From a distance, the hundreds of tents in endless rows on the outskirts of Pushkar look like the military encampment of a besieging army. Thousands of desert nomads, here for the annual Camel Fair, start to welcome a new day.
The barren landscape is coming to life with the traders, gypsies and pilgrims who descend on this sleepy lakeside city every autumn from all over India. Countless camels kick up a cloud of suffocating dust under the heat of the rising sun, while cattle and goat herders water their animals at large communal troughs. The dung is being collected by women, serene in their bright saris, who will dry it in the sun to be used as fuel for cooking. A group of men huddle around a smoky campfire and children rub sleep from their eyes with tiny fists.
Through the haze of dust, smoke and early morning sun, a woman approaches me. She has a beautiful face and her long red scarf flows and dances along the sand behind her as she walks. Her captivating gaze is intensified by a few precise strokes of black eyeliner. Thick black hair is restrained with matching red pins and she wears a “nath”, the chain from pierced nose to hair that is normally a Hindu bridal ornament.
Clearly aware of her striking beauty and its value as a photographic souvenir, she has dressed accordingly. Sure enough, in a soft, heavily accented voice, she smiles at me and whispers: “Photo?”
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