My mother had always wanted to see Gujarat. The reason is very interesting.Ever since I was a little boy, I heard my father’s ancestors migrated from Gujarat and settled in Sutanati village as early as 1700 AD. Other neighboring villages included Gobindapur and Kalikata. Although Job Charnock is given the credit of founding Calcutta the three very flourishing villages were in reality simply united as one and called Calcutta.
Ever since I was a little boy, I heard my father’s ancestors migrated from Gujarat and settled in Sutanati village as early as 1700 AD. Other neighboring villages included Gobindapur and Kalikata. Although Job Charnock is given the credit of founding Calcutta the three very flourishing villages were in reality simply united as one and called Calcutta.
Families were already living in Calcutta region. They were well established long before the British set foot in Calcutta. Our family was asked to leave the spot where they were settled in so they simply moved to Jain Temple Road in Burra Bazar and built their home which has seen many generations. I am twenty-second one.
We introduce ourselves as Bengalis. We speak in Bengali, eat Bengali cuisine and marry into Bengali families. There are few Gujarati traits. Ladies wear saris with front pallu in wedding ceremonies. Like Gujarati, we are devotees of Radha-Krishna and Mahadev and have our own temples in north Calcutta. Since 1720 AD, daily prayers and offerings are made as has been the custom generation after generation. My mother always had a great interest in the family culture and heritage so I was not surprised of her desire to see Gujarat.
Mother and I decided to visit Gujarat during Puja vacation in 2014 for 16 days. We bought roundtrip flight tickets from Kolkata to Ahmedabad. I had hoped to book all hotels on my own but suddenly I realized we would require a local chauffeur driven car I contacted Zenith Tours and Travels for help. I had made an elaborate list of places to see in Gujarat. Everything was taken care of by A-Z Tours and Travels in Gujarat through Zenith in Kolkata.
We flew on the reserved date and reached Ahmedabad in the afternoon. There is a lot to see in Ahmedabad. However, according to our plan, we were going around the site first and then seeing the capital on our own.
We had requested a non-AC car because we were used to keeping our windows rolled down for fresh air. We did not want to experience hot and cold temperatures of the outside environment and car. Gujarat in those days shot up to 45º C during the day.
Our designated chauffeur driven car arrived at the Ahmedabad and we drove to Bhuj. This journey was the longest route through deserted arid land. The roads were long, straight and broad with clear vision so drivers covered miles per hour. The ride was also very smooth because there were no pot-holes. On either side of the road, the land had no crops only vegetation growing here is food for local donkeys, inhabitants of the Little Rann of Kutch. In parts, the land was cracked in the sun. Apparently, nothing grows except we discovered trucks carrying salt that would be washed, cleaned, packaged and sold to consumers as table salt from Tata Salt.
We reached Bhuj in the afternoon and visited Rao Pragmalji’s Palace that is at present a museum and open to the public. We visited all the rooms namely music room, dance room with mirrors, reception room and a room with many palanquins.
Following day we went to India-Pakistani border near the sea. When the water recedes the salt of the sea is exposed. I liked the scene very much and took a few snaps when the military on duty noticed me. When I showed them the shot they did not mind. In reality, these areas are closely guarded and photography is strictly forbidden.
There is another part of Bhuj to see. We had to take special permission from the military guarding the India-Pakistan border. We had all the required documents for the visit so in no time we drove down a special road with sea water on either side. We learned that in winter, December to February, the water recedes and salt that is exposed makes a wonderful beach. This salt beach is used by people from all over the world to stay in tents, dance and sing to celebrate the festivals of Great Rann of Kutch.