The Secrets of Gujarat

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Solo Trips are considered to be one of the riskiest forms of travelling. Especially for a young-blooded twenty five year old guy like me who loves to listen to his guts and solo explore. However, the way it happened to me is still like a dream; that I could see every single night. Imagine yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, wondering “where I have come to?” and then suddenly, you see someone taking you along and end up having an adventure that you never really expected in this buffet of unfamiliar things! So, basically this is what my story was; something that still gives me goosebumps, the moment I think about it.
Here we go…
I am Abhijeet Patil, a typical Maharashtrian living in Andheri, Mumbai. If you are from Mumbai, I don’t think it is necessary to explain anymore. If you are not, then still I don’t think it is necessary to explain! Jokes apart, I am currently working as a software engineer in a reputed firm. I live in a rental apartment with my friends. Life is quite good for me, as I completed my Graduation from Pune and my school days were from my native place in Amravati.
There was a time when the famous Actor Amitabh Bachchan used to promote Gujarat tourism. I had watched it so many times that I could imitate the ad scene by scene. During that period, many of my Gujarati friends used to describe how pleasant Gujarat was and how they can have a weekend trip to their native place. When we had a conversation about it, this thought always crossed me; what if I actually can go and see what is so special in that place?
I had a conversation with my roommates regarding this trip but they were just not ready for it. I called some of my office colleagues but I received the same response. I was quite disappointed and I could not come across a proper solution for this. Once again, I approached my Gujarati friends and although they weren’t ready to come, they described the places to visit, things to see and the dos and don’ts that I need to follow. I made a list of these places and did some Google research on it. I felt like I could do this trip alone and I decided to do so!
It seems fun to think about a solo trip, but when such a thing really is about to happen, you are bound to get nervous. I spent one full week planning for it! There were times when I had almost given up on this plan but somehow, I managed to stick to it. My plan was to visit these places in Gujarat: Rann of Kutch and Ahmedabad. I made an itinerary and a route plan to cover these places within 5 days (including train journey) as I had only 4 paid leaves left and a weekend (Saturday) to compensate. Also, since it was the month of December, there might not be any abrupt changes in weather conditions as Gujarat is known for its extreme weather.
I was quite nervous the day my train journey was scheduled. I couldn’t sleep well the night before. I just went to a nearby Ganesh Mandir (Temple) and prayed. I did a traditional ‘Archana’ that my mother used to do when she took me to a temple. I found my mental piece, just said a big thanks to Ganeshji and did my packing for the trip when I returned home. A big day was about to come. I booked a Double-Decker Express to Ahmedabad which was supposed to depart at midnight. It was a bright red train of coaches, sticking together, which you can see from miles away. The asymmetric division of windows was quite oddly satisfying to see. I had a seat at the top division. I got settled and looked forward towards the 6 hour long journey that I was about to have.
The next day morning, I sensed a Gujarati vibe; like I always have when I am with my Gujarati friends. Ahmedabad, for me, seemed like I have come to a place which was quite different from typical Indian cities. It was so pleasant, the roads were so much cleaner, the city just instantly became my favourite one. However, this newly found love was short-lived as I had to catch a Bus to Bhuj. It was a painstaking 8-hour ride in an old State Transport Bus, but the beauty of nature was compensating the pain I endured.
I reached Bhuj at around 5 pm. It was typically a deserted area from where the Rann of Kutch started. Unfortunately, I could not find a room online, so I had to look out for a local hotel to stay during the night. One of my friends advised me to look out for Rickshaw-wallas who could help me out. The thing is how to find one in this lonely place? The sun was slowly setting across the horizon and I could clearly see the horizon! Still no one was to be seen, not even the locals.
I was getting frustrated but, out of nowhere, I saw a huge green coloured tempo approaching me. I waved my hand and I saw it slow down. A bearded old man who had the typical Muslim look (I identified this because of the Arabic writings engraved on his rickshaw), initially asked me something in Gujarati. I said I could not understand him, so he started speaking in hindi. I was quite relieved and told him about my requirement. He thought for a moment, and asked me to get in. He claimed that there is a hotel which was about 20 kilometers from here and he will accompany me with the bookings. I was a little hesitant, but finally agreed to come.
His name was Salim. He was a family man and was a father of 3 sons and a daughter. I just cannot forget the kind of conversation that I had with him during our long and bumpy ride. It was so unique and sounded so exciting that I started admiring him. But at the same time, the creepiness of the place was slowly getting induced within me as I realized that I was near the India-Pakistan border! To add fuel to the fire, Salim started telling about how dangerous this place can become during night time. There were ninety percent chances of things to take a drastic turn at any moment. Thankfully, it didn’t happen and we reached the hotel at 8 pm. Salim had a conversation with the manager and I helped myself to complete the formalities.
Next day, Salim came at around 10 o’clock in the morning as I asked him to come. As we were discussing places to visit, he suggested to me a plan. The plan was to get a pass for entering the Kutch border, roam around the small villages nearby and since it was full moon night, we could stay there the whole night and enjoy the atmosphere. I was quite tense the moment he disclosed the plan, but he convinced me to trust him. Also he asked me to visit his house as it was near the Kutch border. So I packed my things for the night, left my other belongings in the hotel and I found a reason to look forward to this adventure.
We had a three hour long road-run towards Rann of Kutch. As we were coming closer and closer, the sand was changing its colour from golden brown to plain white. Although it was winter, the heat was burning my skin. I could not find a single tree in this huge salty stretch. Slowly, the road was also fading away, as if it was disappearing magically. I saw a sign board saying ‘The Great Rann’ in Gujarati. Salim stopped near an old office that was fenced with huge barbed wires and asked me to come with him. He pointed towards a booking counter and told me to get a one night pass. I followed his instructions and by the time I returned, I saw a foreigner with Salim. Salim introduced that foreigner; his name was Jamaz and he was from Israel. Salim said that he met Jamaz the day before yesterday and was planning to stay here as we had planned. To be frank, it was the first time I ever had a conversation with a foreigner. It turned out to be so exciting and heart-warming; I just can’t describe it with words.
As we were exploring the World Heritage Site, I saw a bunch of tourists enjoying their time, just like us. I clicked pictures, had a fun time with Salim and Jamaz, did some camel riding and as the sun was setting; we decided to buy tents for the night. As the moon showed up completely, the sand started glowing! It was so beautiful to see along with the stars twinkling in the sky; even today, when I close my eyes, I could still feel myself standing in the desert surrounded by the glowing sands. I just could not sleep!
Next day, we got up at 6 am and left the place. Jamaz had his belongings in a hotel near Kutch border and was set to leave for Ahmedabad by evening. We exchanged our phone numbers in case we meet at Ahmedabad. Salim took me to his house to have breakfast. The hospitality he showed was very much heart-warming. I felt like I was back to my village and I am being taken care of my relatives. As I reached my hotel, I received a call from Jamaz and he asked for my hotel address. Initially, I hesitated but I gave him. He came at around 3 pm and asked me to come along. I had thoughts of telling him no, but he assured me that he wanted to have a look around Bhuj and he had brought the bike on rental basis.
We explored Bhuj from head to toe. I observed that there were so many mosques to see around, some had fascinating structures and some were quite old ones. Jamaz dropped me to my hotel by evening and we decided to catch the bus together. Our bus was set to leave at 8 pm. I checked out of the hotel room, met Jamaz at the bus depot and we boarded the bus and this journey marked upon the unusual kind of friendship that I never thought would have.
Ahmedabad was quite opposite to Bhuj. It was a very much organized city and the transport system was very smooth. I explored this place along with Jamaz. Right from Sabarmati Ashram to famous museums and historical sites, it was quite fun to be around with him. As my time in Gujarat was nearing its end, I realized that I am going to miss this place and the bond that I had created with new and unexpected people.
When I returned to Mumbai, I received a message from Jamaz stating that he was planning to visit Mumbai by next week. He kept his word and I was so much pleased to meet him once again! I called him to my house but he said he had to leave that day to catch the flight for Delhi. From Delhi he had a connecting flight to Israel. I felt so sad, yet I was happy to have a friend like him. He assured me that he will visit India once again. Also he asked me to visit Israel and meet his family.
Sometimes, reality seems far more different from the dreams that we have. This adventure felt like a dream, but it happened to me in real life. I just thank Ganeshji every day to motivate me to have this special moment in my life, and I hope for such adventures to happen in future.

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