Wanderlust in The Middle of Nowhere
The next day, we got up early in the morning to catch sunrise at the Great White Rann of Kutch. We left at 6:30 a.m. and at this time the chilly morning breeze can cause that occasional shiver. After roughly half an hour, we reached the border check post to enter the White Rann. The security guard asks us to roll down our windows and checks to see if all of us are ‘legitimate’ tourists. Once we clear check-point, we enter the vast barren land of salt. It almost feels as though we are in the North Pole, the only difference being the white plains are filled with salt and not ice. The horizon is deceptive, as it makes you want to walk closer to it, only to realize that the land is never ending and your journey is futile. My mind seems to get lost in the vast expanse of space and land below it with cable wires transmitting data in the middle of nowhere. The only other sign of life are the birds which peck on salt. The sun suddenly creeps up behind us and slowly yet steadily, we are filled with the warmth of the large fiery ball of gas. The scenery suddenly changing and soon enough we also realize the heat that would soon follow. We collect samples of crystallized salt and soak up the last view of this great white desert. It is really a long walk to reach our neighboring country, Pakistan. One does wonder how our Border Security Force stay here, in such inhospitable conditions where no man sets foot, let alone vegetation survive. We head back and on the way see tents pitched by local artisans who conduct the handicraft festival at Kutch. We are in time to have a quick bite to eat for breakfast and check out of the resort and continue our journey to discover the villages surrounding Bhuj.
The Other India
Our first destination is a nondescript village, Nirona, roughly about a half an hour drive from the Hodka Village resort. On our way we make stops to admire the wildlife characteristic to the region. From herds of buffaloes to birds and even a double headed snake, the journey seemed worth it despite the sweltering heat. We finally entered the village and after a few winding turns reached a small thatched house. We are ushered inside by doe-eyed children. The head of the family was an elderly man who sat under the shade of a banyan tree. He removed a wooden spoon and started explaining the art of coloring wooden objects with lac. Meticulously, with great precision, he showed us how the colour never runs out or fades and created a pattern of psychedelic colours. He kept calling himself the “wild artisan” who learnt this art from his ancestors and passed it on from one generation to another. While we glance upon the surroundings, we see a whole flea market assembled with women and children displaying puppets and beadwork items. One of them even obliges us with a demonstration of a bead chain. After buying some of their handicrafts, we head out to another artisan in the same village; this time the blacksmith. His son gives us a demo of how the various iron fixtures are made out of scrap iron. Soon afterwards, he shows us the fantastic wall hangings that can be made by a scrap metal. We then proceed to another house in the village. A teenage boy welcomes in and introduces us to an art form truly unique to Nirona, “Rogan art”. While we were debating if the framed wall art was embroidery work or paint; he puts all our queries to rest by showing us the castor oil mix with which he paints with. It was unbelievable to see patterns form from a sticky substance with a hint of colour. After painting one half of the cloth he folds the other half to form a symmetric pattern. As much as we wanted to buy a painting, we were at the end of our trip and the steep price curbed our enthusiasm. His father entered and we chatted about the people who visited them and the exhibitions they have been to. Their hospitality truly touched us and above all their simplicity is what struck us the most. We left the village to head back to Bhuj. The town was bustling with vehicles, people and cattle causing blockages. The Local Museum and Palace are deteriorating rapidly and show signs of the devastating earthquake. The street side vendors dished out local delicacies ranging from chaat and daabeli. While I decided to give it a miss due to my finicky stomach, Basil sampled each item. We finally headed back to the railway station and waited for our train to arrive to take us back home.