Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The White Rann of Kutch.

As far as your eyes can see.
At dusk where the earth and sky seem to meet.

White Rann of Kutch is a 16,000 of saline wetland which floods up with water during the monsoon. Around the month of October the expanse starts to dry up leaving behind white crystals of salt.
A white salt desert.

Few frames shot during sunset at the Rann.






Used my earrings and shawl as props to add contrast to a stark white salt flat desert background:-)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kutch everywhere...

It's been almost 3 weeks since we got back from Kutch, but the mind just refuses to let go of the memories of the mystical land.

Mystical it is.

Something one feels through the pores of the skin, the goosebumps that surface while listening to Kabir's rendition by the local sufi singers under the cold starry night, the smoky smell that gets trapped in the coarse fabric of my shawl from the bonfire. The same smell lingers on the surface of the milky chai I had at the bhunga of a Meghwal family.

No amount of eloquent phrases or photographs using wide angle lenses can convey the happiness of strolling in the streets of Bhuj watching the Rabari women glide through the day wearing the veil of night, the hospitality that is so evident even in the most humble households, a glass of water or tea is offered with a warm smile, if you wonder at the source of water and refuse, they cycle up to the local provision store to buy you a bottle of bisleri. Yes, I am talking about the Banni hospitality.

The intense sweetness of thick hot condensed milk khova that melts in your mouth at a roadside shop at Bhirandiyara. The wind burnt face of that little girl with a star motif tattoo on her left cheek. The crunch of hard jaggery that unleashes the pungent flavour of dry ginger in your mouth at a local sweetshop.

Mystical it is.

That it spills on to my blogs and Facebook pages uncontrollably in the form of jpegs sprinkled with magical gold dust.

Please pardon me if I continue to roll in this magical dust for a little while longer.

(Chronologically is what my head said but my heart thinks otherwise;-) Will post about the Mutwa embroidery soon)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Mutwas| Dhordo Village, Kutch.

Weeks before our scheduled trip to Kutch, travel books were devoured, online friends contacted, gave maximum number of daily hits, spoke on the phone for hours.....

....and then suddenly we stopped.

People travel for different reasons, different interests, different purposes.

What was our purpose?
We wanted to experience the land; the dry, harsh, unyielding land of Kutch.
The people; the strong people who looked at natural disasters in the eye, who boldly faced the fury of nature and yet remain warm; hospitable.
The craftsmanship; the needle & thread combination creating magic along with twinkling mirrors.
The history; the past.

So we re-drew our plan. Re-plotted the destinations on the map.

Last week of December, 2011:
Fueling ourselves with hi-octane enthusiasm, a heavy Lowepro bag and a tube of sunscreen we set out with Akil our driver from Bhuj into the villages.

The Mutwas, a Muslim Community who hail from Sindh in Pakistan, inhabit the Banni area in Kutch. They are known for their extremely intricate embroidery using tiny mirrors. We decided to visit one such community in Dhordo village.

We reached the doorsteps of the very hospitable Miyabhai Hussein Mutwa. The Mutwa embroidery is done by the women of the community and according to their customs outside men aren't allowed inside.
So while Mr. Husband spoke to the men in the outer room, I & the daughter were led into a open courtyard of a traditional Bhunga complex.
Within a matter of few minutes I had shook hands with a dozen smiling women and children, made to sit on a soft quilt covered charpouy and examined by twelve pairs of inquisitive eyes.
They asked me about my life in the city. I inquired about their work, their life there in the village.

Suddenly Shabnam, one of the Mutwa women came to me with her needle & thread, pulled the edge of my mirrorwork shawl and started working on it. Within a minute she had made an intricate eyelet around one of the mirrors.

I didn't need to see any of their work after that.

Before she weaved the magic around the mirror...
After the magic...

A priceless souvenir that will remind me of the Mutwa craftsmanship and hospitality....and of Shabnam.

Will share photographs of Mutwa embroidery work in my next post:-)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Lucky Tea Stall, Old City Ahmedabad

Diagonally opposite the House of MG in Ahmedabad, across the busy road is Lucky Tea Stall.
enjoying the maska bun jam...

Gujaratis take their cup of tea quite seriously and their saucers too.
We observed that even the hole-in-the-wall tea stalls served their tea in a cup & saucer. Piping hot tea would be poured into saucer, blown, made into a drinkable temperature and then sipped.

Lucky Tea Stall too served their tea in floral-print cup and saucer.
lucky cups in lucky tea stall..

This popular tea stall was apparently the favourite haunt of eminent painter M.F. Hussain.
at the tea stall...

The speciality here is the masala tea & maska (butter) bun jam.
menu board...

We opted for marie biscuits to dunk in our tea...
tea & biscuit...

We sat on a table next to two beautifully decorated Muslim tombs inside the stall enjoying the camaraderie of past and present lovers of chai:-)
satisfied cup...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

a handful of bokul phool for you Ma!

Having seen this intricately carved structure on the way to The House of MG, Ahmedabad, we decided to explore it later in the evening.
This is in the Hatheesing Jain Temple compound, a temple built in the 19th century dedicated to Dharamnath, the 15th Jain Tirthankara.

We got there as dusk set in bringing with it the ochre glow of ghee lamps in the temple.
Marveling at the ornate marble architecture, the peaceful atmosphere in the courtyard we sat on the warm stone corridor just to be in the moment. What a serene moment it was...

As we stepped out, my daughter came running to me with tiny pale white flowers that she had collected from under the tree in the courtyard.

Oh that mild fragrance! It is the bokul phool!

My mother's bokul phool. The flower that is so dear to my Ma.

She had told me stories of her growing years in Kolkata where trees of bokul phool that lined the streets would spread a carpet of these delicate flowers on the black tar roads. How she would run to gather them in the pallu of her half saree. String them together and adorn her long black plait with it.

With the fragrance came the memories of the stories that I had heard and vividly visualized. I passed on the story to my daughter, saw that twinkle in her eyes as she ran to collect some more...

So here is a handful of bokul phool for you Ma!

A very small gift for you on your special day. Happy Birthday Ma.