It’s so silent, I can hear my thoughts. My feet hit the pristine white salt floor and crackle like a firecracker about to go off. I can slowly hear my heartbeat. I see the stars coming out, one by one, the diamonds shine. I could lay here all evening, in the company of a comforting silence.
Every once in a while, I get a bad case of something I refer to as ‘Bombay claustrophobia’. The cure? Get away, far away, and find some space. Recently, following a fairly large bout of it, I escaped to the vast expanse of the salt marsh famous as the Rann of Kutch. Between December and February, the Rann is crawling with tourists in honour of the Rann Utsav, a festival hosted by Gujarat tourism. However, the festival was long over when I landed there with my friends. The nearest town to the Rann is Bhuj and we set-up base in the historic place that holds a treasure trove of Gujarati history, numerous textile workshops, restored palaces, and quaint markets full of antique sellers and jewellery welders.
Here’s a pictorial travel journey of a four-day trip amidst wide open spaces, that I sought, to be able to hear my thoughts devoid of all the background noise.
My first stop enroute to the Rann was Ajrakhpur in the town of Bhuj. Textile workshops are the mainstay here. There’s actually a form of block printing that’s called ‘Ajrakh’, named after this place.
Next, we came to Bhujodi, where nearly 1,200 people are involved in textile handicraft production.
Curiosity gets the better of this child as he peeps through the nets at the Vijaya Vilas Palace, the erstwhile summer palace of the Jadeja Rajas of Kutch.
The Pragh Mahal, commissioned by Rao Pragmalji II in 1865, and seriously damaged in the earthquake of 2001, has a dilapidated charm of its own. It was designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style and the structure is mainly made of sandstone from Rajasthan and Italian marble.
A one and a half hour drive from Bhuj brings us to the Kala Dungar Army Camp where we were met with the sight of army men enjoying a camel ride.
After having driven for two hours, we had to leave our car in an army-assigned parking space since no vehicles are allowed in the vicinity of the Rann. It was the camel cart from there on.
The Great Rann of Kutch. Apart from our footsteps that grazed the salty land, there were only a handful of others who had come to explore the Rann at that time.
As the sun began to set, and Venus, Jupiter, and Orion’s belt made their appearance, the space developed a new kind of silence. One backed by a soothing darkness enveloping you in its infinity. It was then that I finally felt my claustrophobia lift and breathing soften.