A lightening does not strike a place twice, just like I do not travel to the same place twice, but then the inevitable happens and here I was despite my wishes boarding on a plane to Rajkot, yet again 7 years later. And believe you me, nothing seemed to have changed, except the itinerary ofcourse! In a group of 37 people, some tablers, some circlers and some twinklers, some boisterous, some quiet, some crazy and some sensible we set off with tiny to adolescent children in the group on a whirlwind road trip across the westernmost parts of Gujarat. Bangalore to Rajkot is a no-nonsense connection that does not hurt much since it was direct, but the unforeseeable happened as an Indigo flight got delayed by an hour and in that hour I managed to displace a lens in my eye just as I opened a soya crackers cover and the masala blasted into my eye. Now that one gesture had a domino effect on my life as I suffered with lens in my eye for the next 5 days literally till the day I got back on the return flight to Bangalore. This further strengthened my belief that something sinister follows my tale when I travel these days. While I hope to shake that notion off I could not help but struggle wondering whether I had something stuck in my eye, an infection in my eye or some cutting damage to my eye all through the trip. That brings me to the dangers of wearing plastic so close to the eye. The dry salty weather of Kutch did not help with the blessed lense that I still cant believe stayed in my eye for about 5 days. What an adventure!! One that I would never ever like to see repeated ever.
Nevertheless, I trooped through to the 6-hour-long bus ride to Bhuj crossing the morbid bridge in Morbi too, across the Machhu river, till we reached the Times Square club, a beautiful Turkish themed property that was absolutely so winning in vibe and in construct. The gorgeous property also boasts of a Turkish hammam all with a dome apart from its Tennis courts, swimming pools and spa. We enjoyed the Turkey-meets-Rajasthan-meets-Gujarat architectural design of the space and got utterly cooked in the Bhuj heat during the day. Any space with a swimming pool is a happy space and whether it meant late-night chitter chatter by the pool or the early morning swim in the pool, we put the pool to good use, with my husband around a frisbee or two was always bound to be flying around even in the pool! With the morning sorted and our tummies stuffed to the epiglot with delicacies of the British or the traditional Gujaratis, say omelets and dhoklas, we bid adieu to the stunning sandstone covered property with its tumbling courtyards and punctuating jaalis to drive to the town of Dhordo, now so ever popular as the Tent City that houses the Rann Utsav.
Now the Rann Utsav is the festival that the Government of Gujarat Devised in 2002 after the terrible tragedy of the Bhuj Earthquake where 90% of the city was razed to the ground. Trust the ever-enterprising Gujaratis to come up with marvelous ways of turning around a situation so hard. Today the Rann Utsav features over 400 tent-styled rooms, with no room service, but a dining tent for the meals, spa tents for relaxation, gaming tents and play tents for leisure, art tents to celebrate artists and ensure the proficient art enthusiasts to pick up art, administration tents to facilitate the booking, medical tents for people like me in dire need with dire situations following them and tents that serve as shopping malls to pick up highly inflated merchandise. Well, I guess they would have to include their costs of ferrying merchandise to the so highly unreachable region of the country! While the roads of Gujarat were excellent in 2014, the first time I visited the Rann, in 2022 they were potholed and troubled, like most other stated in India. The Rann Utsav also includes very entertaining evening programs that start at 9 and end at 11 where various performers from different cities of Gujarat come by to showcase their very unique talents, like making animals with a white bedsheet, all while spinning like a whirling dervish and dissembling it in an instant also doling up life advice that one move can unfurl everything. Other programs include foot-tapping music to encourage the audience to break into a garba or even than one-off dance fiesta.
Yet, though the Rann Utsav becomes the mainframe of the area, the original draw to this zone of the country is the vast and white Rann of Kutch, the salt desert that spans across two countries, houses the most colorful tribes of the country, the Kutch people, and also houses architecture that is very varied and highly specific to the region. For every six months the sea that washes into the Rann, evaporates leaving behind a thick crust of salt resulting in the white landscape that at dawn and dusk merges with the sky dissolving the horizon. Like all natural wonders, it is a beautiful sight to watch. The Rann of Kutch is a salt desert as the terrain of the land does not allow for the growth of any vegetation. At the Rann, we were very early in terms of season, and were greeted by a not-yet white Rann, a little sloshy with the water still in space, and were told that climate change is affecting the time of the Rann, well as far as my opinion goes, climate change affected the ice-age thereby making earth inhabitable in the first place. The most popular activity at the Rann of Kutch was not taking in the natural beauty that had us seeing white land wherever we could see, but the paragliding at the Rann that showed the waters of the Gulf of Kutch and the neighboring country from the elevated height of the paragliding. We missed the episode but managed to dehydrate our footwear with all that salt!
While living in the tent got all the kids feel super kicked, including my own, who kept zipping in and out every two seconds, he also loved making friends with the insects that enjoyed the luxury surroundings as much as us, enjoying fluffy phulkas and dhoklas by the second, we couldnt wait to get back to real buildings for which I am utterly grateful. Back at Rajkot, we enjoyed the pool (again) at the Regency Lagoon, a beautiful leafy-eared property that had us beaming in its natural surroundings. The Rajkot tablers played host to a party filled with everything that was not found in Gujarat, while some others took us to the food street where the food was extraordinary, imagine a lassi soda and dahi bhalla to die for! After all Gujarat is the state of Amul, the dairy extraordinaire of the country and I have never had ill-tasting yoghurt there like, ever! After the tummy delicacies we satiated our souls with ice golas that were from another world. All that food was enough for us to have our fill till the next time in Gujarat, and we were grateful to be back home from a very fun-filled journey. It is a fact that the best holidays are those that have you looking forward to going home, as they have moved you away from your comfort zone and this one did just that.
Here’s hoping that will be all the places in the world to see and to strike, that Veda or lightning do not have to strike the same place twice. Saying that I am in the midst of finalizing bookings to a place I have gone to before. Oh well, did we not know that no rule, rules! Spontaneity, be thy name!!