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.
Sadly, India and Pakistan are fighting again. Some parts of Gujarat, such as Kutch, are perilously close to Pakistan.
“We boarded a smallish propeller aeroplane, a Bombardier, which serves the daily flight from Bombay in Maharashtra to Kandla in Kutch.
Our one and a half hour Spicejet flight headed north west from Bombay. After traversing Saurashtra, the southern peninsula of western Gujarat (also known as ‘Kathiawad’), we flew over an area of rivers and marshes, and begun descending towards the airport of Kandla in Kutch.
Many centuries ago, Kutch was an island between Gujarat and Sindh. It was separated from the mainland by rivers along its northern and eastern edges, and the sea along its southern edge. The rivers disappeared after a series of seismic disturbances, only to be replaced by arid rocky deserts, the Ranns of Kutch. Until the 1940s, Kutch was fiercely independent of the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Despite frequent attacks by its neighbour Sindh (now part of Pakistan) and the Mughals, the Kutchis retained their autonomy. One of the reasons we were visiting this outlying part of India, now incorporated within the State of Gujarat, was to visit the area from which my wife’s mother’s ancestors originated. Another reason was that we had heard that it is beautiful.
Kandla airport is small. As we descended from the ‘plane onto the tarmac, I noticed that our aircraft was surrounded by army men holding loaded machine guns, their muzzles pointing downwards. There were numerous signs forbidding photography because this airport is primarily a military base only 133 kilometres from the Indian border with Pakistan. There was no baggage conveyor belt system. The luggage from the ‘plane was brought to the tiny terminal in wagons from which we had to help ourselves to our bags.”
This is an excerpt from “TRAVELS THROUGH GUJARAT, DAMAN, AND DIU” by Adam Yamey. It is avalable on Kindle and as a paperback from lulu.com, bookdepository.com, and Amazon.