A Camel for Kelam

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Pabu loved to spend time with animals. He had a family of four dogs, five
cats and a horse named Saffron. He loved Saffron the most.

Every morning, Pabu brushed Saffron’s mane and coat.
Then he saddled Saffron and rode into the desert, far beyond his
village in Rajasthan.

Pabu had a niece named Kelam. She too loved animals.
“Pabu,” she said one day. “Bring me a camel for my birthday.”

“Where do I find a camel for Kelam?” Pabu wondered.
“There are no camels in Rajasthan.”

People said camels came from Lanka.
It was far, far away, across the big blue sea.
Lanka was ruled by a grumpy king who did not share his camels.

Pabu loved to travel.
He also wanted to see a smile on Kelam’s face.
So he came up with a plan.

Pabu saddled Saffron. Then he rode into the desert.
He rode all night and all day and all night again,
till he saw the vast blue sea for the first time.

The sea looked endless and Lanka seemed so far that Pabu
wasn’t sure if he wanted to go there any more.
But he and Saffron boarded the next boat.

That night there was a storm, a storm so terrible that the winds crashed
and the waves lashed. The boat was wrecked.

Pabu and Saffron came ashore in a strange place.
There were no trees, no bees, no flowers and no rain, just sand.

Pabu and Saffron galloped away from the sea.
Where were the green trees of Lanka?
Where was the grumpy king? Where were the camels?

Pabu saw a grand tent in the distance.
Then he saw camels—many, many camels.
“Hooray,” he cried. “I’ve reached Lanka.”

Suddenly, Pabu was surrounded by men on camels.
“Welcome,” said the leader of the camel riders.
He looked like a king and he looked happy.

Pabu was not in Lanka. He had reached Persia.
He spent many days with the happy king in his grand tent.

He learnt how to groom camels. He learnt that the grumpy king of
Lanka had stolen many of the happy king’s camels.

After some weeks, Pabu grew homesick.
He wanted to go home with a camel for Kelam.

The happy king gave Pabu a baby camel.
He told Pabu to ride across the sands towards the rising sun.
Then Pabu, Saffron and the baby camel made their way home.

Pabu reached his village just in time for Kelam’s birthday.
The village welcomed Pabu. Kelam welcomed the baby camel.

And that is how the first camel came to Rajasthan.

Phad is a folk art style practised by the Bhopa community of Rajasthan.
The artist paints on a cloth scroll called phad. Phad art features stories of folk heroes, one of whom is Pabu.

Credits

A Camel for Kelam
Author: Anu Chowdhury-Sorabjee
Illustrator: Kalyan Joshi
Narrator: Arthi Anand

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