Glancing into the setting sun, he could see a dark figure in its foreground, heading towards them. His father was on his way home, making his way through the now cool sand dunes. Raj and his mother set about hopefully, preparing a new fire. The exertions of the day spent in the heat not stealing all of their energy, saving in reserve for the arrival of his father, her husband. Raj fished around in the hut until he found the stained can used to milk their goats. He inspected it, giving in a quick brush round the inside to remove as much dust as he could. His father was still someway in the distance, with the sun slowly submitting to its fate behind. Raj grabbed a goat by the woven red string tied around hits neck, encouraging its cooperation. Having led it safely to the stool, he squatted, lowering himself several inches beneath the stools height. His agile legs and hips allowed him this position, one which his mother many years previous would to have been able to imitate. Raj placed the dust free can beneath the pale pink udders. He expertly used his thumb and forefingers on each hand to simultaneously draw milk from two separate teats. He glanced towards his mother, seeking an approving nod, which she duly gave.
Raj’s father opened the splintered wooden gate and stepped into their home. He was wearing a shirt stained yellow with sweat, and the dry lips of a man who had spent the entire day in the desert. His beard was peppered with grey and hung low from his chin. Wiry legs and a large brown stick supported his stature as he leaned against the now closed gate. Raj’s mother stopped playing with the fire and greeted her husband with a warm kiss on the cheek. A smile spread across her face.
“Do we eat today?” She asked
“I’m sorry dear, but tonight we will live on goats milk and God’s love” He replied, disappointment all but hidden in his voice.
“Never mind my love, maybe tomorrow eh? Anyway, please come sit down. Raj has learnt how to milk the goats, and is going to treat us to some warm chai…isn’t that right Raj?” She turned and looked at him.
“Yes Mama” he replied.
Raj forced a smile before setting about preparing the goat’s milk. He placed it in a pot over the fire, flames instantly tickling the bottom and sizzling as they touched the milk that had strayed over the sides. He stirred the milk gently until it began to bubble. Raj added sugar, cinnamon and ginger into the milk so that its colour now resembled a golden brown. The steam from the chai teased Raj’s nose with its incredible smell, causing his mouth to water. Only a sliver of sun could be seen, flirting with the top of the hills, leaving a trace of orange over the desert. Although it still looked warm, and the sand still retained some of its heat, the temperature had dropped considerably and Raj’s body shivered without restraint. The fire provided little solace, keeping only the palms of his hands and the tip of his nose warm. Pouring the chai into four glasses, and handing them to each of his family members felt like a real achievement, and although he knew he was cold, the warm feeling that comes with success still ran through his body.
Whilst Raj had been preparing the chai Gamaar had be busy collecting wood from the shed, placing the slim sticks onto the fire to provide a comfortable environment for all. The sun had now left Raj and his family behind, staying hidden for another nine hours before providing them with its talent again. The desert had become a completely different place to the one which Raj had woken up to earlier that morning. Now a small crescent of the moon provided the only natural light, reflecting onto the desert to create a cold blue that spread as soon as the sun left. The family sipped their chai and talked about the day that was almost wholly behind them. Raj’s father chose to speak first.
“So my boys, what have you been up to today? No trouble for your mother I hope?”
“I learned how to milk the goat!” Raj answered enthusiastically
“I know, son, well done, this chai is very nice, best I’ve had all day...”
Raj was pleased by this, he wanted to impress his father, so that one day he would take him to the desert with him. He wanted to help his father, but he was too young, and not strong enough to cope with the physically demands of walking through the desert all day.
“...Well I beat Raj at chess!” Interrupted Gamaar “It was really close, but I just got him in the last game!”
Raj tried his best to hide any annoyance at the comment, and thought he did rather well. The rest of the evening was spent round the fire, keeping warm before Raj and his brother went to their hut. They wished each other a good nights sleep and settled on the floor. Raj could hear the crackling of the fire outside eating away at the wood. The desert was silent now, broken only by the occasionally muted laugh of his parents. Raj stared blankly at the wall, before shutting his eyes and succumbing to his body’s need for sleep.