Hot and hectic is how I would describe my recent whirlwind weekend trip to Gujarat. The train journey was uneventful and our stopover Ahmedabad was as welcoming and hospitable as always. I think the city is an embodiment of its people – and there are few cultures as amiable as the Gujaratis. All that sugar in their dal seems to make sure that sweetness and hospitality truly runs in their veins.
Flock of black headed Ibis marching along… the Porbandar coast
We then set off for our destination Porbandar: a city (if I can call it that) I had very little idea about. Trivia: Famous as the birthplace of the Mahatma, it was earlier called Sudamapuri (as the birthplace of Sudama). So, many many temples dedicated to Krishna/ Sudama dot the tiny town.
Sudama Mandir @ Porbandar
The blueness of the sea along Porbandar’s coast is something I will remember for a long time to come. Very rarely in India does one come across such clear waters. Of course when one approached the edge, one still came across the seemingly unavoidable litter of plastic bottles and chips packets but from a distance it was beautiful. I know it’s a stereotypical thing to say, but it really reminded me of beaches I have enjoyed on foreign shores.
One of our stops was Kirti Mandir; literally a shrine to Gandhiji. In layout and feel, this place reminded me of the ISKCON temple, Mumbai with a central courtyard surrounded by a covered colonnade. At first I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of giving Gandhiji the status equivalent to God, but then I thought why not? Heaven knows, we do not respect our national heroes enough and if dedicating a shrine to him is the way to make people pay their respects and revisit his ideals, then so be it.
One moment that will stay with me for a long time, was when I entered the actual room where he was born – marked with a simple Swastika and few flowers. It was really one was those places where you can feel something intangibly different in the air, which seemed to emanate peaceful vibes. Another place where I have strongly felt this earlier is the Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Mumbai. And this came pretty close. I believe that each place has a particular quality, which if strong enough can drastically alter your current thought process and mood. So I sat there a while cross-legged and tried to meditate. While I wasn’t too successful at that, it was an awesome feeling to be alone with your thoughts for a few moments and come out feeling calmer and clearer than you were before.
An unexpected bonus of the trip, as we were driving out of Porbandar, was our chance spotting of this flock of flamingoes – and we got out of the car literally screaming with excitement. The car driver of course thought we were crazy, but hey who cares? While I was aware that this was a good season to spot flamingoes, I had been lazy and had been ignoring all the reminders to go early one morning for sightings at Sewri. So it was super to see them unexpectedly like that, and that too in such large numbers. Incidentally, thanks to this unscheduled stop, one of our group realised that their mobile phone had been left behind at the hotel. A quick U turn and soon we were once again on our way to the station for our overnight train back to Mumbai.
So I look forward to my next trip to Gujju land – which hopefully could be a road trip in better weather – to discover more and more.
All photos © Amrita Ravimohan