Christmas day, a brilliant day for good ol’ Family loving, Only, this time, The Baas decided to take it to the next level. Christmas Mass in the morning, a quick breakfast and we were off to the land of Kutch. An 8 hour drive from Gandhinagar found the whole family slowly easing into the joys of a traditional road trip. And, then Bam! We were in Bhuj, a small quiet town in Gujarat. Compared to Gandhinagar, where there is no old and there is no new, just an annoying sense of the Present, Bhuj was a breath of the ancient. Scattered throughout the city were ruins of what was left of the olden times. There wasn’t significantly much to look out for there, but Bhuj wasn’t the main attraction anyway.
Having established base Camp, a leisurely drive through town was a proposition well received by the family and we made our way to the main city. Known for its exquisite handicrafts and jewellery, we weren’t disappointed one bit. Colours so bright, you might just be blinded, threadwork so exquisite you might just cry. An evening of intense tourist shopping and we made our way back to Base.
An ancient town(Mandvi)
The next morning, as a consequence of well woven beachy dreams, we were up early. Next on the list was Mandvi, the port city where the river meets the sea. About 2 to 3 hours from base, Mandvi, just like Bhuj, maintained that residual history that it once witnessed. Once a major port of this region, even today you might end up seeing shops selling Iranian Dates. The Mandvi Beach though a tad commercialized, still hosted a nice view of the Horizon. Windmills in the background made for a perfect holiday Postcard picture. It does get a little crowded, but, if you manage to walk away from the general gathering of tourists, you will definitely be able to find your spot of quiet contemplation, or just undisturbed family time. And as the sun sank back in to the sea, our car turned back to where it came from. A quiet dinner and with our eyes gleaming with excitement we called it a day.
The Great White Rann of Kuchh
The Rann of Kuchh, one of those places we just read about in our Geography text books and never really think of as a significant contribution by Mother Nature, an error I deeply regret. The Rann is one of the most overwhelming sights of Nature one could ever hope to lay eyes on. The enormity of its emptiness just makes enough room for the mind’s eye to fill in the gaps. Early next morning we were back on the road and this time for real to the Great Rann of Kuchh. ‘Twas a pleasant December morning in the land of Kutch, as a colourful array of flamingoes decided to say Good morning. Engrossed in the colours of the morning I barely realized when the car initiated its ascent to Kala Dungar, the black hill. Perched atop this hill is a temple and a phenomenal view of the Rann of Kutchh. In order to get the larger picture of this Natural beauty, Kala Dungar cannot be missed. As the sun rose, slowly the Rann came out of hiding, painting a picture of vast impossibility. No one has ever crossed the Rann of Kutchh without modern means. People have died while trying to cross the Rann. I could only imagine how the ancients of this land perceived this salt desert and how they managed to get around it. The knowledge that Pakistan commenced in that direction made me suddenly realise I wanted to see it start, I wanted to see the Rann end. A practical plan of action, it wasn’t. The Border Security Force of India isn’t much of a friend to the Civilian, but brothers, well, that’s a different story. With a defence man sitting in the car every check point became only a formal exchange of words. The Rann didn’t just immediately start from the barricade, but when it did it was nothing like I had imagined it to be. A glistening salt land lay waiting in the horizon. In the sun, the land sparkled, like a million diamonds were just sprinkled across with careless zest. Afloat on a sea of gems and jewels, the pirate in me felt a slight tingle. And Just when I was ready to immerse myself in this sea of riches, the timer went off.
The Rannotsav, the next stop on the list, resurfaced. Grossly modernized, the Rannotsav was a disappointment. Luxury tents with air conditioning, Gourmet food(Not Gujarati), the festival I believed had lost its essence. Perturbed, by the changing times and saddened by the inability to revoke the past, I walked on by. The past as the past should be, I believed.
The Ghost Artisan (Kuchh)
With our days at Bhuj coming to an end, some last minute shopping was in order. The crafts Village, tucked away in a little village about 20 minutes away, looked like any other handicrafts complex for tourists. Wooden doors opened into small rooms wherein a humble artist stood. An old woman, welcomed us into her hut, an expert of threadwork. Eyes sparkling with excitement she ran us through everything she had to sell. A variety of patches, shawls, dupattas. Her work was brilliant, her enthusiasm unwavering, but what touched me the most was her trust, blind trust. My mother had picked out a few things that she wanted to buy, and when asked how much all of it would cost, this old woman said, she said “please count and tell me, I don’t know how to count”. A tear trickled down my cheek. I walked away as my mother stood there with a tear in her eye. A moment of solitude was required, so I went for a walk. On returning, a friendly old man invited me to his hut where he was already entertaining the rest of my family. His area of expertise he claimed was Bandhni, the traditional art of tie and dye. The son of a Bandhni artisan he was groomed into this profession. He called me by my name and told me, he said, he wasn’t a man of much education and he probably couldn’t talk as well as a salesman, the only thing he could do was Bandhni and that was all that he could live by. He wished that I would understand, and I did. Collapsing under the weight of these impromptu emotions, I made for the last hut. Inside sat a weaver. Diligence in his skilled hands, he weaved a series of colours. His hut was full of luminescence, rugs, carpets, the works. A father of a small boy, he wished his little one would one day weave alongside him. He had left his home and come to this Crafts Village where he was given this hut for a month, much like the old woman and the friendly old man. They earn as much as they can in those 30 days and they are never heard from again, the truth of the artisan in Kuchh today.
Almost every door had a story, and I felt just too fragile to hear every one of them. Kuchh has a million stories, and through these sepia toned sunglasses, this was the story she wanted to tell me.