Odd Things in Bikaner: A Travelogue With a Twist
1. Camel milk ice cream. Believe it or not, it’s the hot favourite in town. And this entire time you thought Bikaner was all about bhujia.
2. Baby camels are black when they are born. I wandered into the Bikaner Camel Research and Breeding Centre. It doesn’t sound like a particularly fun place but it turned out to be as thrilling as any good amusement park. Except, they have camels instead of rides. The camels come in all sizes:
(a) Just born:
(e) The Young and Reckless Gang:
(f) Fully-Grown Adults:
(g) Tottering Old Grandpas and Grandmas:
3. And there is no supervision of any sort. All animal interaction is based on a straightforward As-Much-As-You-Dare Policy and You’ll-Learn-Once-You-Get-Your-Finger-Bitten Guidelines.
4. A heavily pregnant lady-camel decided to have her baby while I was there. A crowd quickly gathered around a paddock to watch a group of gruff, mustachioed, turbaned men pant and sweat as they ran around the paddock and struggled miserably to play mid-wife to a very large and troubled mother. She thrashed her long, knobbly legs all over the place and was howling in agony.
5. It was a difficult delivery. Finally, when the baby managed to claw its way out, there was an audible sigh of relief and the crowd burst into enthusiastic applause. Beaming faces all around. It’s curious how such a graphic, disturbing event could also be so deeply moving.
6. A baby camel is called a calf. I’m disappointed. They could have put in a little more effort and come up with something unique. Anything that looks as appallingly ugly as this deserves better than a generic baby name.
7. Camels have big, perfectly square, yellow teeth. They are vegetarian, but occasionally they will take a bite out of a human hand within range. It’s not that they mean harm, they’re just curious – so I am informed. Not a comforting thought.
8. Folks in Bikaner are smitten with their Royals. They swell up in indignation if you so much as try to sniff out a royal scandal and you’ll thereafter become acquainted with the polite version of the silent treatment.
9. Forget breezy, gauzy fabrics in delicate prints. In Bikaner, curtains are made out of metal chain-links to keep out dumb pigeons. The pigeons fly straight into them, collide and crumple to the floor in a squawk and a cloud of feathers. Neat.
(Ambika is a former corporate lawyer who quit her cubicle to go see Places. So far, it has been quite a journey, often bumpy but always entertaining. Follow her on her journey as she travels around the world at http://ambikagoingplaces.com.)