I love cows. So much, in fact, that I decided to travel alone for 20 hours by train from Mumbai to Nagaur, just to see them. But when I got to the cattle fair I was told there were no cows, only ‘bel’ (bull) and ‘bachra’ (male calves). Apparently, the bulls get too excited around the ladies, and no work or trade gets done!
But I did find something I didn’t expect to – dancing camels and horses. Yes, apparently it is a big business in Rajasthan – they perform at weddings and other special ceremonies. Although they aren’t the main draw at the Nagaur cattle fair, the organisers have realised that tourists flock to these shows, so now there is a big dance competition with prize money. For the ones who don’t win, they use their time at the fair to show off their skills at smaller ‘dance demonstrations’ that might drive up their price for prospective buyers. And in this case, both the ladies and gents of the species can participate.
Khoju Ram is 19 years old, and the 4th generation in his family to breed and look after dancing horses. He hopes that Suman’s moves will impress someone enough that they cough up 3.5 lakhs.
Mohammed Khan, on the other hand brought his nameless camel from Bikaner on a lark. He doesn’t expect her to win or sell, although she can sit like a dog, trot like a prancing pony and pick up 500 rupee notes off the floor. On days that neither of them feel like dancing, they take tourists for rides.
Words & Photography: Ashima Narain