Breakfast in Bhuj and Catherine Deneuve

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Before breakfast, we rode the bus into town, and then visited the Hotel Prince, which was once rated as being the best hotel in Bhuj. It is elegant but dated. We sat down for what we hoped would be a grand breakfast in the first-floor restaurant. It was almost impossible to catch the waiters’ attention. They were all standing, as if glued to the floor, in front of a large television screen, watching a very gory, bloodthirsty film. When they finally attended to us, we were served a reasonable quality (but expensive) breakfast of eggs and potato parathas. When Philip Ward published his guide to Gujarat in 1994, he wrote that service at this hotel was slow. Nothing has changed since then.

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The Bharatiya Sanskriti Darshan is a privately-run folklore museum near the Collector’s Bungalow. This establishment and its collection were commenced more than sixty years ago by Ramsinhji Rathod, a Forest Service Officer and scholar of tribal and folk arts of Kutch. The museum’s buildings are in two adjoining plots separated by a narrow lane. One plot contains rectangular buildings without architectural merit. They hold the bulk of the exhibits. The other, a triangular plot, contains several round buildings with conical thatched roofs. These traditional Kutchi houses resemble South African rondavels.

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The collection is first-class.  The wonderful array of exhibits includes: diverse household items; embroidered textiles (some of them with small pieces of mirror sewn in them) for which Kutch is famous; books in Sanskrit; boards for playing games; large printed fabrics; paintings and photographs; clothes and footwear; jewellery; household implements; and archaeological finds, including some well-crafted clay models excavated in northern Kutch at Dholavira, the ruins of a city that was founded in about 2650 BC, and was last occupied in about 1450 BC.

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The circular buildings contain additional exhibits, predominantly a large collection of clay pots. We were shown around the museum by a lady volunteer. She is married to a professional singer of Gujarati and Kutchi songs. Proudly, she showed us videos of her husband performing at concerts.  She was accompanied by an employee of the museum, who was wearing one of Kutch’s many traditional colourful folk costumes. It was her job to unlock and lock the various rooms and huts containing the exhibits. She gave us some berries growing on a tree in the compound. They resembled soft cherries but tasted bitter. At the end of our tour, the volunteer invited us into her office, where we were asked to sign the visitors’ book. Then flicking back its pages, she showed us the flattering words that the French actress Catherine Deneuve had written about her visit to this lovely museum.

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