It was the first day of my ten-days-long Rajasthan trip with organized-Kesari-tours. My friend ‘V’ and I reached the hotel at Bikaner around 5pm. The first two hours were spent familiarizing with seventeen group members and selecting the best rooms in the hotel. After the initial formalities we gathered at the hotel lobby. Children got busy with indoor games while adults formed smaller groups and chit-chatted amongst themselves.
We were too excited to just sit in the lounge and let the day go by. Since sight-seeing was scheduled for the next day, we wanted to go out and see something, maybe shop a little. We went to the reception desk and enquired about shopping areas that would be open at that time. There was no transport available so we decided to go for a short walk.
7pm and it was pitch dark outside. Only a ghost would be brave to walk in such darkness. We took a torch and walked outside the gates. A small light was shimmering at a distance. We walked towards the lighted area and discovered that there was a handicraft shop. What a relief! We entered the store, happy to have found some civilization. There were glittering mirror work on cushion covers and on bed sheets displayed on stands, the small puppets of different expressions hung down the shelves, the stuffed animals formed their colonies, the shiny bangles sparkled under light, there was exhibit of all kinds of hand-crafted articles. Even though we had no intention of buying anything, we could still look and feast our eyes. We chatted with the shop keeper who talked about the culture, food and the tradition of the place. He informed us about the majestic house which was few meters away. We decided to explore it.
With only our torch light to show the path, we walked down the muddy path. Suddenly my foot got caught in an animal trap and I fell on my knees with my one leg dangling down between the iron rods that were laid across the path between the iron gates. I couldn’t get up. My friend bend down next to me and helped me remove my leg from the parallel iron rods but each time I tried to stand up, my feet kept slipping into the gap between the smooth rods. I fell several times. Slowly I stood up and moved towards the dirt road. There was very little pain in my ankle but I am not the type to complain. I dragged my foot and walked towards the hotel.
I ignored the pain and went to have dinner in the dining hall with the rest of the group. Gradually the pain increased, I decided to rub an ointment and wrap my foot with a warm cloth before going to sleep. Cruel pain distracted me. On the next bed, my friend lay fast asleep, probably in her own dream world, must be already exploring the desserts of Rajasthan, enjoying the camel rides for free and stuffing herself with the extra servings of Undhiya and other delicacies. Here I was, tossing and turning, wriggled in pain, didn’t sleep a wink all night.
“Good Morning” said my friend and I groaned. I uncovered my injured foot. It felt like a frozen wood. It was swollen and blue. I moved my foot to the cold floor and tried to walk up to the bathroom, No co-operation from my stubborn foot, it refused me mobility. I could not walk. With one foot, I hopped back and forth. The world seemed to end for me. ‘Come on, nothing is wrong, you can walk” I said several times, trying to hypnotize my subconscious mind but pain won. I could forget about sight-seeing the city.
My friend stared at me helplessly, with her hands on her waist, she said, “Does it hurt?”
“No, I am fine”, I lied, cussing under my breath. The pain was written all over my face. I am always amused when people ask strange questions.
I didn’t want to spoil my friend’s holiday, I asked her to go ahead with the rest of the group, I just need to rest and wait for pain to subside.
The breakfast and lunch arrived in my room; I took the pain killers and slept all day long. My hotel room seemed like a hospital bed. In the evening, when the troupe returned I was still dozing. Soon my room was flooded with visitors, all strangers whom I had yet to befriend. They had learnt about my pain through my friend and came to keep me company and talked about what I had missed. The group spoke excitedly about the rat temple that they had visited during the day. I could imagine their confusion when they spoke about hundred of rats that had scurried around their feet and their interest in spotting white mice which is believed to bring good luck. Even the lucky people had craving to see the white mice, there is no end to greed.
My friend had picked up post cards from every place that she had visited during the day and she patiently briefed me visually on what I had missed. She brought back the post cards of red-stone-walled Vikram Vilas taken from the front view from Ganga Niwas side, showing the beautiful architecture of the building with artistic windows, balconies and stairways. There were also view cards of Bikaner Fort showing the pictures of front view, back view, courtyard, Gaj Mandir Jharokhas, Chandra Mahal, Anoop Mahal throne, golden swing, etc.
For a brief moment I forgot my pain.
But it returned after the group went back to have dinner and I couldn’t join them. My friend came back after dinner and we had dessert on bed. I took more pain killers and went back to sleep.
On third day, I could limp and walk few steps. There was no wheel chair but the group was very kind to me. They wanted me to come with them, even if it meant just sitting in the bus and enjoying the view. They helped me stagger up to the bus and all day long we toured the city with me seated by the window.
My trip to Bikaner was a flop, a complete flop, or was it? I met some amazing people who never allowed my spirit to dip lower to the point of depression and self-pity. I never complained about my discomfort so they never knew the intensity of my pain. During the rest of the trip to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, I walked with the help of a stick and enjoyed the camel rides, met Bisnoi people, visited local crafts men, played folk music with the tribes and even shopped at the Jodhpur markets.
On my return, the x-rays showed ligaments tear and the pain lasted for more than a month. A memorable trip indeed!