KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We’d had a wonderful two full days and an additional evening when we first arrived. The weather couldn’t have ben better. There were few tourists at this time of year, because it’s usually very hot at this time in March, but we found it quite comfortable. Comfortable enough that it wasn’t an issue for us to walk back and forth to the fort, even at midday.
For our last night, were thinking of heading into the town, to one of the heritage hotels for a rooftop meal, but just after 6:30pm the winds picked up and it looked like a storm was brewing. I had been relaxing at the window seat in our room, a kind of divan of sorts, and was watching some men working in a family-run laundry operation across the street.
They had some machines for washing the sheets towels and pillowcases, and even a large machine for spinning out the excess water. One fellow had been busy hanging the laundry on lines strung out in the courtyard. Normally, they would dry very quickly in the arid desert air. Suddenly the wind picked up and the large sheets began flapping wildly in the breeze. I looked off to the right and I could make up a storm brewing.
This immediately brought to mind the sand storms I’d experienced when I lived in Khartoum, Sudan way back in 1972-73. There was a season for storms, and I was travelling with my girlfriend and settled down there to work for a while. Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t great because we were there for the heat of the summer months and also the sandstorm season. I don’t know that they call these storms in Rajasthan, but in the Sudan, they are called haboob.
When a mild one blows in, the worst you have to deal with is a fine layer of sand, everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The storms can go on for days, and no matter how often you sweep or clean and dust the furniture, bedding and kitchen, the dust keeps coming and settling in a fine layer, everywhere.
When a major haboob blows in, the sky can darken so quickly that you’d think it was night. Even the headlights of a vehicle can’t penetrate the thick sandy air, and anyone driving has to use extreme caution. I began to wonder if we were going to see a minor storm or have a major haboob-like experience.
I turned my eyes from the approaching storm and watched the fellow across the street frantically pulling the still-wet bedding and towels from the line and tossing them on a tarpaulin spread out on the courtyard floor. If he didn’t manage to get everything down, he’d have to wash it all again tomorrow. Fortunately, some help arrived by motorcycle and he managed to get it all bundled before the worst of the sand swept in.
I wasn’t sure just how bad this storm would get, so I suggested that we eat at our hotel for the third night in a row. Fortunately, the cooks were very good and provided a good variety of dishes, so we weren’t bothered eating the same thing every night. We took seats inside because of the storm, and ordered up our meal. To our surprise, the storm blew itself out and we were able to move to the outdoor terrace after we were done.
By that time, and with bellies full, we’d lost interest in heading into the town. The next day we were moving on, by private car, to Jodhpur. We’d be leaving the city closest to the Pakistani border and moving east once again. Our plan was to spend three nights in Jodhpur and then travel again my road to another Rajasthani city, my favourite, Udaipur.