Yesterday evening we arrived in Phalodi, where we’d planned to spend a day or two but it seemed like a pretty uninspiring place after the energetic bustle and warmth of Jodhpur so we made a pretty quick exit and reached Khinchan this afternoon after a short bus ride.
Khinchan is a small, but not tiny, village, unexpectedly high on the number of tourists who breeze through here, thanks to the thousands of Siberian cranes that fly here every year in the winter. As soon as we reached we went straight to one of the four lakes where these ‘khurja’ hang out in the day. I don’t know what it is about thousands of stinky noisy birds in one spot that is so mesmerising, but despite the blazing heat and the fact that we were getting hungry, we stood around for quite a while, watching the birds and photographing them. These cranes apparently do a courtship dance that we were hoping to see, but looks like they’re all paired off and happy so all they did was hop around and sunbathe and generally create a racket.
Finally the heat got the better of us and we headed to the primary school, where the headmaster agreed to put us up for the night, so we got a large empty classroom to ourselves to put our stuff in and generally laze about. Of course we became the entertainment for the school kids all afternoon and they kept poking their heads in to stare at us and then every time we stared back at them they scuttled off in a fright.
We were quite kicked at the idea of sleeping in the school classroom. The schoolmaster arranged for us to have dinner in one his students’ houses – Tushar and and told us to pay the parents something for the dinner. But once we landed up in their home they absolutely wouldn’t hear of us sleeping in the school, so we get to sleep on their terrace under the stars, which, as it turns out, is a much better idea. Almost a full moon, cool breeze through the night and a star-lit sky, you get the idea… That’s Gomathi and Ram Charandas, Tushar’s parents, and his sister Monica.
Specific note from Anushka: Iswar played a rotten trick on me. Well not really rotten, but I must at least pretend to be miffed. A couple of the neighbours saw us hanging out on the terrace and came to check out who we were. Indira Devi and her nephew whose name I’ve already forgotten!! She was an absolute riot, wicked sense of humour, always teasing, she put us at ease pretty soon. Turned out she was a professional singer, so we asked her to sing, but she looked as though we’d insulted her – apparently there’s no way she’d sing unless she had a harmonium. A little while later Iswar tells her that I am a good singer and that I love to sing – ‘aap pyar se bolo to gaayegi’. And of course Indira Devi comes and pulls my cheek and coos to me to sing for her. And of course I sang, all the while looking dagger-eyed at Iswar. And of course after I did, Indira Devi spontaneously broke out into song, a song about Holi, which is right around the corner. So ya good idea and all, but nonsense…