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Stargazing in the Thar

By viralid

About a month ago, a few friends and I spent the night in the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. After riding camels into the desert, we ate a dinner that our guides had cooked by campfire — roti, daal, and vegetables. And as it got progressively darker, we got to see more stars in a sky virtually free of light and air pollution. We spent some time talking and walking around the desert before watching the moonrise at the top of a dune. And when the light from the moon made it difficult to see the stars with the same clarity, we returned to where we’d set up our mattresses. The next morning, we woke up with the sun and after eating a light breakfast, we hopped back onto the camels to leave the desert.

Overall, this was one of the simpler experiences I’ve had during my travels here. During this nearly five-month stay in India, I’ve been to about a dozen cities. Almost all of these travels have featured packed itineraries of weekends in which my friends and I try to do, see, and eat as much as we can in our time away from Hyderabad. But our one night in Jaisalmer was definitely more easygoing. The weather was perfect, which is a sharp contrast from the general heat in Hyderabad (we’ve been dealing with 106-110 degree temperatures as of late) and we didn't do much more than walk around, talk, and play cards. But the simplicity really appealed to me, as did the opportunity to spend more time surrounded by nature.

Our time in the Thar made me realize how important nature is to me. Whether it be the sea, mountains, forest, or desert, I’ve noticed that I need some time away from a city environment to simply decompress in more natural surroundings.

More than anything though, I simply loved being able to see so many stars. Whether I’m at home in New Jersey, D.C., Mumbai, or Hyderabad, I rarely get to see a sky full of so many stars. There’s something comforting in realizing that they’re there even when light and air pollution prevents them from being seen. But every now and then it’s reassuring to see the real deal, to see just how many stars there are, just how commonplace shooting stars are, just how many constellations hover above us night after night.

Keeping this in mind, I’m planning on spending more time taking advantage of my location in New Jersey this summer with more frequent hikes and visits to the beach. While neither setting will allow me a sight like our night in the Thar, it’ll be reassuring to remember all the stars that are there.