Jaisalmer was, when I visited in January this year, both a magical glittered playground and at the same time a place of such hidden, intricate secrecy that the real magic seemed to be more behind the glitter than because of it.
It had a heart. A deep, pulsating rhythm at the very centre of its unique network of people, something from which such exquisite energy emanated that it tickled even the blandest of tourist tastes.
Like the shiny whites of eyes, hinting at an inside from beneath ancient brows.
S, B and I arrived in the early evening, chasing the sun as it brushed the horizon. The old fort was lit from below as the day slowly hid itself and the grimy lamps of night-time wanderers flickered into life. Beautiful.
And as we stepped through its gargantuan gate we had the distinct feeling of walking into another world… Painted ladies lined the walls singing for their supper, last-minute hagglers ambushed us with pointless trinkets, ropy children tittered in groups and watched us with orb-like eyes and fellow travellers loitered by chai stands and the famous yet somewhat incongruous ‘german’ bakery…
And as we made our way through the guts of the place to our nook of a hostel right in the castle wall we began to feel the first tinglings of that glitzy magic, that glint of Rajas and rubies that so characterises the cities of Rajasthan… like the glint on the surface of a sun tickled ocean.
We were taken. As we turned our final corner we stopped.
A waft of sharp grinding music lay lightly on the air, whispering of something very weird and very wonderful. It seemed to swell as we stood, listening, and enveloped us gradually in its gnarled arms, drawing us forward again and past our hostel…
Through sandstone alleys and crumbling walkways, past crystalline windows and walls of hanging carpets, and finally out! Out into a clearing filled with silent people, staring, eyes all in the same direction, at a point somewhere on the far wall.
We pushed forward, propelled by our ears. And there, on a raised platform and with the eyes of a thousand millenniums, sat the essence of Jaisalmer. A musician.
An ancient, mottled figure smothered in shawls and bearing a strawberry red turban, with the magic of a glittering city at his fingertips and the whites of its ancient heart glinting from beneath his black, black brows.