Between the busy cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur lays a luxury camp called Chhatra Sagar. We all know that I'm best in more of a "glamping" sort of situation like the set-up on my recent visit to Paws Up resort. Luckily Chhatra Sagar fit the glamping bill and then went even above and beyond. It was a welcome oasis of tranquility after the busyness of India's bigger cities.
Chhatra Sagar sits on a manmade dam complete in 1890, though sadly, due to the lack of rain, it was completely dry when we visited. It's not just California that's experience a drought and a major drain on resources. Not having water in the area greatly impacts the food, animals and people. They're rotating crops that need less water like cumin, which is difficult to grow since it likes a steady temperature, but it only needs to be irrigated 3 times per season. If the cumin is well-harvested, it garners a fairly high price due to the sensitive nature of the seed. So the cumin fields were in full swing and fingers were all crossed.
The open sitting areas of Chhatra Sagar actually reminded me of being on safari with sweeping views of the land and occasional glimpses of the local 4 legged creatures. If you want to further inspect the local wildlife, the camp offers a walk through their grounds to examine the trees, animals and birds. A guide comes along with a strong telescope and book for you to see and read more about the birds found.
Even without water, the Camp was still beautiful and serene with subtle, but special touches like morning tea and biscuits brought to your tent to take in the view before breakfast. It's quite impressive, not to mention daunting, the fact that they take all of these tents down each season. The tent living was carried over from the early 20th Century when dignitaries would enjoy relaxing and entertaining in a luxury, open air setting during the trips through the Desert. I can imagine some pretty wild parties going down here. Not too many nearby neighbors to complain about the noise.
One of the highlights of Chhatra Sagar for me, and a highlight from my overall trip to India, was a visit to the local village. This was a really interesting glimpse into how some of the Indian people in the area live day to day.
We were able to go into the elementary school while it was in session and visit with the kids who were more than enthusiastic to greet us and show off their English spelling and vocabulary. They sang for us, held our hands and encouraged us to take their picture. They loved seeing themselves in our cameras, and they were all quite photogenic.
Moving through the village, I was intrigued by a form of a caste system that plays out through the color of men's turbans. Red was for the working shepherd, yellow and pink was for semi-retired and white for the full retired men. So one look to a man's head, and you knew where he was in life. I can think of a few applications for this back in the US, especially for men who don't like to wear wedding rings!
A wander through the little town revealed a typical, simple home with a room for sleeping, storage and a small TV, and an area outside to cook. Since most of the cooking is done over fire, the outdoor areas would be their kitchens with a small overhang, not far from the animals.
We met some of the local artisans who made their living selling or bartering their crafts which included jewelry, shoes and even pottery. We watched the potter create cups for the chai tea that everyone drinks. He makes them for people in the surrounding communities twice a year and delivers them just before 2 big festivals, spaced 6 months apart, so everyone always knows when the new cups are coming and when to throw out the old one's. The potter is a respected man, and his wife is well-cared for. She was eager to show us her collection of jewelry assembled around her waist, wrists and ankles, thanks to her husband's hard work.
I watched the routine of the local women dressed in colorful sari's filling impossibly heavy jugs and placing them on a ring on top of their heads to bring home to their families. Young girls were chatting and giggling at the water fountain while filling their containers, which led me to believe that this was their social time and perhaps gossip area.
We were told that many villagers go into the cities to beg for money during the week, and then they come back to their homes on weekends to places like this where they have a very nice life. That was hard to picture in places like Delhi when seeing all of the people asking for help on the streets, but after a visit to this area, I could see it more. Everyone here had a job and routine, and the people we encountered seemed genuinely happy. It's a more simple way of life, with nothing about it actually being simple. I'm sure they'd think our life is impossibly over-produced.
My visit to Chhatra Sagar was eye opening and interesting. I felt grateful for being able to witness the local villagers' way of life. It looked like hard, but rewarding work. The family that owns and runs Chhatra Sagar also helps take care of the villagers and some of their needs so they ensure to maintain the community that they're a part of. It was an enjoyable time, but there's still one final stop in Rajasthan. We're off to Udaipur next.
Have you missed any of my Indian adventure? You can catch up here.