Kolkata: Sixteen hundred kilometres. 75 days. Four states. This is the distance, time and route the ship of the desert takes to reach Kolkata from Rajasthan in time for the festival of Id-ul-Zoha.
A camel on the streets of Kolkata is a rare sight. But come the festival of sacrifice, large caravans of camels stroll into the city with pacing gaits and twitching noses after travelling almost 20 kilometres every day at the speed of 3 kilometres per hour.
This year Muslims around the country will celebrate the festival on September 13 to commemorate the mercy of the Almighty. Very few families in Kolkata sacrifice camels and the number is further dwindling.
But Abdul Rahim and other herdsmen like him have been traveling to Kolkata with their flock for several decades, on foot. Yes, camels and their herdsmen walk all the way to Kolkata from various parts of Rajasthan. Though camels are also found in few pockets of Haryana and Gujarat, all the camels that come to Kolkata are from the desert state.
“We travelled through four states covering almost 1,600 kilometres in 75 days. I have been coming to Kolkata for over 30 years now,” said Rahim, who has managed to sell four camels within two days of his arrival. He had started from his village in Sujangarh in Churu district of Rajasthan in mid-June with a herd of twenty camels and four assistants.
The owners and herdsmen of camels provide two reasons why the camels travel on foot, something the animal has been doing for centuries in the Arab countries earning itself the moniker of the ship of the desert. It can go without water for over 15 days.
A typical camel trait is to follow its sardar or leader of the group. They move in a big group led by a leader. They are collectivists. They move everywhere in a group. This makes it impossible to break them in smaller sub-groups and herd them into lorries,” said Mohammed Mulkiyan, another camel trader who has brought his herd to Metiabruz to sell.
Another reason why camels are not transported in lories is their height which puts them at a risk of injury if transported in a vehicle, say the camel traders.
TOI, Zeeshan Javed