I was travelling on my own in Rajasthan—the Land of the Kings—and it was Valentine’s Day. So when a handsome young man offered to take me to a place where there were no tourists, where, he said, the sand has no footprints, I decided it was just what I needed so off I went.
I was in Jaisalmer, a city in India that looks like a giant sandcastle emerging from the desert. I was staying in what was once a traditional residence of the wealthy called a haveli and it was the owner’s son who offered to be my guide, accompanied by his Muslim driver (who later told me my guide was indeed a prince).
It took some time to drive to the dunes and we hiked in over shifting sand looking for a perfect spot to sit and watch the sun set. To my total surprise, six tribesmen came over one of the dunes and, upon seeing us, invited us to join them at their Hindu temple. Since we were in the middle of nowhere and since I was a foreigner and the only woman and since our helper was Muslim, I didn’t think it was a great idea but the guide decided to join them and I had no choice but to follow.
The temple was actually a tree growing out of the sand with colourful ribbons tied around it. I watched the tribesmen remove their shoes, sweep the sand in front of the tree, build a fire and pray. The Muslim helper and I ran to the highest dune just as the sun went below the horizon. That’s when he told me my guide was the prince of Jaisalmer and his father the maharaja.
When we returned to Jaisalmer late that evening the so-called prince’s family invited me to join their Valentine’s Day party where entertainers danced on shattered glass and steel spikes, musicians played unfamiliar instruments, and guests drank and ate until the wee hours.
And so ended my most memorable Valentine’s Day.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2010