This story is based on the following prompt:
Write a story in which a character lives alone in a desolate environment—the woods, the desert, the mountains. Describe your character going about the day, and use that action as a backdrop for revealing the reason why he or she has chosen to retreat from the world. Then, have another character enter the scene, describing how he or she arrives. What happens next?
Length: within 1500 words.
The journey back from Ajmer Sharif to his isolated shelter was uneventful, though Anas was apprehensive at every moment he was away from his dera. He had the inkling that a storm was brewing somewhere, but he was unsure of the ways it could affect him. His annual pilgrimage to the Ajmer Sharif being over, he is back to work now. The dawn looked splendid as he peeked out of the tent. Despite being raised in different parts of the state, this is his longest stint living in the Thar Desert. The sunrise each dawn has been mesmerizing him for the past seven years that he has spent in this desert. Anas made it a point not to miss the dawn for a day. The advent of each morning made his heart flutter just before he opened the little tent door to a riot of gold and red on the dunes outside. He lived in a quaint corner of the Sam Sand Dunes, quite close to the Pakistan border. The rising sun never failed to paint the dunes in myriad hues of gold, orange, yellow and red. He savoured the sunrise each morning with a cup of lukewarm water and a piece of jaggery.
After the morning rituals, Anas set out for the stable nearby where his camels rested. He has five camels at present, three adults and two young ones. Why, it could even be called a mini camel farm! He reared them from calves to adults and sold them later, replacing them with other new born calves. And he occasionally bred them too. He was aware of the different breeds of camels which were reared at the Government Breeding Center in Bikaner. He knew that the Mewari breed is well adapted for travel and produced the highest quantity of milk, the Kachchi breed is short and stout, the Bikaneri breed is the strongest and heaviest, and the Jaisalmeri breed is the tallest. Of these, Anas needed only one breed though. He bred and reared the Mewari camels only and sold them for travel and carriage. He had started this business about seven years ago when he had only two camels. He required an isolated shelter for breeding, away from localities and intrusion for a reason which we will ponder on later in this story. Searching for a deserted corner in the desert itself wasn’t an easy task though. People from the small villages scattered over a span of hundred kilometers from Jaisalmer to the Pakistan border are ever curious of any outsider floundering in their territory. Anas had to skip the eyes of such people, acquire permission from the border police and then create a shelter for himself and his camels quite near the border. Instead of building a house for himself alone, he preferred living in a strong tent like the Arab Bedouins.
Looking after the camels is a daily routine for Anas. He brought food and medicine for his wards from Jaisalmer once every quarter of a year. He had a method of training them to learn roads and routes. Camels are already such animals who recognize roads very well. Anas only knew how to make them better. He took any of the adult camels for a ride to the nearest village on his way to Jaisalmer. While he managed other means of transport further, the camel would find its way back to the shelter. This process proved a test of the camel’s memory as well as conveyance for Anas. Every time he went away, he arranged for a village lad to pay a visit each day to the camels ensuring they were fed and stayed hale and hearty.
It was common knowledge for the villagers and border police that Anas reared camels and that he preferred to live in an isolated corner. What they didn’t know is whom did Anas sell his camels to. The traders who came to him once or twice a year for business had a secret trade too. They bought stout Mewari camels from him and sold them to smugglers in both the countries across the border. Mewari camels are high in demand among smugglers for their ability to carry goods for long distances and retaining memories of their tracks. Anas is not incognito of the fact that his customers traded with smugglers in turn, and he wanted to be the best in his trade. He is indeed the best in the cottage industry of individual camel breeders. He is already popular among traders and most of them want him to open a bigger camel farm and employ people to work for him. But Anas is happy with his mini farm at present. He has a far wider target than being a camel breeder all his life. This is his exile and he has decided to emerge in the market within the next few years, the bigger and more solvent market of terrorism.
Anas wanted to be a professional terrorist ever since he joined medical college. Why, does that astonish or repel the readers of his story? How much do you know of Anas Siddiqui yet, dear readers! He was born and raised in Jodhpur, attended medical college in Jaipur, though he dropped out in three years when he found better avenues in life. Anas was always fascinated and attached to camels as his family owned a few of them. He lost interest in studying medicine halfway and decided to drop out. He met a few people accidentally, who enlightened him about the ongoing business of smuggling and terrorism flourishing in the state owing to its proximity with Pakistan. Certain aspects of terrorism interested him but he wanted to do something with the camels first. He gathered inside information about camel breeding from the Government Breeding Center at Bikaner and decided to start his own farm. He had on how to proceed and required an isolated place to start working. He asked his father for capital to start a business and Inshallah, found the perfect nook near the border to start off.
Today is going to be big for him. He is scheduled for a delivery tomorrow and his client would arrive sometime later in the day. Both the job and the client this time were more important than the others. This client wanted to check all his adult camels and offered him great price for them. Anas was still pondering over the deal as he prepared the camels for the show. There seems to be more to the offer than what meets the common eye. He wondered if the storm was finally approaching him after all the work done yesteryears. He had been in partial contact with a few smugglers and they promised to get him a big contract once it suited his credentials. This might just be the beginning to a career he had long been dreaming of.
The client, Mr. Raghuvir Singh arrived to the shelter late afternoon. Since Anas had already dealt with him once in the past, he was acquainted with the client’s requirements. The adult camels lined nonchalantly before their prospective owner in the twilight, facing the dunes. Mr. Singh was pleased. He commended Anas for the work he had done in rearing three such beautiful Mewari camels.
“Mr. Siddiqui, I have a lucrative offer for you,” Mr. Singh began with huge fanfare.
He was a pompous man who knew his business.
“I would like to buy all of your adult camels, and place order for the other two calves pretty soon.”
“I am humbled by your offer, Mr. Singh. It is lucrative indeed. Might I know the reason behind such a huge purchase? You seem to be doing great in your trade.”
“Ah, trade! Yes, that is growing leaps and bounds with days passing by. There is more to my offer, Mr. Siddiqui, if you may.”
Anas shifted his position. He was getting curious and apprehensive simultaneously.
“Mr. Siddiqui, I want your calves for the Mangrotha Camel Fair in Pakistan to be held about nine months from now. During these nine months, we have a proposal for you to work on a plan that my organization will provide to you.”
“And which organization do you work for, Mr. Singh?”
“I can divulge the details only if you sign an agreement to work with us, Mr. Siddiqui. I can only tell you that we work for the country’s safety against enemy nations. Whether all work is legal or illegal, is upto you for judgment if you choose to work with us.”
The offer put him in a fix. He wanted to do such exciting work, but he wasn’t sure whom he would be working for. From Mr. Singh’s words it wasn’t clear whether he worked for the terrorists or the Government. It seemed he was in either of their radars and both seemed dangerous.
Anas sighed. He had no option but to enter the circle.