The Global Lead News SEPT | OCT 2016 - Page 49

Last year at the Pushkar Camel Fair, Ashok Tak heard about a group of camels being held out in the desert as men waited for trucks to load them into. He called in the law, pulled some strings and went out to make sure the camels were safe and the rustlers apprehended.

In Bikaner there is less concern. The camel fair here is entertainment and not a fair for sellers and buyers. The high turnout is a testament to our fascination with the strangely beautiful, inexplicably hardy animals that look down at us with knowing brown whale-eyes.

Ashok Tak’s peculiar passion to preserve traditional culture and protect camels is rooted in the same enchantment:

“Camel is a god for me. My food my spirit my dreams. I love Camel.”

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A proponent of traditional Rajasthani camel culture, Ashok has made the journey from his native Pushkar to share his love of camel decoration with others and to spread the word of camel conservation. According to him, the last decade has seen a rapid drop in Rajasthan’s camel population; roughly two thirds of the animals have disappeared. The ‘ship of the desert’ was once ubiquitous in the state.

Camels were used for transportation, milk, heavy lifting on the farm and even marriage ceremonies. Now, roads crisscross the desert and tractors are becoming cheaper. A booming camel meat market on the Arabian Peninsula means the animals are worth more dead than alive. Despite being protected by law, camels are bought from unsuspecting locals by traders from out of state and then secreted away for slaughter.