Of Salt Pans and Sand Dunes

About a place I visited 13 years ago and something I wrote five years back. Couldn’t but help sharing it 🙂 Hope you enjoy it.

I wanted to write  this on February 24, since it was that day  eight years back that I visited that place and I am so thankful to God I got the opportunity. The place was Kutchch. 

We were in our final year of graduation and the coin was tossed to choose between Mount Abu and Kutchch for the Kutchch Mahotsav. And we all chose the latter 🙂 An overnite journey of just 36 odd girls and  we all landed at Gandhidham from where we were taken to Bhuj in a hotel that was still being constructed. But we did not mind it. Our rooms were done up and we were excited. Even as we landed in the middle of February the sun was beating down on us and the rising mercury did not care much about what we thought of the weather, which was the hottest, driest, sunniest ever. I mean, everything was sunny, yellow, and you would see coloured blotches of sun every two minutes, if you know what I mean. If you know what Looh is in Hindi(dry, extreme, hot breeze with dust), then great…coz that was what it was all about. But who cared. We were a bunch of teenagers who were just happy to be in a place which I don’t think we would have visited otherwise.

Image

The order of the day was gulp down as many  glasses of Chhaas and water, since en route on our bus journey to the rest of Kutchch, that was what we would be in dire need of. But wouldn’t want to ramble on the amount of sunscreens and the sun strokes we all got…what I really want to share with you is the colour that met my eyes, the smiles that touched my soul, the land seeped in history and beautiful strong men and women bejeweled with the most exquisite silver finery you can ever see.  Every summer I am reminded of the beauty that exists in the deserts and barren mountains of our country.

Bachao and Anjaar, places that have now disappeared from the face of this earth (The worst ever earthquake that hit on January 26, 2001) were famous for their weapons and superior quality artistry amongst the blacksmiths who carved magic in those weapons and also for their vegetable prints and handlooms that burst in colourful richness and brilliant threadwork that was the result of nimble diligent fingers working day in and day out.  Flourishing with almost twenty different tribes, we had a glimpse of their religion, culture, their dance and song, their celebration and talent. 

Image

We visited the palace of the King of Kutchch (which you see as the British headquarters in the film Lagaan) . We were witness to original forms of Garba at the Dhrang mela where men and women danced in gay abundance and such free spirited they were, so oblivious of the temperatures that scorched the very epidermis of the bodies was brilliant.  In the three days and four night trip, we were witness to sand dunes and salt pans, peacocks and rare species of birds that flew from the North Pole to the sanctuary, we paid obeisance to the gods in age old Jain temples and chatted with  soldiers who showed us the Indo-Pak borders far away in the horizon. We tried to communicate in a language that was not Gujarati and Kutchchi spoken by people in the cities and the rest of us just stared, gawked and used some arbitrary sign languages to get across 🙂

We rode camels, ran across forests, wide empty scorching roads and watched in amazement as peacocks flew all around us like house sparrows. They were beautiful men and women and even innocent children. And I was thrilled we visited them.

It hit me hardest when I realized that we went from cities that celebrated the hype, the craziness and the mindless advent of the new millennium…while for them who walked the sand dunes and salt pans, it was just another hot day, with the women working on their colourful threads, the men still holding shops selling their talent to tourists who marveled but of course…it was just another day in the Rann of Kutchch  and I felt ashamed of our pseudo beliefs and events that mean nothing beyond champagnes and effervescent exchange of emotions, frenzy that makes me wonder whether we are celebrating the dawn of a new day which is as mundane as yesterday…

….and yet those just another days in the Rann of Kutchch were the few of the best moments of my life. Am attaching a couple of pictures, of what it was then that may not exist anymore.

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

This trip was one of our most memorable trips. In the final year of graduation, we chose Kutchch over Mount Abu. Don’t think we regret it. One year before the earthquake, we saw everything that that beautiful land had to offer. Colourful embroidery in the middle of nowhere, bedecked camels, men and women, silver glitterati in scorching sun and the traditional Kutchch Mahotsav…Beautiful!!!

Advertisements