Saturday, January 19, 2013

Phalodi and its salt mines and birds

Phalodi is a desert town; it is situated on the railway line from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. Phalodi is also called the “salt city” due to the concentration of a large number of salt mines and salt industries located in the area. This is an ancient town and Phalodi was initially called Phalvardhika. In fourteenth century, Shri Siddhuji Kalla have founded Phalodi by grass of Shri Maa Latiyal with named as Phalvaridhika, which was later renamed as “Phalodi” at the request of Phala, the widowed daughter of Shri Sidhu Kalla, who gave a generous contribution in cash to build the fort of Phalodi.
Colors of Desert

Before this town begins, all of a sudden there appears a jungle of acacia after the desert and then begins this ancient town. We came here from Bikaner, road was all baked desert, sandstone rocks and dunes.
We are two friends arrive in Phalodi. We walk to near railway station and take a basic room in a basic hotel that looks like an ancient building. Well, all buildings look ancient in Phalodi. Ancient but new plaster bandage some here and some there. Interior of our hotel was also ancient, 2-3 feet thick walls, ancient wood and lots of hollow places in the wall to place candles or lamps etc.
We had a very hard and rough day and we were bathed in the sand.
Phlodi town
Two men are drinking in the room, our next door and we go to ask them about where they bought the medicine because liquor shops were suppose to be closed today, and they give us directions; from hotel, make a left and you will see a road crossing the railway line to your right. Immediately after the crossing you will see a Sardarjee, hand him money and he will disappear in the street and will bring you the dwai.
Potter in Phalodi
While I am taking my bath, Raghubir goes out to buy the medicine. When I came out of my ancient bathroom. Raghubir gives me the news that he found the Sardarjee all-right; but he didn’t give me dwai; he says that there is no dwai. It is finished.
OK Man, whatever, no dwai then …
Sigh! Man got to do what a man got to do. Then we live without dwai tonight.
View of Phalodi fort
Then a family comes in next room and a fat Seth Jee also begin enjoying his dwai.
I ask him, “Lala Ji, where did you get this dwai.”
Lala Ji replies, “Come out of hotel, make a left and you will see a road crossing the railway line to your right. Immediately after the crossing you will see a Sardarjee, hand him money and he will disappear in the street and will bring you the dwai.”
Raghubir says, “I found Sardarjee all-right, but he says, no liquor today.”
Lala Ji says, “Well I just got it from Sardarjee. Just five minutes ago.”
Now I am mad because of no dwai to us but to everybody.
I come out of hotel, make a left and then at railway crossing make a right.
Sardarjee is there all-right.
I hand him money and he disappears and returns with dwai.
Happy birthday to I, me and myself.
We had a very long and treacherous day in desert. It was a strike day in Rajasthan and even buses were shut down.
A Hawali in Phalodi
To arrive here we used many vehicles today – including bicycle, bull-cart, camel-cart as well camels, tractor, donkey-cart, Vikram-auto, jeep, bus and what not. Also we walked at least 35 kilometes on the roads in desert, under the sun, without any drinking water or food available. When we started from Bikaner on a bus, everything was normal till we reached Kolayat and then everything stopped.
Good old India.
Donkeys in the desert
Well, I return in my room and show the bottle to Raghubir and also tell him that he is dumb and cannot do the very simplest thing in the world – getting dwai from a Sardarjee.
I tell him, “Go and get the soda and ice and don’t mess it up this time.”
He brings soda and we begin salvaging our day. Drink numbs our senses. I apply the ice at my aching tummy and then with a needle we puncture the blisters on our feet. We had a hell of a day in the blistering Thar Desert.
I also forgot to mention that a donkey gave me a juice dolatti in my tummy. When we were walking on the road, even in the month of December it was hot. We were walking after the village Knaj Ki Sird, a man was driving some donkeys caring bricks. One donkey had no burden but only empty load saddle, walking at the end the donkey train.
We placed our backpacks on the saddle and thanked god and begin walking behind him; singing a song – here come the juicy one – his whole hind legs fly in the sky – I watch it in slow motion – they come to my tummy – I watch it in the slow motion. Too bad that I move in slow motion too but it turns out too slow.
All I remember that I felt dark and saw stars.
I also remember that I didn’t breath for long time.
Then I discover that I am laying on the very hot road tarmac and Raghubir and donkey driver are looking at my face.
“Kya hua?”
I reply, “Baaaaaaaa……..”
“Gadhae nae maaa raaaa. …….. pet main.”
Donkye man says, “yeh Gadha nahi tha, Gadhi thi.”
I corrected, “Gadhe nae maaaaaaraaaaa …. Pet main.”
“Yeah badi haraamzadi hai. Iseliye to maine is par kuch nahi rakha tha.”
He explains that he didn’t even notice that we placed our backpacks on his she-donkey. She is very vicious and famous for her dolatties.
I asked if there was any water but there was none.
Donkey driver minded his own business and left us alone, saying that it was all our fault.
As I gained my senses, we resumed our walk and found very salty water after 6 kilometers on a tea shop.
Road in the desert
Well, again I got drifted as ever. I was saying that liquor numbed my pain in tummy and also relaxed us. Then we come out of our havali-numa hotel and find a restaurant and eat food. Then we walk towards where I bought liquor.
Sardarjee is there.
Raghubir asks him, “Baijee, why you didn’t give me liquor.”
Sardarjee looks at Raghubeer from feet to head a couple of times then takes time to reply but we are desperately watching his lips to hear his reply. For the sake of Raghubir’s honor his answer is very important.
Sardarjee says, “Sachi baat sunna chahte ho.”
“Han jee! Maharaaj Jee! sachi baat!”
He explains that since Raghubir has a huge beard on his face and he looks dangerous, he thought that he may get vicious after drinking so Sardarjee may get into trouble. That was the reason he didn’t sell him liquor.
Raghubir slurred, “Butt I am dead drunk now and I am a harmless person.”
Sardarjee says, “Bhai mai kaise risk lae sakta tha.”
We leave alone Sardarjee because he was very busy serving mankind. He was selling dwai to needy.
Women selling colorful sarees
It is full moon night and we walk in the heat baked ancient town’s ancient streets and look at ancient structures. Some are original, some are bandaged, and some are mixed up with new bricks and mortar. Many ancient havalies, some abandoned, some occupied and some partially occupied. We feel we are in Alif-Laila town in the Arabian Nights tales. At the front of each establishment is a underground water tank to store every single drop of water that is meagerly available in meagerly hours here.
That’s why I am apprehensive of drinking water here, that’s why we mixed our water in the dwai to disinfect it. Nights are cold here and it is December anyway.
Otherwise water is pulled from the earth from at least 2 kilometers below.
I think I forgot to tell you about another tragedy that occurred with us today. We were walking under the sun, in the dunes. Actually it was supposed to be road but sand storms shifted the dunes on the road. We were walking and four ships came near us. Well actually, ship-of-the-desert Camel. Camel driver, Mr. Ranchor Singh accepted to give us a ride to the next village and camels sat down and we climbed over their humps. I sat on Hira (the Camel’s name) and Raghubir sat on Moti the Camel. When it rose we could look over acacia trees and it was scary. As it walked we were shaking in a rhythm — ditchek-ditchek-dichek.
Ranchor Singh was singing some Laila Maznoo songs.
His huge mustaches were also dancing with the gale of the deserts.
I said to Ranchor Singh, “Ranchor Bahi, Thakur Saab Ji.”
“Ji bolo Saab?”
“I say – do you take your pregnant women too on the camels?”
Ranchor Singh shouted at his full voice with anger, “Hargiz nahi.”
Thar Desert
Well I thought too much Camel ride was not good for the health anyway because with each humping our legs were rubbing with the saddle.
But after 5 kilometers of our Camel ride we were enjoying it very well now.
Out of blue – then Raghubir yelped like a dying duck.
“Where is my backpack! Where is my backpack!”
It appears that his backpack fell off somewhere.
Mr. Ranchor Singh Rathor dumped us again in the dunes of Thar Desert, on the mercy of desert; in the zenith of sun … so we go back to find our goddamned backpack.
We started walking back to square one.
Raghubir screamed at me in wrathful tone, “Its all your fault; had you not asked him that stupid question, he was to bring us back on Camels to find my backpack.”
“Was it my fault?”
“He (Ranchor) was singing Laila Maznoo songs but you spoiled his mood and he ditched us in this godforsaken desert.”
I accepted my defeat and probably Raghubir was right. Singing Laila Maznoo songs is one thing but asking someone if pregnent Laila can be taken on the Camel …..
Had I kept my muzzle shut, we were to enjoy double … no .. no .. treble … the Camel ride.
Go back to find the backpack … then back.
Hira-Moti Shuttle Fast Passenger.
Yeh ho na saka ……….
We walked again to the point where we boarded the beasts. A boy there told us that someone found the bag and we may find it at the next tea shop so we walked back again to the tea shop and reclaimed the bag. We had tea there but there was nothing to eat, not even biscuits or buns.
We started our walk again on the same road and saw some donkeys going ……
And then this donkey gave me a juicy kick in my tummy. I think I forgot to tell you that too.
I cannot tell you that now because Post will get too long.
I got drifted again. I always get drifted … I was saying.
We return to our hotel and fall to sleep.
In my dream I am wrestle with many donkeys and I win. I kick them each in their groins and they bray.
Phalodi and Thar Desert
We wake up, have a cup of tea and walk out of the city. Open pit salt mines begin. We visit several salt mines, labors are breaking the salt rocks with chisels and hammers. In the factories next doors this salt is milled or shipped as rocks. Iodine is also sprinkled on the salt powder. Raghubir wants to start salt business now (his 18th business so far).
Phalodi and birds of Khichan
He has tried Film making, diary farming, recording studio, buffalos sell and purchase, aggarbatties, auto-parts etc. etc. to name a few. He has acquired a unique skill to fail a business. We visit salt mines and brag that we deep into salt and will be buying from them now on. Mine owners are very pleased to have us; they give us a tour of their facilities, they serve us snacks, tea and soda etc. We taste their salts and accept few samples and then walk to the next salt mine.
Musicians in the Desert
We return to our hotel with about 10 Kilo salt samples, Raghubir is very serious about getting into this business. In our room we again taste all samples and now Raghubir is feeling dizzy. Next door Lala Ji who is passively aware about our salt tasting, suggests us that too much salt is causing Raghubir, a pang of elevated blood pressure. We ask Lala Ji about what to do. Lala Ji pokes his hands in his pocket and gives us 2 pills and leaves.
On the road to Khichan
But he turns back and pokes his hands in his other pocket and give us another 2 pills – “If the first one does not work within half hour, then try this second one.”
He pokes his hands in his another pocket again … we are looking at his face and expecting another bunch of pills but his hand returns with a small bottle containing black opium paste.
“If that too fails then ….”
He offers us that too but we decline and say thank you.
He disappears in his room and we hear his wife screaming at him again.
“You promised that you will take me to Jaipur, what we are doing here ….. ”
Train near Phalodi
It is noon now; my tummy is full of air because of too much salt and tea. It is aching at where donkey hit me.
To set the things straight, it was she-donkey; Gadhi (also called Khoti in Punjabi, burra in Spanish. I Wish I knew Chinese too.)
We come out and I drink a cold plain soda with lemon with more salt. I burp and feel good. We have lunch and then take an auto to Khichan.
Phalodi and birds of Khichan
4 K.M from Phalodi is the lovely hamlet of Khichan. It is famous for the migratory Damoiselle cranes that gather around its two small lakes. At lest around 7000 cranes and other water birds are believed to spend there winters here.
Women brining water
At the turn of the last century several rich traders from the Jain community lived in Khichan. Here some of beautiful havelis made by red send-stone of the bygone era. Many Havalies are now being converted into hotels for visitors. Every year towards the end of August, just after the monsoon rains have ceased, they fly in here.
A home in the village
The Demoiselle Crane belongs to the areas of South Western Europe, Black sea, Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, North and South Africa and Mongolia. In India the bird is known by the Bird watching fraternity as Kurjan (called so because it makes a noise that sounds like kurr-kurr), Karkara and Kunch.
Phalodi and birds of Khichan
The advent of the harsh European winter drives these birds towards India and they fill the Khichan Desert landscape in numbers providing those on Bird Watching Vacations a feast for the eyes. The Kurjan feeds on insects, frogs, fish, wheat, barley and seeds of watermelon. Their numbers have increased by the year and it is estimated that 6000 birds migrate to India and much more are expected every passing year.
Since this area is populated with Marwadi, Bishnoi and Jain communities and killing any bird and animal is strictly prohibited and non-ethical and they have arranged feeding grounds for these birds that is the reason this bird century is flourishing and each year number of birds is increasing. This is a unique example of non-violence and preservation. A big salute to the communities in the Thar Desert. On the other hand number of migratory birds is alarmingly declining in all other bird centuries in India due to hunting and poaching. Tanakpur is the one example.
An old man enjoying his smoke
We find our visit to Khichan very enjoyful. Khichan village itself is very charming with ancient homes and havalies. Now people have realized to preserve the culture and new construction is matched with the old architecture. Whole area is full of the bird noise.
Near Sunset we decide to walk to Phlaodi so we walk on the desert road laced with green acacia trees.
We return to our hotel.
Now Raghubir wants to join me to Jaisalmer so we look at the salt
“What to do with this @*%@#$”
Lala Ji’s room is always open. Lala and Lali are again fighting and I interrupt them and ask Lala Ji if he wants about 10 kilo salt for free.
“Ha ha ha. I just sent 3 trucks to Jabalpur. You are 2 hours late.”
Next day we abandon our hard earned salt under our cots and take the early morning train to Jaisalmer.
Raghubir is very sad about leaving behind our hard earned salt. I assure him the he will reclaim his salt on the return. We will say at the hotel that we forgot to take salt, all 10 kilos of it.
But Raghubir is depressed.
To bad that we don’t even have a pinch of salt for his depression because salt is a major homeopathy remedy and it also works for depression.
Natrum Muriaticum (Sodium Chloride)
Mind.–Psychic causes of disease; ill effects of grief, fright, anger, etc. Depressed, particularly in chronic diseases. Consolation aggravates. Irritable; gets into a passion about trifles. Awkward, hasty. Wants to be alone to cry. Tears with laughter.
Also works on Herpes Zoster.
Works only at higher potency. 30C potency or even higher (recommended 200C)
200C is one unit of salt diluted in (1 X 400 zeroes units of) water or alcohol.
Camels on the road from Bikaner

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