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The desert plays a role in creating Shabanu's dire predicament: if the drought and sandstorm had not driven them to Mehrabpur a month early, she may never have seen Nazir Mohammad before Phulan's wedding. If Mithoo had not stumbled on the treacherous desert floor, she would have escaped to Sharma's. At the same time, however, the desert sustains Shabanu and gives her strength. Her time alone in the desert lifts her spirit, and the desert birthed her tough self- reliance and unflinching thirst for life. Nature's power constantly reminds Shabanu how fragile life is, but that knowledge makes life and stolen moments of happiness all the more precious.