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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 21, Dated May 29, 2010

KUTCH
Land Of Thread And Mirrors

Benson Issac
Teacher at St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru. Also Freelance researcher and trainer

image
Gung ho bhungo Traditional mud houses in Kutch, decorated with exquisite mirrorwork
Photo: REUTERS

imageWhen we first told people that we were headed to Kutch for a holiday, their reactions convinced us that the world can be divided into two categories of people — the ones who say ‘wow, Kutch!’ and the others who say ‘why Kutch?!’ we were a little confused about what we would find there. The overnight sleeper bus from Ahmedabad got us into Bhuj after a comfortable ride early in the morning. This was to be our base to travel to different parts of Kutch. Bhuj itself is a fascinating town with many parts to it — the old walled city which was very badly affected during the earthquake, the new extensions and the resettlement colony.

Over plates of spicy dabheli (paavwith very interesting filling including grapes and pomegranate) in the bazaar, our trip started taking form. The variety of embroidery and other handicrafts sold in the shops along with the fact that we were surrounded by people who were actually wearing colourful turbans, rabari, banni and jat embroidery teased us into creating a crafts trail for ourselves. Unlike most other crafts centres of India, in Kutch you see people proudly wearing their creations — women on the bus even add mirrors onto the skirts they have on.

TRIFLES
Kutch gets its name from‘kachchhua’, the legendary tortoise from the Vedic tale where gods and demons churn the ocean
Nearest airport: Bhuj, Gujarat
Nearest station: Bhuj

We started at Bhujodi, a weaving town, famous for its intricate woollen shawls. The entire village is like a living museum, where one can drop into any of the houses, share a chai and explore the intricacies of pit-looms and figure out the physics of weaving. we visited bhungos — circular mud houses with mirror work decorations and drank sweet milk sweets, bought a quilt that was being given finishing touches. we then travelled to Dhamadka an important centre for block printing, including ajrakh. Don was next and is the centre for Mashru — a bright and striking textile that requires some special weaving skills since it has a silk warp and cotton weft. The story goes that Muslim men were not allowed to wear silk on their skin but mashru (which literally means ‘permitted’ in Arabic) was not taboo to wear, since the surface was silk but it was cotton that lay on the skin!

Mandvi, with its proximity to the sea, and the Toran guest house is the most touristy of the entire circuit. The ship building yard with its huge wooden ships is amazing. This is probably the only Indian wooden ship building yard other than Beypore in Kerala.

Then there is Banni — a 3000 square km desert grassland. This seemingly barren expanse of saline land has some of India’s best pastoral lands with over 40 hamlets inhabited by Mahaldaris, the best guides into the banni. It is a unique ecosystem — a wetland in the monsoon and home to rich birdlife. Keero, a conical hill, is the site of an extinct volcano with marine fossils about 140 million years old! Block printing, weaving, metal work, Indus valley excavations, ship building yards, flamingos, Indian wild asses — Kutch on a shoestring budget. Go find it for yourself.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 21, Dated May 29, 2010


The Morning After
NISHA SUSAN

1. PATNA
The Fleshy Tones Of Real India
Amitava Kumar The author, most recently, of Evidence of Suspicion. Lives in upstate New York

2. KODUNGALLOOR
Stone Chickens And Beach Resorts
Suresh Menon Bengaluru-based columnist, who often writes on cricket

3. DEHRADUN
Rafting Up The Valley Of God
Amrita Nandy-Joshi South Asian women’s rights activist. Moonlights as a freelance journalist and travel writer

4. ARAKU
How To Catch A Cloud
Deepanjana Pal Mumbai-based writer and author of The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma

5. PUWA MECCA
The One-Fourth Holy Land
Aruni Kashyap Assamese writer currently based in Delhi

6. CHERRAPUNJI
The Torrential Luxury
Patrick Bryson Australian writer currently residing in Shillong, Meghalaya

7. THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
An Aimless Gawker’s Paradise
Arul Mani Columnist and teacher at a Bengaluru college

8. AMRITSAR
Turban-Watching In Filmi Punjab
Annie Zaidi Journalist and author of Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales

9. JHUNJHUNU
The Motorcars Of the Gopis
Arundhati Ghosh Arts management professional based in Bengaluru

10. KUTCH
Land Of Thread And Mirrors
Benson Issac Teacher at St Joseph’s College, Bengaluru. Also Freelance researcher and trainer

11. SINDHUDURG
Goa, Be Kind. Rewind
Frederick Noronha Goa-based journalist and author

12.  DHOLAVIRA
The Sands Of Time
Ramu Ramanathan Mumbai-based playwrightdirector and editor of PT Notes, a monthly theatre newsletter produced by Prithvi Theatre

13.  BINSAR
The Refuge Of Small Mercies
Neel Chaudhuri Delhi-based playwright and theatre director and artistic director of The Tadpole Repertory

14.  GOKARNA
Harem Pants And Psychedelic Trance
Deepika Arwind Writer and journalist based in Bengaluru

15.  MEGHAMALAI
Holiday At The High Wavys
Bijoy Venugopal Bengaluru-based journalist and biographer for the rock band Thermal and a Quarter

16.  DHARWAD
Tuning In With The Folks
Mrinalini Harchandrai Writer based in Mumbai

17.  KALPETTA
The Treehouse Fellowship
Mridula Koshy Delhi-based writer and author of a collection of short stories called If It Is Sweet

18.  NATHUAKHAN
Romeo And Juliet In Freeze Mode
Amitabha Bagchi Professor at IIT Delhi and author of the novel Above Average

  Relax, It’s Just A Vacation
SANTOSH DESAI CEO, Future Brands, and author of Mother Pious Lady —Making Sense of Everyday India

  Candid Photographs


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