The wild ass of Gujurat

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December 9th 2010
Published: December 9th 2010
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Rabari manRabari manRabari man

'Rabari' means herder - this man was herding cattle. They gather outside the mosque each morning to decide who goes where with their livestock.
On the way home from Udaipur I decided to take a detour and spend two nights at Camp Zainabad (aka Desert Coursers) on the edge of the Little Rann of Kutch.

'Rann' means desert, 'Kutch' is the area, and at nearly 5000sq km it is 'little' only in comparison to the 'great' rann located further towards Pakistan.

The area is the last habitat of the Asiatic Wild Ass, but I was more interested in the landscape. It is dead flat, and turns into a marshland during the monsoon, broken only by a few small islands or 'bhets'. But the rains haven't conformed this year and the desert was still spongey from flooding in early November.

About 20,000 families live in the desert during the dry season, barely reaping a living from salt panning. Other families raise sheep or cattle along its edges, or cultivate cotton and cumin.

Gujurat is fast becoming my favourite state in India, and I hope these photos show why.

Even in Ahmedabad, a city of 5 million, I nearly had my arms ripped from my shoulders a few times by people wanting their photo taken, and I have so many things to

These two children in Zainabad village demanded their photo be taken, then ran and hid behind the door. Their mum also came to investigate.
write about that I have decided not to try just yet!

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14



From their hand gestures we thought these women were going to sew handicrafts, but were later told this rarely happens anymore. They were off to work, at any rate.
Rabari womanRabari woman
Rabari woman

Many of the women in the village wore black headscarves. They were on their way to a Hindu ceremony celebrating the birthday of the goddess of a "very good" exorcist who was in town.

There was drumming and singing, then a black plastic sheet was laid down. I thought it was going to be a sacrificed, but instead the men took turns to lie on the ground, wave this sword, then walk away convulsing.
Salt and show-offsSalt and show-offs
Salt and show-offs

We were standing on this mound of salt waiting to be bagged and trucked away when four boys ran up carrying slingshots and machetes. Their families were salt workers; I think they were gathering firewood.
Salt workersSalt workers
Salt workers

Out on the rann, the families pump water from underground into pans. The drying salt needs to be continually raked over, even in mid-summer when temperatures hit 50 degrees.
Tough future aheadTough future ahead
Tough future ahead

This boy, the son of a salt worker, is unlikely to attend school despite living in one of the most prosperous states in India.
Rajasthani gypsiesRajasthani gypsies
Rajasthani gypsies

The Mir people began settling in the area about 10 years ago, from Rajasthan. They too are desperately poor. Within minutes of arriving my arms had been hijacked by a woman who loaded them with bangles while fighting off her competitors.
Mir childrenMir children
Mir children

After being told their names at least five times each, I've still forgotten them.
Scouting for assScouting for ass
Scouting for ass

My driver, Jonas, is getting a bit worried when, half an hour before sunset, we still haven't spotted any ass.
Wild assWild ass
Wild ass

But my wildlife jinx seems to have ended at last.
Auto driver?Auto driver?
Auto driver?

This goat was nibbling on all sorts of delicacies inside a rickshaw in Ahmedabad, the state's main city.
City boysCity boys
City boys

I figured if I took photos of the kids in the desert, I should probably consent to take the photo of these boys too, in central Ahmedabad.

10th September 2011

Wild Ass Sanctuary
Hi, Came across this blog post while googling for info on Wild Ass Sanctuary. We were there about 18 moths ago and had a great time spotting wildlife including wild asses, cranes and nilgais. Here is the link with the pictures we took just in case you want to take a look. Regards, Madhu

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