Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Roadtrip to Kutch

             It all began on 30th December when I finally agreed to go on my first long road trip with friends who are nothing less my brothers. The prospect of it being a long trip made me a bit anxious and also think about the logistics(stay etc) as it was not completely planned. We roughly knew where we need to head to but did not follow an itinerary.

           Our first stop was in Ankleshwar, Gujarat(India). We reached here at about 2 AM morning on 31st December. The luxurious hotel(APEX) ensured that we had a sound sleep. Next day was all set for the long car drive; starting at 8 AM we set our Accelerator to Kutch, near to India's western border with Pakistan.  The major attraction in Kutch is the Rann of kutch which is a salt laden white marshy surface. Kutch not only hosted the white Rann(white Desert) but also the vivacious Kutch Utsav.

Rann utsav, Kutch,Gujarat
The kutch Utsav depicts the Kutch culture at its best. With people from the local attire performing stage shows as also exquisite items from kutch are out for sale.  I got a exquisite bell enclosed in a heart shaped structure from the utsav as a gift to my parents. We then moved on towards the White Rann, the focus of the trip at somewhere around 11:30 pm on 31st December, 2016. While I was going towards the gate to this one-of-a-type place, I met a Border Security Force(BSF) Jawan whose warmth and patience in talking was surprisingly overwhelming for me. Despite handling an hostile border under strenuous conditions at the border, I was spoken to with care and politeness and asked to come the next day morning at about 6 am. This further increased my respect for our Paramilitary and Military(their silent sacrifices which at times do not get the highlight they deserve). From when did sleeping in the car turn out to be an option for me? Well, this was the first time and a good experience in the chilling cold and windows shut completely. I was busy with making and receiving calls for the new years greetings. The following morning, we were the first ones to get into the Rann of kutch, accompanied by nothing but pitch black darkness enroute to the white rann which is just a walking distance from the place we were stationed in. An apparent fear of getting too near the border was always ingrained in us and it came to the fore when we saw BSF jawans coming back from their duty. As we couldn't identify him in the darkness, we were a bit scared and sat by the bench nearby to let the convoy pass.

White Rann
White Rann
As mentioned earlier, the white Rann is a seasonal salt marsh in kutch. The experience got even more amazing when we were the first ones to climb the small tower at the mouth of the white desert and awaited to experience the sunrise.This was a first time experience for me to walk on this  unique landscape.  The food reflecting the culture of the place; the taste of Bhakri, bhaji and a special chatni in one of the stalls left my taste buds tickling and wanting for more! We also had a camel ride there, to add to the experiences.

Jalebi-fafda brunch
We then stopped near a place called Bachau in Kutch where my taste buds were tickled again by the Jalebi-Fafda brunch. This is the specialty of the state and needless to say, we enjoyed the taste.Our next stop was Ahmedabad, a city which welcomed us with a very gloomy climate(blame it on the time of the day- evening).  We rented a hotel here and visited a few places around. Though I don't remember the place names, it helped me with some good memories and moments to remember. By now, I was tired and wanted to sleep even more(most unfavourable thing to do during trips-SLEEP). We just went back to the room and dozed off. The next morning our journey onward Mumbai began. We had kathiawadi Thali at Ankleshwar(en route Mumbai) followed by experiencing tea at a local stall near the connecting road to Surat.The last memorable stopover was at the Tapi riverfront in Surat, a well maintained bay area with all amenities to spend peaceful time with friends. Once we left Surat, we began to sense the normalcy and routine life we were about to resume and were counting each moment spent in the journey henceforth. The exact following day, I had to resume working so I did not even have time to sit down and reminisce on the wonderful time spent.
Tapi riverfront,Surat

One of the important observations made by me during the road trip is that India is largely an agricultural country with vast expanses of land under cultivation. Having lived in the confines of cities around India, I was not able to understand the importance of agriculture in India(I learnt it in the textbook but this experience made me understand it). I also realised that cities are just a small part of the whole state but constitute the most action politically and economy-wise. This made my vision limited. I was able to overcome this illusion of mine after this trip. Besides, from a political perspective too, I came to understand the difficulties in governing a state and on a larger scale India because of the diverse landscapes and cultures, each having different wants and needs which are contrasting at times. This trip indeed expanded my horizon and outlook on so many issues.

One thing I was determined about was writing on this. More than a month has passed and as I write this, I am experiencing the same thrill as I did whilst in the Journey with my brothers. We also agreed that this is just the first road trip we have experienced and we should plan out for many more. With this agreement and enthusiasm, we left for our respective homes.

...and then needless to mention, the next day was work as usual for all...(but hey, wait there was a sense of refreshment)