Wednesday, Oct 05, 2022
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Gusts Of A Desert Storm

Udai Singh captured important territories during the '71 war. But his greatness lay in making war widows visible.

The road to Garha continues long after the macadamised surface has withered away. The vehicle leaves the now rutted surface with a jolt, landing on the soft sand-track for the rest of the journey. Straight ahead, under the setting sun, lies the village of Garha. Now in the shadow of the sand dune that lies to its west, or 'behind' in local parlance. A lone skeletal acacia tree performs a macabre dance atop the sand dune. Some dry shrub rests around the tree as if providing an audience to those skeletal branches reaching out in a contorted ballet of the twisted. They are performing at the end of their lives, for it is doubtful if they will last the dry season that is approaching. Although it is only the beginning so far, it is a very dry beginning, the land wrapped once again in the embrace of a drought.

At this time of the day, at any time of the year, the village can only be seen through the dusty haze of the setting sun. The cattle are coming home to rest after a day's grazing and the young calves are baying in loud excitement over meeting their mothers. The camels, as usual, follow in a silent procession with the goats and the sheep. They are the last of the dust-raisers. It will be a while before the dust settles. By which time it will be so dark that looking ahead would make no sense. I am looking for Garha but I don't want to go there. I will only go to Garha when I have something to give the village. I need to go to 'Desert Hermitage', to the right of the road at a distance of about a kilometre. And I need to get there before the sun sets for it is considered inauspicious to go to a house for condolences after the day is over. I am there to pay condolences to the family of the greatest son of Garha, for what he had done for India.

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