For six hours, our cab hurtles forward, diligently eating away the sweeping expanse of roads that stretch before us, Delhi already all but forgotten. Around us, the landscape glows golden under a winter sun, startling patches of green dotting what we had assumed would be a sandy, desert wasteland. We are like children on the last day of school, filling the insides of our vehicle with a strange and restless kind of energy: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
And then suddenly, we are.
A meandering gully, pothole dense and sandy, stops short of a towering metal gate. Already we can hear the bass punching the air, distant laughter and insistent drumrolls vibrating in the wind. A lone eye peers balefully down at us--bacchanalian seekers of the lost weekend--Magnetic Fields ahead.
Alsisar Mahal with its tall creamy walls and sun soaked courtyard takes our breath away. The air is suffused with the aroma of wood-smoke and bonfires, marigolds spilling over marble platters, fairy lights clinging to flowering boughs of frangipani. Come nightfall, our seventeenth-century phantasm will be complete, clad only in a blanket of stars.
For a festival that only made its debut last year, Magnetic Fields sure knows how to throw down. The lineup is undeniably fabulous and spread over three days--including, but not limited to, Dualist Inquiry (DJ), Dream Koala, Gaurav Malaker, Mo City, Soulspace, My Panda Shall Fly, Terranova, Sulk Station, Monica Dogra, Flash Hardcore, Nischay Parekh, CEE and Mala--a heady cocktail of Indian and international artistes who work the crowd like magic. The Desert Oasis Disco merits special mention because it's everything we asked for and so much more--cold beers, sun-warmed sand, marquees billowing in the wind and the kind of music that nuzzles into you, before setting up home in the pit of your belly, as fervent and formidable as a heartbeat.
The mornings and afternoons melt into each other, always a lazy, hazy affair after the nights we squander away in Bedouin dens. The parties have after parties which have after after parties! Hedonism has never stood surer ground. But the loveliest part of the festival is how there's so much more to it than meets the eye. MagFields is just as much about big hair and going barefoot in a biting winter night as it is about a compelling soundscape. It's about the art installations and crazy light features, the smiles and winks that pass between strangers who collide on a dance floor, the chaiwalla in a rainbow-hued turban with a cycle to match, the faces under outrageous hats and mirrored glasses illuminated in the firefly glow of lit cigarette ends. It's about the morning yoga and the memories you make because for once, nobody thinks to check their email. For once, everyone is well and truly off grid.
In an era of travel where festival-hopping is fast becoming all the rage, MagFields is among the lesser-known, the not-yet commercial--a creative kaleidoscope of deliberate and unabashed decadence that hitches beautiful people to the good-times bandwagon. It is a high that only ever keeps on climbing, a quest for euphoria, an adventure you didn't know was around the corner. It lingers and warms you inside out, a tangible something that makes you want to bottle it for a jar next to your bed.
You can't help but wish upon the MagFields Star. Godspeed, and let us always, year after year, safely return.