Driving around Gujarat has been an absolute pleasure. The roads are excellent, smooth and well made, people have been helpful when the GPS has failed us and simply driving around the state has been great fun. We’ve over packed, taken more than necessary, filling the little blue Brio with lots of junk, and are quite enjoying not having to lug the big backpacks from bus stand to bus stand.
We acknowledge the Gujarat government for not only making such good roads but also maintaining them well. We’ve heard that credit goes to a few enterprising officers in the bureaucracy along with the elected officials. Signs of the previous CM’s drive for development can be seen places, with large factories and vast expanses of economic activity along the way, in some cases spewing black smoke into the sky.
The scene that first caught Hoshner’s attention. By the time he had crouched down to take the shot one more person (the guy on the left) had already crept in.
It was on one such drive, the day after we left Patan and were headed to Kutch, that we decided to take the longer but more scenic route through villages and fields. On the way we spotted a few men huddled by the side of road, on the outskirts of a tiny village, smoking and gossiping. This is not unusual in Gujarat or really anywhere in India. True to form, Hoshner squeezed the car on to the side of the road and jumped out to take a few photographs. Within seconds he was surrounded by people and it took me a minute to realise that all the village folk had materialised out of nowhere, wanting their picture taken. Picture taking became a big communal activity, accompanied by a lot of laughter and joy, with even a few older women readying themselves for the camera.
In the midst of this hullabaloo, a village senior invited us to his home for tea and we readily accepted. Immediately the ‘charpoys’ (beds made of jute and coir) were laid out and the woman of the house rushed to make us tea. Sitting on the charpoy, surrounded by the village senior and his family, we had some of the best tea we’ve ever tasted. Served out of lotas (mugs) into small metal flat bowls, the tea was warm and flavourful, accompanied with biscuits and stories.
The excitement of our visit was such, that a significant part of the village was in that small house with us and the rest were outside, peering in! After drinking several bowls of tea, and more picture taking, we thanked the family and prepared to leave, only to have the entire village (still waiting patiently outside the house) walk us to the car, a few feet away, and bid us adieu. Smiling and happy we set off on our way. It had been one of the nicest mornings, and was one of those serendipitous events that makes travelling around India all the more special.