Pushkar Camel Fair

Sheri Vandermolen

Aging, bewhiskered nomads
have led their caravans from weeks away,
for this livestock fair,
held annually in Brahma’s domain.

An otherwise drowsy town
(centered, with swan-curve grace,
around the blue-lotus-petal lake),
Pushkar wills its dusty foothills alive,
upon the odorous arrival
of thirty thousand colorfully adorned camels,
a miscellany of horses, cattle.

Stick-thin men donning turbans
tied from nine meters of bright fabric
gather around open fires,
eager to discuss their dromedaries’ merits —
cleanest ears, healthiest eyes,
best mouth structure
(full lips and not too long in the tooth),
fastest pace, strongest lineage —
while sipping chai and puffing on chillums.

After days of animated haggling,
they begin to groom the beasts,
for the public spectacles of the festival,
shaving intricate designs
into the camels’ coarse flank coat,
rimming the eyes with kohl,
piercing red-silk carnations
into the nose plugs that attach to the reins,
draping bells and beads under the saddles
and wrapping the creatures’ necks
with half a dozen rows of knit pom-poms,
each owner hoping his animal will win
the beauty contest or races,
at least give the richest desert-dessert milk,
for vendors to sell as exotic ice cream.

Purely business, for some,
others take great pride in wooing tourists
by exhibiting their flair —
and the wanderer who has colored his own hair
to match the flamboyantly orange locks
prominent atop his camel’s head and spine
waits for the camera shutter to click once again,
ensuring their matching Brahman-crowned majesty
will achieve immortality digitally divined.

No comments:

Post a Comment