I caught my shadow on the single-lane asphalt road with broken shoulders that drew a south line in the Thar save a few curves of mini dunes drifting across the surface. The path edged with desert cacti wearing silken flowers of faded fuchsia and tiny white pearls, fields of harvested cumin gathered in stone-topped drying piles, scattered mounds of sharp sandstone boulders and one small village to shape them.
Muslim shepherds in sweat-stained dhotis with bulging inner pockets, their slender frames, walking slowly behind dreadlocked sheep and black goats with twisted horns and rectangle eyes. A half dozen dark gold and burnt black camels, saggy backed bony cows with 15-inch horns…
The scarf tail danced behind our bodies, wind taking form. My son’s head rested on my chest beneath the heavy gray cotton flap of his fabric buggy, my own wrapped tightly in an emerald green pashmina, our ears and scalps finding refuge on the hot earth, under the pre-summer sun, inside its 95 degrees at 10 am…
I smiled. And continued to drive toward the marble Shakti temple an hour from the fort.
I smelled the hot dirt and dry scorching steam rise, scented with occasional death, made pleasant by my own dreams nearly two decades in the making, now alive in the shadows on the ground. Magazine clippings and vision boards made manifest in the sand, the shrubs, the spikes and spines on the brittle gnarled trees.
Dung and clay huts with straw circle tops, some with bright white lime and turquoise facades, humans with stories to tell resting, being, waiting for nothing but time to pass, inside.
I once felt tasked, challenged, inspired, to make contact, to bare witness to the tales hidden in the heat, even before the Marwati song was in my ears.
I once longed to be like the beautiful women in movies and novels dressed with scarves round their heads, tied at the neck, a pair of wheels under them on an open road, with bravery and brains. The women who write their own stories, the ones about whom stories are written, though that not being why they choose to live their days as such.
Going deeper into the desert, I continued to drive.