JaisalmerJanuary 11 in India ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C
We've spent the past few days in Jaisalmer, an old trading city at one of the ends of the Silk Road. Once thriving, it boasts a huge sandstone fortress built on a Bluff surrounded by the Thar desert. Many of its inhabitants were wealthy in the time before the Raj. They built beautiful homes called havelis with intricate detailing carved into the sandstone.
On our first day we wandered from our Kaku guest house up to the fort. The place was filled with Indian tourists. One Jaisalmerian explained that they come to take camel safaris into the desert. They ride camels to base camps in the dunes that are set up with hot water, tents, and cots. "The Indian tourist is not like the European or American tourist, they need their niceties. The foreigners like roughing it a bit." Several Indians asked us to take selfies with them as we sat and people watched.
Inside we happened on an artist painting meditaively in the doorway of his gallery. He works in a variety of media using antique paper, cotton, and camel bone. Beautiful and intricate work. His pieces take anywhere from a day to several months to complete. We returned on our last day to buy two pieces. One for Grace's 90th birthday in August and one for ourselves. Kamal Swami also holds a masters in sanskrit. The piece that we bought for Grace has a sanskrit border which translates, "A good life is like a lotus flower held in the hand until it opens. If one is giving, then happiness will come to them in the later years." The border on our piece is in Urdu. He said that he had a friend translate it to make sure that it "didn't anything stupid." He talked at length about his art and its purpose in his life. He shared that he'd once been summoned by an emissary of the Majaraja of Jaisalmer to one of the closed galleries in the palace to look at the artwork on the walls and ceilings. He was asked to do restoration of the work. He declined the invitation. "It is not how I work. It is not what I do. Each piece is its own once it is done." Several days later the Maharaja asked him to come to his country house at 10:30 in the morning. He arrived and was "seated on a nice sofa and given chai." "First it was 11 o'clock, then 11:30, then noon. Finally it was lunch time and I expressed my regrets and went home." Later I met the Maharaja at a charity event. He said, "You are the one I have invited twice and you didn't come. I shared what my father had told me; that the light from a lamp in a regular house gives the same light when the lamp is in the palace."
Grace's piece is a very special work. He changed his approach to mimic the traditional mud wall painting of the Thar. The women mix dung and mud to build mud walled houses in the villages in the area. The color is very deep. They then make paints from crushed minerals in the area to decorate the homes and low frontage walls of the home. Kamal depicted a different setting from his usual work to set off the background. The rest will have to wait until Grace's 90th birthday, but the effect on the subject is lovely.
Next we're on to Jodhpur. We've changed up the schedule a bit. After a couple of days, we're then off to Udaipur. A few days there and we fly to Varanasi where Nancy will spend lots of time exploring and taking photos while I relax in the Inn that we've booked overlooking the Ganges. Unless I decide to take a special side trip to witness and take part in Kumbh Mela, the greatest gathering of people in human history.
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