Phulan complains about Auntie, and Shabanu pauses to remember that, though Auntie's father was rich, he could not find her a husband because she was fat. He arranged the match with Uncle with difficulty.

Back at home, the family sets about pegging the noses of four young camels. With pegged noses, the camels can be harnessed and trained to do work. Phulan and Auntie draw back, but Shabanu relishes the work. She helps Mama, Dadi, and Grandfather capture the young camels, tie their legs, pierce their noses with a needle, slide wooden pegs through, and soothe the affronted young beasts.

Travelers passing through inform the family that a caravan making a trip to Channan Pir, a shrine at which women pray for their children, will pass nearby. The women decide to join the caravan and offer prayers for Phulan's wedding.

They leave at night, dazzled by the night sky, the sand glittering under the full moon, and Grandfather's strong voice. He tells stories of his days as a soldier, and though his reminiscences are hopelessly garbled, the family enjoys his stories. Eventually, the women break off and head toward the caravan, whose bells and songs they can hear nearby in the desert. They join the caravan and arrive in Channan Pir in the morning. The men travel to a nearby camp, where they will tend the herd and wait for the women.

As soon as they arrive, the women circle the sacred grave, marked by a mound of rocks, with reverence. After establishing a campsite, Mama goes off to find her cousin Sharma and Sharma's daughter Fatima, who Mama knows are among the caravan members. Many years before, Sharma left her abusive husband to live alone in the desert, taking her daughter and a small flock of goats and sheep. Shabanu admires Sharma deeply and envies Fatima, who is sixteen and unmarried. Sharma will not force Fatima to marry.

The women catch up briefly over tea, agreeing to eat dinner together that night. Then Shabanu, Phulan, and Mama visit the mosque. They pass through the courtyard, which teems with women writhing, whirling, and wailing in religious fervor. At the shrine itself, the three women leave garlands of flowers. Shabanu prays fiercely that Phulan will bear sons.

PLUS

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