Every time I reflect over my time as an India Fellow, the first word to pop in my mind is ‘Adventure’. A variety of themes to explore, flexibility to experiment, and exposure to different locations has shooed monotony far away.
One of the highlights of my fellowship is travel. I get to see a whole new side of Rajasthan, a greener, hillier and vibrant side. I look forward to my visit other branches of my organization, particularly Salumbar, simply because the journey is refreshing. How much I enjoy this trip can simply be guessed by the fact that I wake up (by choice) to be on the first bus out of Gogunda. (Disclaimer! I am not a morning person.)
Salumbar is a 2.5 hour drive from Udaipur. As our vehicle moves out of the city, leaving behind concrete buildings, the traffic noises fades. We find ourselves surrounded by the Aravali hills covered entirely with the lush green carpet. The twists and turns keep the adrenaline pumping. We cross the forest sanctuary named ‘Kewra ki Naal‘, where you can easily see a leopard or two, if you are in the right spot at the right time.
On one drizzly morning, my journey became far more eventful, when I saw many cotton-white balls of fur covering the roads, finding their way like a liquid through traffic. This was the first time I was seeing hundreds of sheep together, all led by people dressed in white, with colorful turbans. It wasn’t possible to stop in the middle of the highway to inquire, but I managed to know as much as possible about them, from the man in driving seat. The secondary information left me craving for more.
Fortunately, after a few days, on another road, I sighted another such carvaan.
This pastoral-nomadic community is called ‘Raika’ . They are present in almost every state of India. Rebari, Gadariya, Pal are some other names by which they are known. Contrary to general belief, their migration and movement pattern cannot be explained as a random behavior. The strategies adapted have evolved over time and are dynamic to survive the risky environment in which they operate.
Here are some facts about the Raikas that I found interesting:
- The group functions as a little institution. All members have different roles and responsibilities assigned to them. The carvaan is led by young and vigorous men, who are known to be capable of finding ways. Each man manages a sub-set of 100-300 sheep and goats, depending on the size and composition of the group. The elderly and most experienced ones handles the animals’ mischievous offspring, that follow closely.
- Every sub-set is guarded by a dog each. The dog’s responsibility is to keep the sheep from going far while grazing and alarming the group of hunters and thieves during the night.
- These subsets are followed by women, accompanied by camels and donkeys, who carry toddlers as well as all their belonging of the settlements on their backs.
As they follows a nomadic lifestyle, their children can’t attend schools regularly. Hence, the knowledge is passed through generations. They learn to count at a young age, and most of the learning happens on the job. They’re also believed to be fortune tellers.
Parting ways, I learnt a new urdu word from them – ‘Asbaab’, which means worldly belongings, leaving which they practice ‘Minimalism’.