The 3day-2night stay at the Rann Utsav was replete with experiences….
1st day: The sight-seeing started with a trip to a village showcasing the daily life of people in the dessert. It certainly didn’t look like a real village – put up for visitors, with women asking for INR 50 when we tried to photograph them, clearly, a ‘tourist’s’ village. Nonetheless, it was fun to note that the huts were all round, and that mostly one single family made up a cluster.
Soon, our guide whisked us back to the bus, saying it was time to go to the Rann and catch the sun call it a day. Off we went, noting that the roads already looked white here and there, showing off the salt. Hundreds had already thronged the Rann before us. Security tight, ordering us to throw our water bottles, so that there would be no litter in the Rann. With so many people around, we didn’t find a single camel cart to take us to the Rann, which was, by now, clearly white. We walked as much as possible with our little one and our camera gear in tow, and managed to catch the complete white in the horizon. One look at that, and we could tear ourselves away from the loud crowd around us. The daughter squealed at the sight of ‘salt’. She picked up some and played with them for a long time. And when the sun went down, there was cheer from everywhere. We loitered around until much later in order to be alone in the wilderness there. The stars felt as if there were closer. We sang Tagore’s “Aaj jyotsna rate shobai geche phire”..and felt the tug in our hearts.
Carry heavy woollens/warm clothing with you. For as soon as the sun sets, it gets chilly. Also, don’t stay back till very late, as you may find it difficult to get a bus back. We reached back to find colourful Gujrati dances in the amphitheatre of the Utsav area. And post dinner, we hit the bed.
2nd day: Soon after breakfast the next day, we were given the option to either take the Indo-Pak border tour or the Mandvi tour. For the Indo-Pak tour, we couldn’t take our cameras and cell-phones. Also, there wouldn’t be the guard ceremony as is seen at the Wagah border in Amritsar. It would be a 3hr bus ride up and back, and would take the whole day. We opted for Mandvi instead. This too was a 3hr ride in the other direction, and we were taken to the @Shyamji Krishna Verma Memorial, Vijay Vilas Palace and a Jain temple. We loved the palace and the temple. But the problem with going in a bus is that you spend unnecessary time waiting for others, and hence left with no time to do things that you want to. We couldn’t check out the local market for local takeaways :-(. For, the 3hr bus ride back awaited us.
Back at the Utsav, it was the same song and dance programs, which we decided to give a miss. Instead we went to the handicrafts shops to take back some Kutchi handiwork.
3rd day: We left Kutch immediately after breakfast, for, we wanted to see a little of Bhuj before our flight in the afternoon. Remember to keep hats and handkerchiefs/scarfs handy, for it is very dusty in Kutch. Take extra care if you are travelling with little kids. The dust can give them cold and cough. Carry medication for emergency need. Plus, buy fruits from wherever you can, for there is none available at the cluster. On hindsight, we wish we had not taken this package trip and instead, had made reservations in Madvi on our own. With the same money we spent, we could have seen the Rann, Kutch and Mandvi at our own pace, avoiding the dust as much as possible, with the ‘right’ food for our 5-yr old.
Once aboard the flight, it was time to reflect on the last 2 days…Kaleidoscope that is India. Life in utter barrenness. Vivid colours in the most arid of lands. Smiles on faces touched only by dust and wind. Lives steeped in tradition and age-old rituals. Though removed from mainland ills, dealing with evils of their own. ..May progress and good life reach them too. But like you, I too pray that these folks don’t lose their identity to the ‘urbanisation’ that has converted me and you into ‘city-folks’. And may they keep enticing with their colours, gazes, music, dance. Bye Kutch.