It was early on a hot summer day deep in the Thar desert. Chattar Singh — desert shepherd, farmer, my friend and guide — interrupted a deep slurp of chai to point out fruit to me in a far away tree. A wind whispered the boughs low before snapping them back upright sending oblong beans-like fruit into bright green shivers.
Voh dekho peD pe pakii hui saangri hai!”
Look there! That tree is full of ripe saangri.
It was pure love in his voice.
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.
Early one morning, I asked my hotel manager for directions to the fish market. He sent Raju with me to find me a cycle rickshaw. An old man stood, one hand on a rickety blue cycle, at the end of the road. “Twenty rupees,” he said with a smile that revealed three fence-post-like teeth.
I climbed in. And from my perch, watched the inscrutable machinations of serendipity at work.
Moinuddin, once a fisherman, had been pulling rickshaws for 20 years, ever since the river went quiet and the fish disappeared. (Fish catches in this part of the Brahmaputra have fallen 85-90% over the last few decades). He’d watched the city exchange their wild catches for farmed alien species. He’d watched kids of humble fishermen grow up to become fish-barons, their riches feeding on the bland imports.