There were two stark things that struck my mind during the last four days in Rajasthan. The dispassionate artists who were performing in front of ‘rich tourists’ and the passionate artists who were talking non-stop about how far they would go to protect their art forms and traditions.
In the first part of my travel here, I was invited to visit an imposing structure standing in the middle of an impoverished village that was visible even from a distance. Literally a fortress, there were many people hanging around in side the fort as if they were waiting to take orders. Another stark contrast were the vehicles outside the fort and those vehicles parked stylishly inside the fort. Flashy Ford Endeavours to Mitsubishi Pajeros to Toyotas were all inside and rustic but efficient bullock carts used by the villages outside.
The central courtyard was all decked up with colours and there was a beautiful, large fountain in the middle. If I had just woken up in that place not knowing where I was, the place would have occurred to me as some Mediterranean Bungalows that’s normally show cased in most Hollywood Mafia movies.
A group of eight performers had already gathered on the terrace. They sang, they danced, they performed Kalbeliya, and showed many tricks that needs years of practise. They stood on top of three glass tumblers carrying 6 litres of water in it and danced without spilling a drop out of it. Rolled out currency notes were thrust into their pockets, into their arms. They gave out such artificial smiles and bent their back even more to the front, now making sure that they made eye contacts to the beer sipping tourists. With the rhythm and tempo increasing, currency value went on from a mere hundred to finally a crisp note of thousand! The girls invited the tourist to dance with them, which some hesitatingly and some readily accepted. In an hour or so, the ‘performances’ were over and we were guided into our waiting vehicles.
I didn't know who these performers were. I didnt interact with them, they were showcased infront of us. It started there, it ended there!
Power went off many times during the performance but they were equipped with alternative spot lights probably sourced from an alternative generator. While stepping down from the terrace, I had a look at the beautiful horizon. The nearby village looked sleepy, calm and quiet. I couldn’t help notice that out of all those forty-fifty houses that were surrounding the fort , there were just couple of houses that had electricity.
One of the friends of the family, who bought the Kila, mentioned that they intend to make this fort into a luxury boutique hotel which will also be used by the owner as his home away home for vacations. The master bed room ( there were ten large beautifully done bed rooms), had bathtubs and running taps. That’s not unusual in a luxury fort, but when you look at the villagers walking many kilometres to get few pots of water for their survival, it hurts to be there.
Even for the few hours you spent there.
During the next days I stayed in Makrana with friends, I saw how they were living with their limited resources. Managing their limited resources and maintaining a life style that doesn’t damage their environment and ensuring that their life style was sustainable for the generations to come. Though I normally use very little water for my daily use compared to many people I know (I was born and brought in a region that was always green and never knew what water scarcity was), I realised that where I live in Bangalore, my individual consumption of water in a week was probably more than what a family of five might be using in the desert area in two weeks!
Jaipur GP © 2008