Not long ago, I got a call from my shepherd-farmer friend in the deep deserts of western Rajasthan.

Kal jordaar baarish hui hai saa. Khadinen bilkul phull! Biprasar, phull! Sab khush hain saa.
(It has rained heavily last night. All the khadins are full. Biprasar (a lake) is full! Everybody is happy.)

He belly-laughed. His voice trembled with thrill. It was infectious.

 

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Babu Singh, a shepherd I met in June 2015, stood to lose much if the rains failed this year.

This region of India, deep in western Rajasthan, had not seen rains since 15th August, 2013. Their lakes and khadins — liquid, life-giving, food-giving creatures — lay parched, and barely hanging on, thirsting for rain. Their walking gold –goats and sheep — even though adapted to the desert, were dropping dead from exhaustion and dehydration. This was income drying up.

Their cows were drying up too. With no money to buy fodder, the region was in dire straits. If it did not rain this year …

… that was a sentence no one dared complete. I sat with shepherds who buried their heads in their hands. With Jethi who begged me to pray for rain.

So imagine my joy when I heard Chhattar Singh belly-laugh.

The people of this region of western Rajasthan revere the meager rain they get, and harvest rainwater that lasts them year-round and then some. This activity is their savior in a harsh, brutal climate.

They were ready with their harvesting structures, faces upturned to the sky, watching the clouds.

Tayyari toh humne kii hai. Bas Bhagwaan kii der hai.
(We have prepared ourselves to harvest rain. Now we wait for God to deliver.)

Early August, 2015, after almost 2 years of playing truant, the rain-gods brimmed lakes and khadins and submerged beris (shallow water wells).

The Thar is, once again, “lapaalap” with possibilities.

 

(lapaalap: brimming, full, lapping the sides)

 

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Women filling their post at Biprasar, a man-made rain-fed lake brimming after the 2013 rains

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The same lake-bed, Biprasar, gone dry with no rains throughout 2014

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Derasar, lapaalap with rainwater in 2013. Derasar is a khadin which feeds several villages with its rainfed rabi crop