It is only in the high 90s.
The 11th Century fort on the hill to our left glows bright copper in afternoon’s high sun. The desert city is layered gold.
Mottled cream and caramel cows and goats neither yield nor look up as I place my arms around a textile merchant’s waist and we careen on his motorcycle across town. My daughter stays behind. As I glance back I see her standing in the store’s door-less doorway, stacks of mirrored, thickly embroidered jewel-colored cotton and waffled silk beyond her, intricate overlays of ochre stone on the windows above.
My motorcycle mission: to extract a significant amount of negotiable currency from my bank account, the corpus of which lies half-a-world away.
I am wearing my daughter’s tea-and-thyme airy cotton kurta, a little worse for the wear from sleeping in the top berth on an overnight train. It would endure yet more crumpling on our next stop: an overnight camel safari from Jaisalmer to the Pakistani border.
I am not wearing a helmet.
My mother would be appalled with just about every facet of this adventure.
My daughter, my hostess here, is pleasantly surprised and seems very pleased with me.
I am confident that her father, too, would be delighted to behold this scene in a place and space I never would have found myself had he not bequeathed to me some of his sense of adventure.
He, of course, would have signed on for the full-week camel safari. He would have tied on a scarf, Lawrence of Arabia-style, and peered ahead into the strong sun with eyes that in his all-too-short life always gave him a better than 20/20 view of the world. He would have looked back at our beautiful daughter and turned his head forward again before she noticed, so as not to unnerve her by beaming too brightly with pride at the young woman she has become.
If he were still alive, he would most certainly be the one here with her, and I would be at home in New Hampshire, afraid even of flying.
If he were here, our daughter would not have to constantly watch her parent for signs of dehydration and ply me with water, alert me when I may and may not take pictures, or coax me to expand my culinary choices.
But here I am.