Flying into Kutch

Kandla

 

A quick way to get from Bombay to Kutch is by flying. There are two airports in Kutch where passenger ‘planes can land: Bhuj and Kandla.

We took the one flight a day from Bombay to Kandla on the  coast of Kutch. As the ‘plane descends towards Kandla, it flies over a vast area of marshy coastal inlets that surround the seaport. When we landed, we walked down the ladder onto the tarmac, I noticed that the propellor ‘plane was surrounded by soldiers armed with machine guns. The reason for this is probably that Kandla airport is primarily a military aerodrome. Ada, also, Kandla is just over 200 kilometres from India’s border with Pakistan.

We walked towards the small terminal building followed by our baggage that was carried in small wagons joined together like a train and pulled by a little tractor. At the terminal, we had to help ourselves to our baggage before being hurried into the carpark outside the airfield. It was clear that passengers are not particularly welcome at this militarily sensitive area.

Buddhist carvings

Buddhist

About 10 kilometres south of the small town of Virpur in Saurashtra (Kathiawad), a short distance from the main road connecting Virpur with Junagadh, lies the archaelogical site of Khambalida. It was there that archaelogists discovered some Buddhist rock temples in 1958. These temples, which overlook a river bed, carved from the ‘living rock’ date back to the 4th to 5th centuries AD. Though slightly weathered, these fine carvings are in pretty good condition.

Other Buddhist carved caves can be seen in Gujarat at Junagadh and near Somnath. 

Wood carving in Ahmedabad

POL

The old part of the city of Ahmedabad is divided into self-contained districts, like gated communities, called pols. Each pol has its own single gated entrance which gives sole access to a number of narrow streets. The narrow streets are lined by tall buildings, which together render the temperature of the pols at ground level far lower than the temperature in wider streets and open places in the city.

In times of trouble and strife, the gates of a pol can be closed to prevent intruders entering it. Secret passages lead from one pol to its neighbour(s). Pols have their own wells. 

Often a pol is inhabited by families that have something in common, for example religion, caste or profession.

One of the many delights of the pols in Ahmedabad (they are also found in Baroda) is that they often contain buildings decorated with intricately carved woodwwork decorative and stuctural features.

For tourists, a pol is not only a place that they can literally ‘chill out’ but also they can experience a valuable part of Ahmedabad’s living history.

Art school in Baroda

BARODA ART

 

This lovely old building surrounded by trees and other luxuriant vegetation stands on the campus of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Sayajirao University of Baroda (Vadodara).

Here is an excerpt about this place from my book “Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”:

In 1935 to celebrate the diamond anniversary of his reign, Maharajah Sayajirao III Gaekwad set aside huge funds, both the state’s and his own, to create a university in Baroda. The Faculty of Fine arts, set in park-like grounds with many trees, is a part of this. The campus contains several buildings. The most attractive of these is an almost octagonal building surrounded by deep verandas with wooden balustrades at both ground floor and first floor levels. This building, which contains some studios, was constructed in the 1930s. Other buildings on the campus are newer, having been built after the Fine Arts Faculty was founded in 1951.

One of the joys of art schools in India, and that in Baroda is no exception, is watching students creating artworks in the open air, and seeing their completed creations exhibited outside. Many of the works on display demonstrate the great technical skills and lively imaginations of their creators. We saw many youngsters sitting in the shade of the trees, at work in their sketchbooks. There were plenty of great sculptures in the gardens of the Baroda art school, but no one was working on them outside. Maybe, it was too warm.

 

Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” by Adam Yamey

is available from Amazon, Bookdepository.com, Lulu.com, and on Kindle

 

 

Espresso coffee in Diu

diu

 

Diu is a small island off the south coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat. Formerly, a Portuguese colony (until 1960), it is now part of India.

 

Shri Ramvijay Refreshment on Bunder Road serves snacks, ice creams and drinks, and is the only place in the city of Diu where espresso coffee can be obtained. The owner bought his Italian espresso-making machine at great expense several years ago. It is a device resembling the Lavazza (LB2312) model for producing single cups of coffee, which was already on the market in 2009. We drank acceptable cups of coffee made with pre-packed coffee capsules placed in this machine. It was the best coffee we had drunk since leaving Bombay, but each tiny cup cost several times as much as the cups of tea available all over Diu and Gujarat. Mr Ramvijay told us that the demand for his coffee was greatest amongst visitors to Diu of Indian origin, who lived in Mozambique and other parts of East Africa.

There are photographs of three previous generations of the Ramvijay family on the café’s rear wall. The present owner Mr Ramvijay explained that his shop was opened in 1933 and has been in business continuously since then. In 1933, it was known as ‘Casa De Refrescos, Ramvijay’. It was started by Shri Mathurbhai Devjibhai Arya, who was born in 1881 in the village of Fudam on Diu Island and established a still functioning soda water factory. Mr Ramvijay told us that he is the major supplier of bottled soda water in Diu. The café is also well-known for its ice cream sodas.

 

Find out much more about Diu and its neighbour Gujarat, by CLICKING:

HERE or HERE  or HERE

Ginger: pounded or grated?

ginger

 

The road-side tea-makers found all over Gujarat make hot milky tea flavoured with various additives. Sugar is almost always added. Ginger is another ingredient often used. It is added to the boiling mixture of milk and tea, which is strained through cloth when it has been boiled sufficiently. Many tea makers grate their ginger using metal graters. A few others, like the man in my photograph taken near Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad, prefer to pound their ginger in a pestle and mortar. Whether using grating or pounding  makes much of a difference to the enjoyment of the tea is a matter of personal opinion.

An offering

mendicant

 

A man carrying hot coals emitting a fragrant smoke entered a small café early one morning in Baroda (Vadodara). He was offering blessings in exchange for a small financial donation. Without displaying any disappointment, he left without having been given any money.

In many religions, fragrant smoke provides a suggestion of holiness.

Bricks for business

BRICKS FOR BUSINESS

Ahmedabad is rich in exciting 20th century architecture, designed both by Indian and non-Indian architects. 

The prestigious, highly-rated IIMA (Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad) was founded in 1961. Apart from being one of the world’s most respected business schools, its  vast campus is home to an architectural complex designed by the American architect Loouis Kahn (1901-74), who was born in Estonia, when it was part of the Czarist Russian Empire.

His work at the IIMA is a set of brick buildings elegantly designed with archways, circular apertures, and shady walkways.Kahn worked on this project from 1962 until his death. The Ahmedabad-based architect BV Doshi, who studied alongside Le Corbusier and was influenced by Kahn, was also involved in the design, although the greater part of the credit for the design should be given to Kahn. 

We were lucky to have had a contact who was able to get us permission to visit IIMA, which is usually not open to visitors, who have no business with the institute.

 

 

Going vegetarian in Gujarat

veg

 

There are many vegetarians in India, particularly in Gujarat.

I am primarily an omnivore, who enjoys meat and fish.

In many of the places we visited on a seven week visit to Kutch and Saurashtra, it was difficult or even impossible to find restaurants serving non-vegetarian food. I spotted street stalls where omelettes were made to order – and they are very delicious – and barrows where un-refrigerated kebabs were on display in the hot weather, awaiting grilling.

In Kutch, I enjoyed the delicately prepared, tasty vegetarian thalis. In Saurashtra, thalis were less attractive to my taste because of their oily-ness and over use of sugar or other sweeeners. However, Gujarat is a paradise for snackers. All over Gujarat, you will find places selling a variety of delicious farsan (savoury snacks). My favourites include: dhokla, patra, ganthia, sev, bhel puri, chewda, dahi puri, khandvi, and pani puri.

Therefore when I wanted something more substantial, I resorted to eating readily available South Indian specialities such as dosas and curd vada. Or, I ordered pizzas. The pizzas, which would look strange to a Sicilian or a Neapolitan, were delicious despite the fact that the cheese used was not remotely similar to mozzarella. I suspect it was often the industrially prepared Indian Amul product. By the way, Amul was a dairy company established just after Indian Independence in Gujarat, inspired by ideas suggested by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, an important statesman and politician born in Gujarat. Getting back to the pizzas, what made them delicious was the tomato sauces used on them. These were not run-of-the-mill out-of-the-can industrial products. They were usually sauces made in the restaurant using fresh tomatoes and herbs and appropriate spices. Indian Chinese food, even if vegetarian, is also an option.

Well, although I am not a fan of veg food, many people fall in love with the various meat-free and egg-free cuisines of Gujarat.

 

Fishermen at Mandvi and entering Pakistan

Mandvi

 

The picture shows dogs resting in the shade provided by a beached fishing vessel in the estuary of the River Rukmavati at the town of Mandvi in the former Kingdom of Kutch, now part of Gujarat.

 

Nearby, there were many similar fishing boats, all manned by Muslim seamen. These boats sail into the Gulf of Kutch, a piece of water that separates most of Kutch from another part of Gujarat, Saurashtra (or Kathiawad). 

 

The vessels are allowed to sail as far west as Okha, but no further as they would then stray into Pakistani water. We were told that there is quite a good deal of smuggling between the Indian and Pakistani fishermen. The Indians have to be careful because they might be arrested in Pakistani waters, as a recent newspaper report  reveals:

“A group of 100 Indian fishermen Monday crossed over to the Indian side through 

Attari-Wagah border after the Pakistan government released them from jail as a goodwill gesture.

The fishermen crossed over to India this evening on the basis of ’emergency travel certificates’ issued by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, officials said.

Immediately after the repatriation, a medical examination of all the fishermen was conducted, they said.

The neighbouring country had released the first batch of 100 Indian fishermen on April 7.

The fishermen were arrested for fishing illegally in Pakistani waters during various operations.

Both the countries frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea and these fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.”

Quoted from: https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/pakistan-releases-100-indian-fishermen-119041501180_1.html