The rules of nature are so stringent, enduring and final. And what irony in those rules. As the weather turns cooler, the vast landscape of the Thar Desert is witness to the arrival of the migratory birds. Travelling from thousands of miles away, these birds invariably manage to exactly locate their feeding grounds. Just as their predecessors have for so many countless centuries. The Imperial Sand Grouse has arrived, as have various species of duck. The largest visitors—only in size of course—belong to the bustard family, and the much-hunted Houbarra bustard has come in fairly large numbers. Distantly related to the much larger Great Indian Bustard, the Houbarra was the major reason for the various sheikhs from the Gulf to hunt in Rajasthan. They used to drive into Jaisalmer district from Rahimyar Khan in Pakistan.
The irony of all these migrations is that they occur at about the same time as the most important movement of the year, as far as the state is concerned, is about to conclude. It's been going on since the early Mughal days and involves one of the most fascinating—and certainly the most important—institutions of the Indian state. It's the appointment of girdavar and he participates annually in preparing the most important report, at least in the state if not in the country. In English he is called the inspector of land records and in some states he goes by that name, in some he is known as the kanungo and in Rajasthan he has always been known as the girdavar. His job is to assess the value of the crop just before each harvest— kharif and rabi. And each girdavar conducts this exercise with about four patwaris under him, checking every khasra of land in their area. All the girdavars send their assessments to their respective naib tehsildars, who, in turn, pass them on to their tehsildars from where it goes to the district collector for tabulation and onward dispatch. At each stage of its journey, the report is distilled for final presentation. Earlier, these assessments went to the royal courts, now they go to the Jaipur secretariat.