Living the desert life
I just realised that I have shared very little about my experience of last year’s visitation to the Desert National Park. As I reminisced on the days I traveled along the roads and dunes of Rajasthan, here is a small blog post eliciting thoughts from the corners of my mind.
Desert National Park : More than 3000 sq km of desert, one of the largest National Park with semi-arid fragile ecosystem is home for varied types of wildlife in the Western Indian State of Rajasthan, India.
I vividly remember my last winter trip to this amazing place that comprises of varied ‘micro-ecosystems’ where you get a chance to see rocks, sand dunes, salt lake bottoms and ofcourse some wonderful grasslands too.
This place is widely visited by both Indian and international tourists during December but this lesser known Desert National Park per se is relatively less visited. During my stint here, it seemed as if the I was the lone person in the entire park. Being from Southern India where I often make my trips to lush green Western Ghats, Desert Ecosystem was something new to me. Nights were bitter cold and day times relatively hot, it was moderately difficult to acclimatize to the extreme conditions . As a Nature Photographer, battling extreme weather conditions is part and parcel of the profession.
So far, it was remote valleys of western ghats is what I had normally visited during winter barring couple of trips to North India. My goal during the winters of 2011 was to break the monotony and visit the Desert. I wanted to intensely experience the arid landscapes and immerse myself amidst the colossal sand dunes of the Thar. As a kid, I had read about the Camels and caravanning desert people. I wanted to experience and live the desert life too. I wanted to see things that I don’t normally get to see in the concrete jungle and photograph the local wildlife, people and their unique culture. Listen to their folk songs, think about their origins and pasts.
Thar desert is relatively new to the world, probably dating back to 2000BC and is believed to have been formed after the river Saraswati dried up during/just after the vedic age. It was a perfect place for silent contemplation; away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like Bangalore.
Every day I left my dwelling place early and returned after sunset. Treading along the unpaved roads in extremely well maintained districts of Rajasthan was a different experience altogether. Photographing sand dunes was real joy. Joy no where else to be found. Sometimes the compositions happened naturally resonating with the emotions and at times it was tricky and frustrating. Patience was the key. Scouting for the pristine dunes and locations during the sunny afternoons was toiling and energy sapping for the body. It was meditation to the soul. When surprising things were found, it was supreme elation.
Desert national park is largely infested with raptors, mostly by eagles and buzzards. It’s a bird photographer’s heaven if visited during winter. So is the place a paradise for every landscape photographer.
For 3 days, I spent hours viewing, studying, photographing raptors, sand dunes and ‘desertscapes’. It was tough to capture the essence of the desert landscapes in entirety and yet I tried harder. Portraying the experience in a photograph, many times seems difficult. Somethings are better off being etched permanently in the memory. However, I was truly grateful to the times that allowed to me experience the life in desert, its people and culture to the fullest.
Wandering in wilderness is NOT a ‘vacation’ or a ‘holiday’. It is intentional, having its own purpose. More than that intention, it is a privilege and a rare gift. At times, when I get stuck in life and in city life, it is these wanderings and meanders that revive me from the monotony of jaded city life. It is these wanderings that teaches me the fragility of nature and as humans what we have done to it. My camera serves as a tool to document the pristine beauty as well as the scars inflicted.
It is these experiences and thoughts that energizes me like a ray of hope during my non-photography days.
With this thought, I leave you with couple of images from the trip.