They were facing the sun—all three of them: a man in his mid-forties, a girl in her teens and a child of nine. Sitting in a line on the sand dune, they had their backs turned to the lens. The man wore a black Adidas cap, a cream pullover and a pair of black corduroys. The older girl seated in the middle had her hair tied in a bun and had worn a red full sleeved tee shirt and blue jeans that looked expensive. The youngest, sitting on the extreme left had her arms out stretched on both sides as if stretching and looked heavenwards. She wore a checked black-blue shirt and black tights. She had hair like a boys which flew in the wind, towards the right of the viewer.
It was December of 2010 and the geo tag on the picture would identify the location as Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The horizon was crimson-yellow mostly but the patches of sky in the middle was bordering orange. The highest point visible in the picture was blue—the type between midnight blue and light blue. There was a slight wind that could be felt on the skin of those three. The rest of the frame had one camel standing in a distance, towards the viewer’s extreme left. It would seem that the little girl was punching the unsuspecting camel with her outstretched left hand. The camel was bending down as if searching for some foliage in the desert. It makes me believe that the camel must have been a very optimistic one. In its long years on the desert, it could only have survived due to its optimism. The image in my head right now- the camel is sitting on its back legs much like a human and meditating, exhaling deeply with its nostrils flared when it breathes out.
One can’t say much about their expressions since their back is turned to us but one can guess from their postures. The man is hunched on his back as if relaxed. You can almost see the signs of a smile on the visible part of his chubby cheeks. He wears glasses and you can see the black rim of the glass. He is a man of some style sense and gravitas.
The older girl, like the man, appears to be relaxed and staring in the direction of the setting sun. Her hands seem to be joined together in the front part of her body. She could have wrapped them around her torso to protect herself from the cold wind. I have heard winters in the desert are cold and temperatures drop to sub-zero levels in the evenings. Is that so? Have you ever been to a desert?
The youngest has an air of comfort around her. She is stretching as mentioned previously and is looking up towards the heaven as if giving thanks for that moment of peace. She is not interested in the setting sun unlike her companions. She is just breathing in the moment and is feeling the wind tease her hair. If you zoom in enough, you can see the goosebumps on her hands. She must be cold. Yet she smiles. It is like those smiles you see on the faces of Tibetan monks- ones reflecting contentment and a secret no one will ever know.
There are no visible clouds in the sky. It seems as if the great painter was too lazy to apply the final touches on his canvas and decided that that would be cloudless day and blamed it all on the wind. The sky was a large sea monster waiting to engulf the fighting sun. The yellow mango-like thing looked like it wanted to linger a little while longer but couldn’t. An invisible hand was pulling it behind the curtain of night, holding it by the scruff of its neck.
The three were on a holiday. One of those rare places which lack network connection, fast cars, geysers and emails. One of those places where the railway station can be filled with ten men standing on the platform. One of those places where people still waited for the postman to arrive and he was treated like the lover’s God. One of those places where a traveler had to strain his eyes to search for a fellow human being. One of those places where people crawled into bed by 9 pm and woke up by 6 am.
It was a week long holiday and the girls had urged their father to take them for a night stay on the desert. The tour guide had been given strict instructions to take them to a place far from civilization where the cries of monotony and routine couldn’t be heard and you were left with the wind in all its purity. A place where the sky kissed the sand without being hindered and the sun watched over the smaller creations.
It was a happy place. It was their happy place. The three musketeers sat one beside the other enjoying the silence of the desert. The desert spoke to them using a language more ancient than man himself. A language that lacks words and sounds. Something throbbed through the silence. Some mystics say it is the heart of the desert that throbs. But we will never know, will we?
Sitting on the sand dunes, they could see a vast expanse of nothingness. It was bare, dry and harsh. Yet there was beauty. A rustic, earthy kind of beauty. It took some time for their eyes to recognize the beauty of the desert but when they did, they smiled and the smile lingered on in the photograph placed right in front of me and I am glad for their smile.