Lying in the Thar desert in an elaborate tent, I can’t help feeling sad and guilty.
A group of musicians and dancers performed to us for evening entertainment. It was just two of us and a group of 6 artists. They began calmly signing. There were two young girls in the group wearing glittery, fancy dresses. They can’t have been older than 15.
Later one of the young girls balanced a stack of a dozen bowls on her head. A man put out a sheet of glass shards. I thought they were to chime and make music. However, she stood in front of them, gritted her teeth, attempted to smile and stood on the glass. Her face trembled. I looked away and said no. It was horrible. I couldn’t watch.
She got off the glass, looking relieved and continued dancing to the folk music.
Next, a huge slab of metal nails was placed in front of her. Outraged, we stood up to leave. They took the nails alway and continued dancing. I couldn’t bear it. Everything about it felt so wrong. The poor girl… I felt so guilty… This was all for us. The performers thought this was what we wanted to watch.
We made an excuse, paid them and went to bed. I wanted to cry. So far in India I have seen a lot of poverty. This evening was something else.
Earlier in the day wasn’t much better. We took a Jeep and camel ride through the desert. The Jeep journey was fun. Very bumpy but the views were spectacular.
The camel ride, on the other hand, was cruel. The camel didn’t want to carry us and it was lead by two small boys no older than 12. The camel was forced up a sand dune and the young boys (one of whom did not own any shoes and was probably 6 years old) persuaded the camel to move by hitting it.
We stopped off at a house, where its inhabitants sat on outdoor seats. They had a skinny deer tied up next to their front door. It seemed to be a tourist attraction.
I wanted to leave. Travelling is not always fun and games. Sometimes you may land in a place that frightens you or makes you feel uneasy. Osian desert was one such place. It was certainly remote and stunningly unspoilt by the hand of man, but it was filled with sadness. It seemed to be a sleepy town with no tourists passing. I was advised that this was because it was low season.
Although the entertainment was guilt provoking, the tents and breakfast was lovely at Safari Camp Osian. It was also a magical place to watch the sun set while enjoying ginger tea.
If you want to go, you can call Pratap Singh Bhati on +917775577221. I would recommend staying as it is peaceful – but I wouldn’t watch the entertainment or go on the camels.
It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. I just wanted the little boys and girls to get opportunities they so badly deserve. There was no school. They just worked all day in the sweltering heat.
Do you think tourism is beneficial for these tiny villages or does it do more harm than good?