gujarat

the cycle brigade

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While travelling through the hillside villages of Bharuch on a warm July afternoon, I met this group of enthusiastic boys on cycle. While I was languishing in a rickety Bolero with a tele-lens mounted camera, they were having the time of their life on the unpredictable yet familiar roads. Many of you would surely relate with such escapades on cycle.

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It was a holiday for them. More than the children, I was happy to find them. For those who travel, children following you in villages are a common sight, especially if you smile and be warm to them. Believe me, these are the true joy of travelling. No big take aways, no resort hoping, but some unconditional memories and of course little tiredness too.

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lakhpat and around: floating crematorium

Kachchh is a traveler’s paradise. Who doesn’t know that? Every nook and corner of this mysterious and beautiful place is an artist’s impression on canvas. The expanse of Kachchh is so large that it is not difficult to find a place that is devoid of population. One such part of Kachchh is Lakhpat, which was once a thriving port and a hub for maritime trade. However, the glorious past has become fables now. The arid topography of Lakhpat still has many beautiful places, which are often found and cherished by travelers. I would certainly be doing a series on ‘Lakhpat and around’, so that more and more people get motivated to visit this nondescript corner of Kachchh.

the floating crematorium

This is such a place, which wouldn’t have caught anyone’s attention. The floating crematorium. Literally it doesn’t float. But in my imagination it certainly does. Just as when I was rushing out of Koteshwar Mahadev temple (very popular place among visitors), my eyes fell on this small structure with no roof, right in the middle of sea. It formed a perfect painting in indigo with the blue sky merging with the Arabian Sea. Later on, I could know that the building is nothing but a crematorium. People in and around this western tip of Kachchh district still use this crematorium. Unfortunately I couldn’t know much about how people would access the crematorium during high tide. However, it seems the pyre will be set on fire, when the tide is low. For me, the mystery continues.

journey to the dangs

living in Gujarat for the past 21 years, has exposed me to many opportunities to travel across the breadth and length of the state. Of all the districts I have visited, certainly I am partial in my love for few. One among it is Dangs or The Dangs. After a long wait, I could finally visit Dangs in year 2010. It was in the sweltering summer of April. And while going up the mountains, I only saw a large stretch of yellow jungle through my taxi window, wondering and hoping to behold the green avatar of this beautiful district of Gujarat.

I didn’t have to wait too long. In the same year again, I had a chance to visit Dangs, but this time in the month of July. The yellow jungle had by now attained a thick, dense and deep colour of green. Dense foliage displayed every possible hues of the colour green. Monsoons had clearly left its mark. Elated and surprised by the sporadic springs and falls, I continued the journey to the one and only place that could match with the definition of a hill station in my state; Saputara.

a truck is an often used mode of transport by the tribal community of the dangs who travel to nearby towns/cities in search of employment

Certainly you don’t have to go far to see the majesty and beauty of the Western Ghats. It’s just here. Soon it would be the months of rains. This time make a plan to visit Dangs and sip the lili cha (tea made with lemon grass) and experience the forest. You would realize that forests surely has a life of its own.

epitome of happydom

i am 35, still feel like a hot headed young girl of 17 and love to irk my cousin of the same age of course with utmost innocence. May be age is just a number and it doesn’t have anything to do with what we feel and do. From birth, till the end of journey, when do we lose the hold on being happy? When we grow up, that’s my experience of three long decades. Changes which happen to us in a life time are of course results of our own choices and some mishaps. Met this beautiful octogenarian in a least developed coastal village, who had nothing to say to me but just smile and love me with her concern and warmth.  I realized that day; indeed her smile holds the answer to being happy. I am sure you too can.

the exodus

Life is a journey that must be travelled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations; says Oliver Goldsmith.

With a similar emotion, that day in the month of April the journey began for me and friends. We boarded the Okha- Guwahati Express from Ahmedabad at around 9 pm only to find over 200 co-passengers in the second class bogie meant to accommodate 72 people. It took us a while to get accustomed with the surrounding and the hundreds of people heading for respective hometowns. That day the meaning of ‘shock’ and ‘disbelief’ was redefined. And we knew that our ‘reserved berth’ was just a mirage and that the exodus had begun.

the commotion to find a place in the crowded train

Generally all it takes is 60 minutes to adjust to the surrounding in a crowded train, at times even lesser. So in a while, we were busy probing and exploring with our co-passengers to find the reason for this rabble. And the answer was, “its Holi and we need to reach home”.

Most of our co-passengers were natives from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam migrated to Gujarat in search of work. Having found a job in the vibrant state of Gujarat, they only visit their families once in a year. Hence, the rush was well justified.

the man with a liquid food pipe attached to his nose, he too found a place to rest

They were young, middle-aged, old and few who hopped in straight from the hospital, leaving the treatment half-way, keen to be home before the festivity begins in their respective villages. As they were taking turns to sleep and sit along the window seats, the scene illustrated a perfect travelling scene of giving each other a leg up to accommodate self as well as others. The bonhomie was contagious and soon we forgot our discomfort and joined the exodus.

the next day, all woke upto a perfect morning

It’s recommended for photographers and story writers to board this train (before Holi, ofcourse) from Okha (Gujarat), if you want to hear amazing stories of finding employment, lack of jobs in one’s native and so on from the people of seven states of India all in one go . The Okha -Guwahati Express travels a long journey of more than 3200 km in a span of four days. Don’t miss my favourite, the second-class compartment in a summer night.

Google map showing the journey of Okha – Guwahati Express

magic of setting sun

junagadh is one of my favourite places to visit. My first trip to junagadh was in 2003 and the romance with the district has only grown deeper. Left, right and centre of junagadh is blessed with natural and historical wonders. This photo was taken at Uparkot in the month of February, when the weather was just perfect. If you are coming to Gujarat, a visit to junagadh should be planned for sure.

Uparkot is a magnificent fort believed to be built around 319 BC during the mauryan dynasty. Setting sun made the view from the top of fort a magical experience and gives an aura to the modern city.

stillness of thol

who said, when everything is still life becomes boring. Stillness has its own beauty. When there is stillness, you can listen to your inner voices telling you to slow down and calm your nerves. In an urge to become a metro city, my city too is aping the follies of other faster cities. What a blessing, few stretches like this are remaining, to enjoy the stillness of life.

Thol Bird Sanctuary is a fresh water lake surrounded by marshes and is closer to Ahmedabad

the land has given me shelter and food

“I don’t leave it empty, even the small piece of land I have. With financial help from tribal department, today my field is full of tomatoes and chilly”. It is the proud statement by Varjulbhai a tribal farmer from Velvach village of Valsad district, which has predominant tribal population.

varjulbhai in his farm, though he is shy, was very keen to take me around the farm

Varjulbhai of Velvach village owns half acre land and initiated cultivation of vegetables with financial support from tribal department. Along with his wife, he now produces tomatoes, brinjal (egg plant) and lady’s finger (okra), which he directly sells at the nearby market. He now owns a house to live respectfully with his wife and children.

Valsad is best known as the mango district of Southern Gujarat, India. Blessed with abundant natural wealth, Valsad receives an approximate annual rainfall of around 2200mm. Valsad also has its place in the history as one of the princely states of yesteryears. The name Valsad is derived from historical name Vad-saal, which means full of banyan trees in Gujarati (local language). Valsad district is mainly divided in to five blocks, Dharampur, Valsad, Kaprada, Pardi and Umargaon. Of which Dharampur and Kaprada are predominantly tribal and is enveloped by the Western Ghat mountain region. Valsad has a tribal population of around 60 per cent out of its total populace of 1.5 million.

a happy man front of his home