India: The Psychology of Camel Selfies

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November 12th 2019
Published: November 15th 2019
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When I am at Pushkar Camel Fair, nothing interests me more than just hanging out with the camels and the camel people, the Raika, at Camel Hill. I spend a lot of the long days wandering, observing and interacting as best I can with the entire scene.

Sometimes, I get a little itchy when I am at Camel Hill. I want to get in there, get my hands dirty, do something with the camels, try some new camel managing trick or just snuggle the hell out of those love able camels. That is not always easy to do. There is the language barrier, the cultural considerations, the perceived gender limitations, the obvious fact I am a gora (because Americans don’t really know much about camels, right?!) and just the logistics of there not being much to do.

This year I discovered a new little trick that kind of entertained me. Indian camels, for the most part, are livestock. They are well cared for, but do not live as the pets we are used to in the States. They don’t necessarily answer to a name and may not immediately trust all strangers. But if there is
one thing I have learned in my limited travels is that camels are camels when it comes to curiosity and affection.

Standing face on with a camel and possibly entering his space is not necessarily a recipe for cuddles, it is most likely going to make the camel skeptical. But standing near them, even in their space, with your back to them invites them the opportunity to do the approaching, lets them do the initiating and doesn’t immediately put them on the defense. I often remind myself that if a camel believes something is his idea or simply a good idea, he will join right in, but stubbornness might kick in if he thinks you are being bossy instead of a leader.

So I quite regularly positioned myself as if I were taking a selfie and simply watched the camels in the camera. I find their behaviors and thought processes fascinating and this gave me the opportunity to see what they would do, how they would respond to me and how quickly I may find myself with a new friend.

I love the psychology of it and the chance to interact
with the animals. For the record, I am not encouraging anyone else to do this and am not saying it is entirely safe for anyone. (The lawyers told me to put that out there!)

Routinely, I had people walk by and warn me they can bite, they are not safe and I should not be close to them. I ignored them, but it was nice of them to care about me. There were also those moments when tourists would approach me and wonder why the camel has his head on my shoulder or is kissing me and he won’t do it for them. In those instances, I played ignorant.

I am sure I looked like some narcissistic tourist obsessed with the novelty of being photographed with a camel, but I did have fun making new friends and taking selfies with them.

It was interesting and frankly frustrating when the touts would barge up to me with the latest and greatest drum, bracelet or brass lock that I just needed to buy. I could see the camel pull back sometimes even before I even saw the tout. Camels don’t appreciate abrasive, loud
or brash behavior, either that or they are sick of people thinking they are the type of person who would buy a drum! I wasn’t always easy to get these salespeople to keep moving along. I couldn’t exactly explain ”we are having a moment here...leave!”

As much as I was annoyed at these interruptions, I did find it fascinating to see how the camels responded; how quickly they returned to nuzzling me once the intruder left and how annoyed they were by the actions.

Obviously camels are beautiful, efficient, iconic beasts that have dominated my fascination for a very long time, but they are also so damn interesting in how they respond to people, places or situations. I can’t imagine ever getting bored with them. I will probably buy one of those stinking drums before that ever happens.

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15th November 2019

Very nice approach.

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