, I was pleading we’d arrive ASAP as I tried to reposition my cramping legs and stabilize myself upon his rocking hump. While our guides cooked a 5-course meal over a smoky campfire, we scuttled up the dunes and slid on down the vertical backside-slopes. We slept on springy cots under the open Indian sky, watched silver and green stars shoot through the heavens, checked constellations on an astrology app, and spotted Jupiter in her bright orange glory. Arriving home, tanned from a thick layer of desert sand (imagine festi-feet x10), I took the most welcomed 30-minute shower of my life and tried to imagine the “crustiness” of the 26-day camel safari that the village promoted.
Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato