It was the 10th of January 2022 when I got a call from my office to be part of an exciting project. For the first time ever, I realized I can actually live my dream of going on a raw and exciting trip with something unfamiliar to explore! It was thrilling to find out that our project location was adjoining the India-Pakistan border. This detail alone was enough to get my curiosity piqued as I never experienced life in a village, especially one that is located not only in the desert, but also designated as a “high risk zone”. I could already sense that an amazing journey was coming my way!

The project aimed to document the unique craft of Kashidakari embroidery in Mithrau village in Barmer, Rajasthan. My first step was to research the craft and plan our lodging and transportation. During my research, I found out that there were no direct flights to reach Barmer (the town near the village) as this region only has a railway station connecting it to the rest of the country. What I had originally imagined to be a simple flight, actually turned out to be a train to Jodhpur and then long hours of road travel to reach our destination.

A part of me was relieved to find out that I was assigned a companion, someone I had never met to accompany me on this trip. The idea of traveling with a stranger wasn’t really appealing, however I got lucky! Vishakha, our Project and Design manager was a perfect fit for this expedition. 

 

selfie at barmer railway station

 

I booked the train tickets for the both of us in the 2nd class AC compartment of Malani express and we were excited to start this thrilling journey together.

We started out with a fool-proof plan and for a while it all went well but... as people say, sometimes things do not work out as you expect them to do.

Yes, we did travel together and had a really good time. We talked throughout the journey and engaged in interesting conversations with the people we met on the way. However, we soon ran into our first big problem after reaching the Barmer railway station. Heera Ram ji, the patriarch of the family we were supposed to reside with had to come to pick us up and take us to his village. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he informed us that he could not reach us before 9 am.

Here, we were at the station at 4 am when we realized we were going to be stuck for 5 hours at this unfamiliar railway station with around 400 odd local men as there was no other woman to be seen for miles! We Had no choice but to wait for Heera Ram ji in the railway station’s designated waiting room. In the first hour, we settled down on the 3-seater benches and freshened up from the long and grueling journey. Then, we decided to lie down on the bench and rest for some time. Our backpacks became our pillows and the stiff bench became our bed. We somehow dozed off for a couple of hours, but around 7 a.m the ticket collector barged in and told us to leave the waiting room. We pleaded with him, explaining our situation but to no avail. He would not let us stay any longer and instructed us to leave. 

Somehow, we managed to camp at the station till 8.30 a.m when we finally got a call from our local chaperone informing us that he was almost about to reach. I was finally filled with relief.

Heera Ram ji at last arrived at the station, but little did we know that we were about to start our actual journey. We were still 90 kilometers away from our destination, which I had calculated to be around 2.5 hours of further traveling. We took an autorickshaw to reach the city’s bus stand, and then we hopped on to a bus for the Chotan. The bus was overcrowded with people and luggage. We somehow thrusted our way in and stood throughout the journey. When we reached Chotan, we changed buses and finally found a seat on the bus which was supposed to take us to our final destination. We had to wait for almost another hour for the bus to be stuffed with people before it could start running!

However, in this particular bus ride, the views were captivating.

I felt as if I have come to a different world where everything is raw, dry, and lustreless, and yet still absolutely beautiful. There was desert sand everywhere, on the ground, in the wind and also on our faces. We saw mountains, farms, mud houses surrounded with stone fencing, ladies in vibrant garments, and diverse settlements of all kinds. We didn't realize how we passed the time, but before we knew it, we had already reached the place where we had been yearning to be for a long time.

Samjhu Devi ji (our master craftswoman) and her family welcomed my colleague and I on arrival by offering us water and delicious food.

Samjhu devi's house in Mitharau village

In the course of our stay, we saw cumin (jeera) farms, the annual cultural program at the village school, starry nights, mud houses and all kinds of animals like stray cats, peacocks, goats and even snakes! The village gave us an opportunity to spend peaceful and quality time away from the hustle-bustle of metro cities. 

If I had to describe Mithrau village, I would say it is all about sparkling dunes, prickly bushes, humongous mountains,  wandering peacocks, the scorching sun, simple cuisine, colorful dresses, big-hearted people, traditional lifestyles and surviving in the desert. 

In my opinion, Mithrau village is a must-visit destination for a travel enthusiast. Despite the challenging survival, it is a beautiful place to spend a few days in a true desert environment with its residents and experience their traditional lifestyles. 

samjhu devi and husband

 

If you want to see more about my trip, watch this vlog we made.
Join the Kashidakari masterclass and learn everything I learnt here!

 

Travel Tips:

To visit Mithrau village is no easy feat and you should be thoroughly prepared before embarking on your trip. 

Here’s a few dos and don’ts about planning your trip to Mitharau or Barmer in Rajasthan.

  1. Do pack camping supplies like a flashlight (which you will need while traveling when it's dark as there is no proper power connection in the cluster of villages outside the city), power bank, extension cords, glass cleaner, mosquito repellent, and any other basic utility items.
  2. Do plan and book your transportation in advance from Barmer station as most trains arrive very early in the morning and will leave you stranded on the station.
  3. Do not work outside and/or travel between 1 pm to 4 pm in the summers as the temperature soars during this time of the day and will overheat even the toughest of your gadgets.
  4. Do visit the market in front of Barmer station and explore amazing jewelry, traditional dresses and delicious food. 

Most of all, do have an amazing and safe trip!

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