Friday, February 25, 2011

Roaming the Ranns:

Summer here would be scorching. Wherever you look, a treeless land stretches out into the horizon. But now it is full of shrubs....unusually green for this time of the year. And there are lots of ponds and water-bodies too filled with various types of birds. The weather is superb, cold in the morning and pleasant during the day. They attributed all this to the unusual amount of rainfall this year and a prolonged winter. I was lucky. I realised that the moment I got down at Samakhyali station at 5 in the cold morning and gazed up to see the sky filled with thousands of sparkling stars.

Little white temples as stunted as the shrubs dotted the Kutch landscape while on the roadside, women in amazingly colourful lehengas, duppattas or bags walked by oblivious to the beauty they had created around them. I was fascinated by the married women of the Rabari community who only wore black. Apparently they belong to Krishna's clan (of gopis) and still mourn His death by wearing black. But black is only the colour of their garment which is otherwise full of beautiful colourful embroidery. Adorned with heavy silver jewelry, these women made an exotic and mysterious sight. In Kutch, most communities have their own style of clothing and each community can be identified by the type of embroidery used, each distinct from the other.

Though I had seen pictures of these communities of Kutch before in magazines and websites, it’s when you actually see them in the stark surroundings that you really realise that what nature did not provide, they did it themselves. Colour. Apart from that, nature made up adequately by making this semi arid and barren landscapes the home for thousands of birds. Wherever I looked I saw birds, known and the migratory varieties, flying in the sky or on trees, ponds and shrubs.

Drinking water is still transported in huge canisters on camel driven cart to villages. If government has not provided them with this essential item of survival, it has given them electricity and mobile connection. Even in the most remote of regions. Those ubiquitous electricity poles everywhere made me feel once again that there is no real uninhabited region left in the world.

I asked people around what they thought of the CM and his efforts at making good roads across Gujarat. Most were unanimous; roads were made during the dairy revolution, not by him. What about the earthquake then? It was actually a blessing in disguise. They were taken out of oblivion and put on the map, given electricity and many got vehicles too.

Standing at the ruins of Dholavira and its amazing system of water tanks, I thought why couldn't people use this ancient wisdom now and resolve their water problem. Why should everybody wait for either the government or a catastrophe to make a change in their lives?

The salt pans of the Great Rann stretched out endless in front of me, spectacular in its stark whiteness. Seemingly dead yet full of life…keeping that eternal question in our minds alive.