It’s a dance, a syncopated rhythm. The back legs of the camel chase after the front, the thick joints rubbing against each other with each consistent step. The dance is accompanied by the jingling clatter of bells that encircle its ankles. I must say, I had never been so close to the behind of a camel before. I’m so close, I can see its lengthy eyelashes stretched out against the light sky, its eyes trained on the path ahead. Water spontaneously jets from the underside of the camel. Surprised by the camel’s sudden act of relief, I let out a light, exclamatory “oop”. Cautiously tucking my legs into the multi-colored cart, I brace myself for the wave of defecation that will soon follow. A few village boys closely trail the camel. They smirk at the sight of twenty people piled onto a wooden cart. The boys race one another, weaving through the stone path on foot and on bikes. Their bright bicycles, stained with mud and dirt, speed past the camel’s leisurely pace. The camel’s master swings the reins against its rounded hump. Chalo, chalo! As the camel begins trotting, particles of caked dirt come flying off the camel’s behind. The specks get caught in the crevices of my face; my mouth, my eyes, my hair. I grind my teeth, feeling the gritty crackle of the unforgiving sand. We take a sharp right turn onto a dirt path, and the camel slows its run. The dance has finished.
The dance of the camel is consistent and spontaneous at the same time–the way we should live life. Thus far, this trip has been a strong balance between consistency and spontaneity. Every day, we bring the same materials with us on the bus: an open heart, open mind, journals, and a full water bottle. Every day, we are with the same group of 14 students: from the 13 hour plane flights to the transformative Alphonso mango experience. Out of context, this seems like a gray, repetitive routine. However, we are practicing the importance of context, and taking a step back to observe the larger picture. Underneath this blanket of consistency, there are colorful sparks of unpredictable adventure. We find spontaneity in the impromptu slam performances, attempting to make naan, and the traditional Gujarati dance circles. Because I was unaware of the camel’s ultimate destination, I became immersed in the ride itself. For once in my life, I did not worry about the future. I was fully present, giving the ride the attention it deserved. Time was completely nonexistent. Why wasn’t I living every moment in life like this? It astounds me, how much time I spend living my life preparing for the next moment. Living life should be like riding a camel: a bit rocky at times, but worth every moment in the end.
Sitting a few feet behind the rear-end of the camel was serendipity at its finest. In that moment, I felt at ease. The stars aligned. Chaos ceased. Shanti.