Smoking Hot Camels

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India is intriguing in so many ways.  One of my personal fixations with India is the way animals and people interact so closely.

Pushkar Mela, Rajasthan

India is a third of the size of the U.S. but almost four times as populated, a fact that astounds me.  It’s no wonder that wherever you look, you’ll find a sea of humanity and, given this lack of space, the animals and humans are forced to live in close proximity to each other.

They seemed to have worked out some kind of arrangement though that works for both sides.  People don’t blink an eye at the sight of stray dogs, bony cats, skinny cows, brazen monkeys, elephants, rats, peacocks and camels.

A few years ago, I took a trip to Rajasthan and haven’t quite got it out of my system.  The food was amazing,  the people were warm and the desert landscape was stunning.  If you are lucky enough to see one of the famous tigers of Ranthambore, they are magnificently regal.  And the Rajasthani women, with their vibrant-colored clothes against the starkly dry desert, are awe-inspiringly beautiful.

But the camels — the ships of the desert — stole my heart.  I think what made me fall in love with them is their graceful, friendly, loyal nature with a quiet strength and curious sense of humour.

On our travels, a camel herder tried to convince us that we should give him a cigarette because he and his camel were in desperate need of a smoke.  We busted up laughing at this most original line, but I challenged him. “Come on now, your camel doesn’t smoke.”  But I was wrong.  That camel took a coupe looooong drags on the cigarette and truly enjoyed it.  So much so that we gave him another one and filmed it:

Had I known at the time there was a whole festival devoted to camels (the Pushkar Mela), I would have definitely coordinated the dates to be there and hang out with them and the herders some more.  (I’d skip the milk though, even if it is 1/2 the fat and more nutritious than cow milk.)  At some point, I need to get back and check out this festival with it’s camel beauty pageant, camel dance performances, and camel races.

In the meantime, here are some stunning photos by an excellent photographer to remind you why this is a MUST VISIT place (for me at least).