Camel Parlour.

Shahrukh is ready to mesmerize with a stylish hair-do, while Salman with his rippling muscles is getting donned with clothes and accessories. No, he isn't taking his shirt off. Rather, both these 'studs' are being dressed at a camel parlour in Jaisalmer in time for the Desert Festival that starts on February 23.

Meere Khan, the owner of Gorband Camel Parlour in Amar Sagar village, is a veteran at the beautification of these four-legged creatures. He's called a beautician and has been practicing the art of his forefathers. Unlike high-end salons in metros, this one catering to the ship of the desert operates from a humble, open courtyard in Khan's house. 

The salon comprises of a cart in the golden sand with a few iron boxes which contain the implements of the trade - scissors of different shapes and razors called 'ustras'. It takes three hours for Khan and his assistants to decorate Shahrukh and Salman with colourful tassels,beads and mirrors. Intricate geometric patterns are also shaved into the hair. Even the tail is a sight to see. By the end of it, both look as beautiful and bashful as brides. And yes, a little bewildered too. Meanwhile, other camel owners wait patiently to turn their animals into caparisoned beauties. After all, they have taken a prior appointment. 

With tourism being a major sector in Rajasthan, it makes business sense to have salons for camels. These are located in Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Pushkar and Jodhpur. The camel population in Rajasthan is approximately three lakh, of which some 50,000 are into tourism. 

"This is a very special art," explains Khan. "Earlier, camel raisers would themselves be barbers. People would gather the camels in one place and collectively cut their hair. But now, this work is being done in special saloons," he says. 

Khan's rates are flexible - they depend on the pattern and how much the camel owner can shell out. One has to make allowances for vagaries in the desert. The rates vary from Rs 700 to Rs 5,100. 

In Pushkar, famous for its annual camel fair, Ashok Tak has been running 'Collector's Paradise', a camel beauty parlour, for the last 27 years. This seven-time champion of camel decoration says, "I have learnt different styles of haircut and camel decoration and been to different fairs in Kutch, Goa and other Rajasthan cities." 

Over the years, Tak has collected decoration equipment worth more than Rs 1 lakh. He claims he is among the few to have preserved this dying art. "I have trained several others, who are doing an equally good job of it," he says proudly. 

Another art form used on these animals is tattoos. But these are tedious and can take nearly two days. "Many camel owners," says Khan, "take part in festivals and compete during races and polo matches. Having a decorative camel can help them win prizes and they are ready to go that extra mile." 

Wonder what the camels have to say.

Courtesy: The Times Of India.


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