Driving in the Dunes

by Yaska Sahara

My driving lessons are cooler than yours.

I’d see climbing goats on the side of the road, wave at a group of boys crammed in the back of a truck shocked to see a young woman driving a 4×4, see a lizard cross the road so fast I could barely see its tiny rapid feet, have to rapidly swerve for a cow sitting a the middle road not giving a damn… It was so fun, a great and unique experience given the pandemic making the roads bare, yet still making me have to learn and adapt to my surroundings as one needs when learning to drive.

I’d let the windows down, talk about the nearby buildings and landscapes with my lovely family instructor, hear his stories about the times he’d driven down these roads.

Then I’d stop and say hello to a camel, and go for a little dune sliding…

During Rajasthan’s tough lockdown amid India third wave of COVID, visiting Jaisalmer was mainly a matter and convenience and being close to some family for a while, not a touristy holiday. However, my one fun activity out was cruising on the rural desert roads in the 4×4. I’d driven before but not this freely, my first experiences were mainly in the city, being scared of everything within a ten-kilometre radius. Of course, that is realistic and necessary to learn. But I found now that I was older, I was generally more confident in a car and the responsibility of being in a large vehicle was less daunting. It was very freeing and I can now totally see the appeal of long drives. I can’t wait to get my finally get my license and do road trips with friends.

I’ve had a little difficulty with my blog in light of a lot of technical issues this year, my thesis, and a master’s application (more on that soon). But I’m starting up again and I just wanted to share the beauty of Rajasthan’s dunes to start it off and share the somewhat surreal nature of the whole experience.

I travelled but didn’t really travel. I have been to Jaisalmer a few times before and love traditional Rajasthani food, architecture and dress, things I was able to explore the previous times I visited Jaisalmer. Rajasthan feels like sister land to my ancestral Kutch, also a very desert area. I have similar feelings of comfort, yet also having some different wonder. Yet, this time I couldn’t engage with these things much so next time I go, I will be sure to cover the city, or maybe the state, properly.

But today, in this rather casual and relaxed post, I just wanted to say that I truly love the desert, the dry heat makes the high temperatures surprisingly bearable. The open desert, though not green and luscious, is very serene. It’s very silent other than the sounds of a rare passing car, an insect, or the desert breezes. The image of the dunes seems like something out of a painting, and you feel a satisfying sense of disconnect from civilisation.

Desert areas often have unique types of cuisine, flora and fauna, fashion and architecture. One can see history in the way things are done in the desert today, and I find that fascinating.

I can’t wait to explore more sandy dunes, both in India and other parts of the world.

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