I assured Vaseem to visit him whenever I would be back to Jaisalmer and started up car with a false broad grin and geared up towards Circuit house. This time it was one of the unusual trip of my life. In fact I always wish to enjoy desert in summers. My friends declared my this thought a psycho disturbance of my brain but I was stuck to visit desert in hot winds ...
Desert and sea shore always fascinate my heartbeats. I feel very romantic on these places. Though I visited desert several times to study the life cycle of Lizards in dunes or to collect data how xerophytes survive in 48 degree temperature without water but in back of brain it was stuck to visit desert in summers.
I got a letter from Akademy to attend a programme at Jaisalmer in first week of June and it was like putting fuel in fire. I decided to avail the opportunity. My Chevrolet, a most reliable partner of my exotic journeys, as usual, needed some mechanical care. I called Yusuf to make it ready for my new trip. In fact Yusuf knew all organic and in-organic chemistry of my car. Till evening he was back with a long bill of maintenance.
It was most probably the third of June when I began my first trip to Jaisalmer. I took the route via Barmer, a village full of desert culture. It was peak hours of the hot day. No doubt it was an unique experience to have a drive on kilometers long lonely roads where you cannot find even a sharp curve. If you have good eye sight you can have a view of 4-5 kilometers without any obstacle. Crossing Guda Malani, a small village, mercury raised up to 49 degree. Outside temperature was blinking on display board. But in the car it was 18 degree due to full speed air conditioner.
I was thinking about two characters of Paulo's one novel where they both were walking necked in desert in search of their Angels. For a moment it struck in my brain 'Have I also my Angel? Should I ignition off the car for this?' but thought of walking necked suggested me to play back foot. I always love to listen light classical while driving. A new album of Ustad Rashid Khan's 'Kabir' was on. Soon the colonies left behind and only Xerophytes flora appeared on both sides of road. Suddenly I saw a black buck stepping across the road with careful way. I recollected Mirage theory and a prey dropped out of lips for pity creature I could guess it in reflections of passing vehicles on road in this temperature. Ustad Rashid Khan was singing 'Hirana samajh boojh van charana' (Oh deer (soul) be careful while grazing (living) the field (world)
It was Gunga village on the Barmer – Jaisalmer highway where I decided to take a break for cup of tea.
'Sahib don't visit Temdaray temple after sunset as its saying that a monster comes there everyday at midnight ' The chaywala was continuously gazing at my ear when he came to know that I am going to Jaisalmer and in between I have programme to visit a famous shakti-sthal Temdaray temple. 'People passed from the temple say about seeing a Lion at the gate of temple.' He added.
I remembered a lot of stories of a cast charan of Rajasthan where goddess Durga takes birth in form of Shakti from last several centuries like Karni, Awad, Mamay Chamunda etc.
Till finishing tea it became dark. I rushed up towards Jaisalmer without further delay. Road was more lonely than others. A little traffic was there. It was 9 o clock when I entered in periphery of Jaisalmer. It was looking like the city of gold. Whole city was giving an illusion as covered in liquid gold coloured envelop. The Sandstone buildings were shining more in sodium lamp road lights. It seems a Midas-touch where everything is made of gold and no one is alive. Really it was looking like the city of fairy tales in this light show.
On union circle I braked the car to a near going pedestal to ask way to circuit house. Soon after taking some left-right turns reached the circuit house, a huge building with typical sculpture piece of Jaisalmer style.
Next evening I met Vseem at sand dunes of Sum village. After the whole day's tight schedule of Akademy's function, Mugdha my partner at Circuit house asked me to visit sand dunes. It was 5o'clock. A big board showing distances of Tarnot, Ram garh and other Boarder areas. After driving of 45-50 kilometers towards sunset, flora has literally disappeared. Both the sides were covered by light brownish colour sand dunes. Sun was hanging on the horizon as a yellowish-red big plate. Crimson rays were spread upon the sand giving a look of red carpet.
Tourist point, from where sand dunes begun, was crowded by local tourists as well as Vendors and Camel riders. They were snatching the tourist to have a ride and offering lower prices than others.
'We should keep them away as they are simply duping people and try to flee without thinking of tourists' joy.' Mugdha whispered. I drove interior 5-6 kilometers. Crowd was left behind. In far view only waves of dunes were there before the windscreen. Sun was taking the last breath of the day with infra-red respiration.
'I think we can stop here", I asked Mugdha looking surrounding beauty of the desert. Engine of Chevrolet stopped roaring with ignition off. Mugdha began with her flash gun to catch the scenery. Suddenly I saw a 60-65 year old man holding nakel (a thin rope which penetrated in nostrils to control the giant pet) of a camel coming towards us.
"Hi Mugdha, would you like Camel safari?" I asked Mugdha who was thinking about the purpose of coming boy here.
"Oh no dear I haven't any interest in it but if you wish you can." She was busy with her digital cam.
"Sahib, camel safari? Only in hundred rupees sir. Most reasonable sir. "Ultimately the man reached us and pleaded for his business. When Mugdha refused I also dropped the idea of enjoying camel riding.
"Sir please, I haven't got any tourist since last three days.'
I didn't give any ear to his voice but I was wondering on his 'Sahib and Sir.'
"Sir, bucks is not matter. Give me whatever amount you feel. My wife is not well sir.
I have to purchase some medicine sir!"
Now I couldn't refuse his begging
"What happened to your wife?" I showed some sympathy
"She is paralyzed. Half of her body hasn't any movement."
"Then why don't you stand on entrance where other people were also gathered?"
"Sir, from last 15 years I wait for tourist on this point only."
I felt some interesting order of personality in that man.
"Why?" putting duffel bag on ground I sat beside a bushy tree. Mugdha was on stone through distance capturing the sun who took shape of literally crescent moon.
He left nakel. Camel was tried to brute some green leaves from a small bush. He sat on a bit distance. He stared road which led to west. I opened lid of can to quench thrust.
"What's your name?"
"Vaseem, that is my Dhani" (Dhanees are kind of small villages in western Rajasthan having 15-20 huts).
He fingered a far group of 7-8 huts surrounded by some green bushy trees in north from there.
"Who are in your in family?"
"Me and my wife Fatima." His voice was like coming out from very far off horizon.
Though I didn't know whether I would ask or not .He took a pause and replied
"I had only son and he passed away 15 years back"
His voice hadn't any emotion or it might dry due to that extreme pain. I felt my self little bit speechless. I couldn't ask any more.
"He died in a road accident. In fact he was struck by a truck of Security Force and died on the spot." Vaseem continued as his past tore once again.
"How it had happened?" now my focal point was Vaseem.
"First time he had an accident when he was eight years old and playing outside of dhani on road, a BSF truck hit him and he became unconscious. Sahib, you know, in those days there were no medical facilities available here. Even today we have to rush to Jaisalmer to get any treatment."
I offered him can of water but he humbly denied.
"Sahib, that time I and Fatima couldn't sleep for several days. BSF doctor and other soldiers helped a lot .Every day they brought some fruits and sweets for Akaram. They took a real pain for my son. That was only the reason that he could survive."
I was listening calmly. Vaseem took a long pause. It seemed that time revert its acceleration. I couldn't think about Mugdha. She might have climbed down another dune to get some good shadow cards.
A wave of deep pain was whirl in surroundings. Vaseem took a deep breath and began.
"Just after two years of that accident. It was time of Id. Fatima had been suffering from malaria from several days. Twice I took her to Jisalmer for treatment. It was so tire some to take a patient sixty miles on Camel cart in this temperature through desert."
"Why didn't you ask any BSF doctor?" I was eager to know.
"Sahib, I requested but they didn't turn even a deaf ear." He replied.
"I think they never allow civilians." I tried to understand the non cooperation by those security people.
"May be Sahib." Vaseem was scratching sand by a dry twig. Sun had set down behind the dunes. Perhaps he couldn't gather the courage to learn more of the Vaseem's pain. Winds stopped blowing. It was evening with a painful melancholy.
"Before one day of Id I went Jaisalmer to purchase medicine for Fatima. When I came back, I heard about Akaram's accident. A BSF truck crushed him. "Vaseem's throat literally choked. I could hear my heart beat even. A tear rolled down on Vaseem's cheek.
"Three-four days after Akram's death I was sitting alone outside Dhani Suhel, Akram's friend was plying there with a lamb. As I looked at him I just remember my son. I called him.
He told me -
"Chacha, Akram was trying to stop the BSF truck for Fatima chachi to show her to BSF doctors but..." Vaseem could not speak even a word more.
How a ten year old innocent boy knew that this act may be dangerous for his life which he is going to make to save his mother. There was a silence between Vaseem and me. In our mythology earth counts as mother and sky counts as father. I felt the whole sky became pale yellow due to pain.
Who told Akram to stop the truck?" I asked with a long breath.
"Akram told Suhel that if anyone struck with the BSF truck then they would not only call doctors for treatment but also come to home with medicine and fruits so this time I would request to see my Amma."
Chirpingof birds in sky show the sound of returning home. A brighten star, might be Polar star, was shining on the northern sky exact above the Dhani, Vaseem's camel was still on the same place without any force of nakel.
"This was the place where he met with accident so from that day I stay here only to wait for the tourists" Vaseem was getting back from pain.
I saw Mugdha was coming back with her gadgets.
The sky became dark now.
"Sorry Vaseem chacha, I took your time and gave no business" I offered him some bucks but he refused politely.
"Sahib whenever you come back to Jaisalmer, please come to me. I will show you Desert Park and we will have a cup of tea at my Dhani", Vaseem said with a sad smile.
I and Mugdha moved towards car. Vaseem also came. I assured Vaseem to visit to him whenever I would be back at Jaisalmer.
A pity father's reflection was there in the rear mirror. I tried once to paste an imaginary face of Akram on the mirror image of Vaseem. I saw a ten year old boy with sad grin regretting could not do any good for his ill health mother. I started up the car with a false broad grin and geared up toward the Circuit house.