Saturday, 15 February 2014

An excursion with Raks

Was I ever so excited about going on excursions? Probably yes. My excursions from school in those days were to Mahabalipuram, limca bottle factory (or was it coke? can't remember), snake park (yikes!), vandalur zoo (sans motorized drives so it was all walk, walk and walk) and we lapped it up with all the excitement that we could muster.

Raks's excursion was at Choki Dhani - a recreated rajasthani village with camels, horses, bullock carts, dance, music, sand and all the exotic trappings that one can expect from rajasthan. There were mehendi artists, drum beaters, camel rides, games, a hindi astrologer and many other nooks and corner where Raks could hide and give me a panic attack.

After a traditional welcome from the ghagra choli clad woman, we were ushered inside the reception where we took photos. Raks started trying the turbans that were kept on display while my mom tried to get her away from there. (Yes. I took my mom along thinking that two pairs of eyes would be better to keep her in sight).

For the next one hour, raks posed and posed with her best friend(s) and planned camel rides, while my mother wondered aloud whether the music troupe would play a song from Balika Vadhu.

After the welcome drinks and snacks, the games began. A set of coupons were given to all to play games but Raks had her sights on the camel, so we abandoned the games and went for the ride. There was a huge queue there, so I had to pacify her by sending her on the camel cart and the bullock cart.

In the meantime, the hindi astrologer attracted many customers despite the language handicap. And when people discovered that my mom knew hindi, she became their official translator. After repeating virtually the same predictions for all our hands, he insisted that we buy a yantra to shed the bad luck that was sticking onto us and promised to supply it himself. Sadly, he lost a large gang of customers who were interested in getting their fortunes read but they had stopped at the mehendi tent. The astrologer berated his fate and told them to come to him after an hour.

By the time, we vacated his cottage, Raks had gone two rounds in the giant wheel and was very angry about the fact that she was not taken on the camel ride. But the camel ride area was crowded with school students from at least three schools. After solemn promises to take her there once the crowd thinned, she pointed towards the rickshaws and ran towards it to get in. Wow! a ride in the rickshaw is Rs. 50.

"This is my cinderellla chariot and he is the pumpkin."

I shushed her and hoped that the rajasthani rickshaw driver didn't understand. He beckoned her to get in and asked if "Maaji sa' (that would be my mom) would come too.

My mom was amused and happy that he didn't call her 'dadi sa' and said 'no'. With an elated look, raks went around in the rickshaw and came back.

Now it was time to honour my promise, so I headed towards the camel ride pavillion with two of her bosom friends. It was still crowded with older kids from three different schools. After a lot of pushing, pulling and shoving, we stood near the line but the throng of crowds didn't move. And Raks decided to take matters in hand. She shook the hand of the nearest boy, who was standing in the front and said, "Uncle! Please let me and my friends go on the camel next."

Oh! God! Though he was a tall one with small wisps of hair on his upper lip he probably was in his 10th standard and his face fell.

"Dei! Uncle, Navuru da!" Said his friends and the path cleared.

Raks got on the camel with her friends and went on a memorable ride, while I stood waiting for her return amidst chattering students (who were having the time of their life pulling the boy's leg) wondering whether I should apologize.