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

DHOLAVIRA
The Sands Of Time

Ramu Ramanathan
Mumbai-based playwrightdirector and editor of PT Notes, a monthly theatre newsletter produced by Prithvi Theatre

image
Unchanged sweeps A mother-son duo working at a salt pan in Khadaghoda, Rann of Kutch
Photo: AFP

imageIt took us six hours from Ahmedabad to Rapar in a tata Safari. By water it takes four days to travel the same distance. We are invited by Salil Mehta, who heads a water harvesting project on khadir Bet: “Visit us in winter, because during summer we cannot afford to waste water on you.”

The drive from Rapar to khadir is eerie. A solitary road is surrounded by the featureless landscape of the Rann of kutch. During the monsoon, it creates an artificial lake but the still water evaporates leaving behind a salt residue which resembles snow crystals.

We disembark for a break. our local guide cautions us: “Be careful. the land is marshy and it may crack open.” Also, the land is saline. If you step barefoot in it, in a short while it appears as though you are wearing a pair of white drycleaned socks. our guide informs us: “Locals who prepare salt have a problem due to the saline content. While cremating dead bodies, the saline part refuses to burn.”

We reach khadir ‘Bet’ (island). It is quite simply in the middle of nowhere. My reason to visit was because visiting Mohenjo-Daro is nearly impossible.

Early morning we visit the site. to the freelancing historian, Dholavira may appear a tad unimpressive. there are no sculpted towers or eyecatching domes. there are citadel facades and featureless fortifications in which families lived 5,000 years ago. the urbanscape is understated, like most Harappan cities, including the port city of Lothal (near Ahmedabad). Work is in progress, we are informed by a local ASI official. More than 14 seasons of excavations. that’s why, the site looks like the ruins of a town.

TRIFLES
Divided into three parts, Dholavira had a large open area in the historic settlement where public ceremonies would be held
Nearest airport: Gandhidham, Gujarat
Nearest station: Samakhiali

The next day, we get a crash course on how bricks were produced 5,000 years ago. Stones were scarce and timber techniques were absent. In fact timber was used as fuel to fire brick kilns. Most Harappan cities have been built by brick kilns. the sturdiness of the ruined structures is a testimony to their superior firing skills.

Over the next three days what emerges is the extent of town-planning and water storage systems which enabled the Harappan people to make the progress from hunter-gatherers to urban dwellers. the ASI official, now friend, says: “this was the first great experiment in urban living.”

Every night, we cooked under the full moon. Early morning was an education in rainwater harvesting. Salil woke us up. We helped him collect water. It was painstaking. We collected dew drops and stored them. Every morning a few drops.

Aridity is the name of the game. the Dholavirans created an extensive and sophisticated water supply system that included chiseled reservoirs, wells and rainwater tanks. one day, everything vanished beneath the sand and silt. the artefacts, the granaries, the roads, the people. It is humbling.

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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