Earlier, Travelling, for me was another name of luxury. The more I travel, less relevant it becomes!
You may know Bhuj for different reasons; my memory takes me back to 2001, when we were all set to watch 26th January Parade, Live from Raj path New Delhi. Instead of basking in National glory, we were glued to the TV screen flashing the devastation of a city in Gujarat that very morning…An earthquake had hit Kutch region leaving thousands dead, and lakhs of people injured and homeless! You can’t imagine what a few seconds of shaking ground can do to life!
This January, when we stepped in Bhuj, the memories of that fateful day came back. Though, people have moved on with their lives, yet the old wounds haven’t healed completely. while I was brooding, the Sun peeped right behind the Bhujia hills, asking for immediate attention.
‘What’s that wall bordering the hill?’ I asked.
‘Oh…that…it’s the wall of Bhujia fort!’ said the autowala.
‘What does Bhujia mean Bhaiya?’ said Mr CoolHead, looking up the hill.
‘Oh, Babuji that’s a long story. People say this area was once under the reign of a Snake called Bhujang. The city itself got its name from him. There is also a temple dedicated to him on the northern terminus of wall.’
‘That sounds interesting’, I said to myself.
Our reservation was in a guest house and Bhuj towards that side didn’t look pretty posh; very basic and tiny houses! Also the guest house didn’t serve food!
‘Who will bother Sir ji? It needs man-power!’ The person at reception said casually.
‘But wouldn’t it be comfortable! And doesn’t it affect your bookings?’ We said surprisingly.
‘The guest house is full right now. And you too are standing in front of me. Do I have to say anything else?’ He looked at us smilingly.
‘Well…if it works for you, who are we to suggest! Give us the keys; we need to leave for Rann, soon’, said Mr CoolHead while climbing up the stairs.
Finding Ride for Rann of Kutch wasn’t difficult. We sealed a deal at 3000 Rs including local sightseeing at Bhuj. There is something interesting about Gujarat or at-least the particular places we happened to visit; they close at 12 noon, only to reopen at 3 in afternoon. The travelers, therefore, are left clueless as to how to kill that long span of time in between! And obviously, the sight of people arguing with the persons-in-charge was quite common.
Since some emergency called in for the young man who was taking us to Great Rann, he gave a grumpy old man as his replacement. To our surprise, probably the vehicle too sensed his mood cause it bluntly refused to listen to his commands. No wonder, he got grumpier!
‘Rann is 80 km from Bhuj and with this Khatara, you won’t to able to reach there ever!’ He mumbled.
Confused, we called the main man back, and would you believe he actually send back a good car without much fuss! That is one thing worth admiring during this whole trip, “Gujaratis are very Honest and friendly people.”
In the meantime, we witnessed the grandeur of bygone era in Pragmahal Palace. It was already 12.00, we couldn’t make it to Aina mahal; reason was obvious!
The moment we took an exit from the palace, an old yet beaming, white-bearded face welcomed us! He was Ismail…true to his name! (Gift from God). He was too enthusiastic for his age! Though he claimed of not being able to study, his demeanor was exemplary!
‘Ismail’, I said, ‘Let’s have lunch and then start our journey from town.’
‘I know a good place on the way,’ he said so confidently that none of us could object.
Ismail made it a point to tell us each and every story that he could…Sufferings that people went through after the major earthquake.
He said, ‘land is cursed in some way and earthquake is not a big deal here.’
One of the interesting things he told us was that Kutch has been quite a hit among the filmmakers. Movies like ‘Lagaan’, ‘Hum dil de chuke Sanam’ have been shot on his land. He pointed towards a place where the village in the Movie Lagaan was set.
‘These people were very lucky, you know?’ He said turning towards us.
‘Why do you say so?’ We all said in one tone.
‘The place that they vacated after finishing the shoot was occupied by some new comers; they all got buried in the debris of bloody earthquake!‘ He moved his neck left right in sympathy.
‘Oh, that was very unfortunate’, I said, shocked by the turn that destiny can take.
Silence dominated the vehicle for some time…
To be continued…
Here is the visual journey
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