Hollywood hungama in Rajasthan
Thursday, October 07, 2004 12:53 IST
By Santa Banta News Network

He has worked on the sizzling special effects of films like "The Matrix" and "X-Men", piloted single engine planes across the Atlantic and now Alexander Souri is guiding horse riders across India's Thar Desert.

Souri, New-York born son of an Indian father and French mother, has directed documentaries and industrial films in China, and participated in Cannes, Venice, Sundance and Italian film festivals and when it came to tourism, chose not usual Indian destinations like Taj Mahal or the Kerala coasts, but a journey across five remote villages in the desert state of Rajasthan.

This month Souri, founder and executive director of Relief Riders International (RRI) is taking 15 riders from various countries who for a fortnight, would toggle on the backs of handsome horses.

But the team is not just looking for an adventurous trip - en route they would be distributing food and medical supplies and help treat ailments of the villagers.

Accompanying the Relief Rider crew would be a support vehicle carrying two medics and a doctor.

Indian Red Cross personnel, who have developed the first HIV education program in the region, will distribute educational information and hold discussions in all the villages. Several camels will carry food supplies for the drought-affected villages and the goats would go to those who need them the most for ongoing sustenance.

For $4,800 per person, excluding airfare, this trip would neither be about mud-sodden boots nor about bushes as toilets. There would be cooks in tow and when the nights get frosty in the tents there would be hot showers too.

The riders wouldn't hurry either. They would travel at a comfortable pace for roughly five hours a day, stopping thrice for meals and with traditional songs and dances at every halt. The group would visit old forts and remote villages and spend four nights in ancient forts and mansions.

Even the horses have an exotic appeal, coming as they do from the erstwhile princely state of Dundlod. Kunwar Raghuvenvra Singh Dundlod who lives in a 350-year-old manor is lending his special breed of warrior horses for the journey.

The horses, bred in the desert climate, have an extraordinary fifth gait - the revaal - that helps the rider travel long distances at a trot.

For Souri, horses and riding have been childhood comrades. He was barely eight years old when he first put his foot in the saddle.

"Those of us who travel have known the great gift of experiencing new places, encountering new people, and seeing the world in new ways. This time we will bring to those places we visit gifts that really matter," says Souri.

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