Seeing the title, most of you would have got images of huge white vessels gently cruising through the waves in your minds. Actually, I am referring to theship of the desert a.k.a camelus bactrianus a.k.a the camel.
We were on a sight seeing tour of North India after my XII board exams. At this age i.e in the second half of your teens, girls tend to be a little attention crazy. This sometimes causes the ohhhhhhhhhh-chooooooooo-cuuuuuuuuuuuuute expressions for puppies and kittens and babies and piglets. Well, may be not the piglets I guess!! I was no exception. We were touring the town of Pushkar in Rajasthan. It has the only temple for Brahma in India plus a few other temples. Ever since we landed in Rajasthan I expressed this strong desire to ride on a camel. This was half becauseof the attention craziness – blame that on my hormones. Half was because of my so-called interest in doing different things or experiencing different things. My cousin who accompanied us found a camel and its caretaker (I know its mahout for elephants. No idea what you call a camel-care-taker) taking rest in a shady area in oneof the quiet streets of Pushkar. He coaxed the camel guy (Lets call him that! Easier!) to let me take a ride on his animal. He agreed for a small sum. (Things never happen in India outside of business!!)
The camel was in a very bad mood or at least appeared to be. It was munching something and making weird noises. “Goddamn you! Can’t you let me enjoy my siesta in peace? Who is giving you such stupid ideas?” I did not need to be a camel to translate that.
I was anyways pretty excited. The camel guy made the camel sit or rather kneel and I climbed on top. The camel was on its feet and started getting up. I seemed to be rising and rising and rising. Now there are times in life when you realize that your decision is too stupid. But self dignity and ego prevent you from revealing this realization. I was in a similar state. I was totally scared and freaked out. I guess you can’t call it fear of heights because it was just a few feet above the ground. May be you can call it fear of heights when mounted on a camel?
Soon my fear and tension won the battle over my ego and dignity. This victory emerged in the form of huge screams from me. Screaming on a roller coaster ride is acceptable. Screaming on a camel??? Well, I did not care! I was terrified.The camel guy said something like ‘Ut’. Then only it dawned to me that my darling mount had not gotten up fully. Like the dinosaur in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, with all possible grace that it could muster, it rose again and stood in its full height.
Its moments like these when your picture gets taken. I still have that picture. My expression is like I have just bitten onto a green chilly when watching a horror movie. Of course there was a little smile that I tried for special effects. Very artistic photograph!
Then the camel started moving and I was shouting “Enough! Enough! Put me down! Put me down” Finally I was down. Once the fear subsided it was now time to face loads of embarrassment. I took it with honor! Believe me, I did. My family had a nice laugh. Somebody had fun anyways.
I was to have another rendezvous with this creature during my college days. We had gone on a bike ride to a nearby temple. There was this camel ride getting offered there. Oh No! Not the one like before. This was a cart pulled by a camel and all of us boarded it. Now we were engineering students and our duty is to do some showing off by being inquisitive and asking intelligent questions. Like what it ate, what it drank etc.
When we were about to get down I asked “Iska naam kya hai?” (What is its name?). I know you call dogs Timmy, Jimmy, Tuffy etc. I was wondering what they named camels.
For an instant the camel guy gave me a look that was a perfect combination of pity and wonder. He had assumed that I was a terribly-weak-at-zoology girl. He smiled and said ‘oont’. I did not hear it properly and I guess my look was quizzical. ‘Oont-oont’ he repeated and then added ‘kaemel’ and went off.
I still did not get it and was standing when I heard a whole lot of laughter. Friends never lose opportunities to pull your legs and opportunities like these which you serve them on a silver platter? No way!!! Okay!!! A camel-guy from Rajasthan had just told me that the four legged animal with a hump was called oont in Hindi and kaemel in English. Embarassment is a small word to depict my plight that moment!
Once again the camel and I had succeeded in bringing great momentary happiness to those that surrounded us. What a team we were!
My friends laughed over this quite a number of times and narrated this to their friends for a hearty laugh again. Things became so bad that sometimes the introductions were based on this incident. “Hey remember the kaemel girl? This is her” followed by ha ha s and hi hi s. Hmmm!!!!!