I seem to have a thing for goats and it is no pun intended. No matter wherever I go, there invariably will be one nimble footed creature who will bleat its way into my heart. There had been the manipulative frisky one, who made friends with me in Wadi dir Hul in Socotra, only to eat my dinner and the alpaca who had shared my sleeping bag in Bolivia. Okay, though alpaca is not technically a goat, but somehow in my eyes, it falls into the same animal type category and it really warmed my heart (literally). Then there had been the shy little lovely in Varanasi who followed me quite about everywhere until my friend started chanting, “Svetlana had a little goat, whose fleece was white as snow and everywhere that Svetlana went, the goat would surely go”, every time he saw us together. My goat stories are endless and many of them are pretty neat travel gems. But, till today, if I had to choose one related anecdote to be the highlight of this category, it has to be of Ramlal, the smoking goat of Bhilwara.

I met Ramlal on a nice sunny winter day in a lovey forest in the middle of nowhere in Bhilwara and nobody has impressed me as much as him. He was a large Alpha male ( a massive ram actually, with pointy horns and slightly offensive body odour) and he came ambling up to me as I sat on a lonely wall. It was a beautiful spot with real Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” style forests all around and I was enjoying a relaxing day off from my busy Bundi schedule. The winter sun coloured some scrubby trees reddish purple and large bunches of neon green parrots with scarlet beaks flitted in and out of them. All around us little hillocks formed a deep bowl and somewhere a little temple tolled its bells in solitude. It was a very beautiful area, which I had discovered after a long hike through the wild Rajasthan countryside and my guide was busily showing me some forgotten unknown cenotaphs of bygone centuries. It was peace and silence personified when tinkling bells and rising stream of dust broke my reverie. The dust stream curled down hill like a ribbon and soon bleats and hooves followed. It was a bunch of goats, belonging to a man from one of the nearby villages coming back for noon break and he was already filling up a large cistern of water for them.

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This is the story of Ramlal

I watched in blank relaxed mood at the man and his animals from my perch upon the wall, when suddenly wet sniffs up my dangling legs caught my attention. As you can understand, it was definitely not the most politest way of being interrupted and as I looked down in annoyance, two large curious brown eyes stared back at me. It was Ramlal, consciously checking out the intruder in his territory and as I would learn later, he was sometimes aggressively possessive about his zones. The first thing that I noticed about him, was his massive size and he was really huge. It was followed by shock at the sight of his his dagger like horns, when his larger than life ego took over the scene. That goat had a giant of an attitude, but somehow he liked me. He stood next to me patiently like a rock, butting his big head into my lap demanding attention and some caresses and honestly, it was a little embarassing to be (man)handled such by an alpha goat. But it turned to be that he was quite a ladies man and after his initial interest in me, wandered off to a group of pretty creatures who were bleating at him coyly.

It was perhaps the briefest flirtation moments I have ever had and I stared in amazement, as soon Ramlal pulled out the biggest trick from his bag. He left his admiring ladies to strut over to the villager who at that moment was rolling a large bidi (Indian cigar) in his hands. The man worked deftly rolling, pinching, stuffing and quickly filled up a chillum while Ramlal stood near and watched. Soon he lit up the cigar, took large luxurious breaths and then, much to my amazement, poured them down the mouth of a visibly happy Ramlal. The goat opened his mouth, took in copious amounts of fumes and rolled his eyes in pleasure. He chewed up the remaining cigar after his last puff from the chillum and it was then that I noticed that the villager had hardly enjoyed either of his narcotic pleasures. He had prepared them for the goat, since Ramlal took a smoke break from herding in the forest everyday at noon and till today, I have not been able to forget the happy rolling eyes of Ramlal, the smoking goat of Bhilwara.

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Rural Rajasthan is

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Is a delight to explore.

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Packed with beauty

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Tranquility and

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Time warped lifestyle,

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It is full

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Of historical gems

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And surprises.

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On one winter morning,

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I had taken time off

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To explore the

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Jungle Book type

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Wild beauty of

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Rural Bhilwara.

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It was

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Nice sunny yet forgettable day

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And I was enjoying

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My solitude in the middle of nowhere

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When along came Ramlal and changed all that forever

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Travel never ceases to surprise, does it?

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