03 June 2020

Table of Contents for Cover Story

Editor's Gujarat Tour

An Illuminating Beacon: The Gujarat Example

I have a hard time getting back to my routine cosmopolitan life after a nice whole week of Gujarat. Roads of silk and versed villagers made it a pleasure to explore this beautiful state. All of my memories surge in fragments and I wonder how will I put emotions as linear facts about the state of Gujarat which has been under much scrutiny because of a great leader and the reservations a vast fraction of the nation has on his policies as much as a vast majority from every fraction of society awaits the manifestation of his vision.

Belonging to the comfortable, indifferent middle class, it made slight difference to the lives of many like me irrespective of who governed my country. Impressions are made from what one observes, sees, hears, listens, experiences and most of all from what we think or assume or presume to know. And somehow, these conjectures multiply or shrivel one’s enthusiasm aggressively in ones endeavour to know more in that zone. How we poke communities and joke of a stark common behavioural pattern with little thought! But then there are a few traits that often fall commonly over a good general fraction of each community which proves the sarcasm right!

Thus with a notion conceived and reverence for progress, we set out for our first-hand experience of Gujarat. We chose to stay in villages hard to find on one’s GPRS, away from the din and we were stunned to find fine roads connecting to just about every village we wanted to visit! There was water and electricity available in every village. There were banks with ATMs every 5-10 kilometres. Clearly, this was progress to villages, certainly targets set where not an eye wash to hanker votes. It was gladsome to experience whatever strength the state had, open to welcome tourists like me.

The artwork and handicrafts were one of the highlights of my trip. Our host in Devpur directed us to Bhadli, a tiny hamlet of cowherds and shepherds, to the home of Mr. Aziz and Mr. Suleman Khatri, brothers who were famous for their ‘ bandhani’, the famous tie-dyeing technique. We walked into a centre courtyard where the womenfolk of his family were stitching a design on a blanket together. Mr. Suleman brought before us wonderful Bandhani dupattas, stoles, saris and scarves from a collection he was preparing for an exhibition in Juhu, Mumbai. He explained the intricacies of designing and creating his ware and the reason why they were expensive. He had a staff of around 250 women working there. One had to know what differentiates an expensive bhandani from an economic one to be a proud owner wearing it with élan and he taught us that.

Rogan art in the village of Nirona, seemed effortless to the palm of an 8th generation practitioner from the only family in India that practices this rare art. Gafoorbhai Khathri,a national award winner first explains the castor-oil based art and then displays his ware. The fineness of technique and skill and the elaborate effort required to design and craft an art piece explains the pricing. It was certainly no joke to master the Rogan art.

There was art everywhere, on the walls, on the clothes people wore, the animals they reared and the vehicles they drove. We met an enterprising young man called Ramji, whose family created leather goods like wallets, hand mirrors, handbags and draw string coin purses. It was educative to know where these came from.

It was striking to find harmony in the co-existence between people of different faiths. There has been such immense spite in dread of the saffron in our flag shrinking the white and green and their interests being side-lined, but I was surprised to see how they were dependant and helping one another to exist and live well. Our Indian way of life represented by the saffron was never a champion when it came to integrating mankind into one and this shaky flaky foundation was perhaps the reason for our motherland being conquered and colonised with our very self-worth trampled over. But this state had a different story to tell.

We were first received by Mr. Krutharthsinh Jadeja and his lovely wife Mrs. Yashodha who are royalty. We spent three days in the Devpur Darbargarh, a small fort built in 1906 by Thakore Shri Verisalji Bawasaheb of Roha. It is listed as a member of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage for its historical significance. The warm bearing and reception of our hosts were most humbling. , I walked around marvelling at the historical structure lost in the grandeur of what it could have been in all its glory. It was preserved as well as it could be, but perhaps the government could fund establishments to restore it back to its full magnificence.

We stayed in Kutch for the next three days in a Village Resort called the Shaam-e-Sarhad, which is the finest example of endogenous tourism and it has given such an immense opportunity for the indigenous young of the Hodka Village. It was surprising to find young men who have had negligible academic education, trained to execute and entertain guests in the heartiest earnest way. There was a drive, an energy wave seeking and striving for progress. It is a place to visit if one is willing to succumb to nature, simplicity, peace, quiet and local art, music and culture.

I spent a few moments in silence, ruminating on how far the saffron had evolved, smudging the caste divide within itself. Progress was no longer pertained to a few born under man made, curbing caste or religion and I knew that the whole nation was looking up to the leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi for what his vision had accomplished in more than a decade in that state.

Agriculture was perhaps the only setback, due to water shortage in that region, but that village we experienced was green in its own way.

However, when I recall the Pragmahal Palace and the Aina Mahal next to it, it was magnificence crumbling to neglect. What was once the powerhouse serving as a venue for rulers to coalesce for general good was today home to millions of birds and other little animals! We hope these great structures of historical relevance will be restored to foster a revived soul of the place and attract greater number of people. May more and more people visit and appreciate this wonderful state and see for themselves how a vision well executed can bring about great progress.


The Author is Editor of Construction Opportunities


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