Random Saurashtra Notes

We spent the Diwali week traveling through Jamnagar, Dwarka, Porbandar and Gondal, finally stopping at a resort near Rajkot. We are natives of Kathiawar and Saurashtra and the trip was part family-visit and part tour.

Saurashtra and Kathiawar have their own pace and rhythm and way of doing things. My observations in no particular order!

1. Hospitality and Warmth

This was unparalleled. Wherever we went, meeting friends or family, we were made to feel at home and fed till we were ready to burst. Even in the hotels, the local staff tried its best to please, despite the obvious lack of “corporate” training.

2. Tattered Notes

In the past, because of a chronic shortage of coins and small denomination notes, it was common to see completely tattered 1 and 2 rupee notes, unacceptable even to the RBI, stuck together by tape. There still continues to be an inexplicable shortage of coins, and torn and decrepit 5 and 10 rupee notes continue to change hands.

3. Kathiawari Food

While we eat Kathiawari food at home daily, the quality of the food wherever we went was outstanding…as long as we stuck to Kathiawari and Gujarati food. I have said this before…Gujarat lacks fine-dining sensibility. If you try and order anything else, whether it is Italian or Thai or Punjabi or Chinese, you cannot predict what you will be served. I felt sorry for the family at the next table that ordered Chinese in Dwarka.

4. The Wrong Way

I wrote an entire piece on this subject earlier this year. People drive along the opposite side of the road without any qualms all across Gujarat and this is probably no more obvious or rampant than in Saurashtra. The scary part is that this behavior is considered routine and normal and no one seems particularly bothered. Whether this is an analogy for “bending the law” / “jugaad” behavior in general is open to question, but the fact does remain that it is only on a Jamnagar flight that I have consistently seen people getting up and trying to remove luggage from the overhead bins before the plane comes to a complete halt.

5. Child Labor

This is rampant. We are now so used to not seeing young kids working in Mumbai that it hits you when you see teenagers and younger children at work…in restaurants, hotels, manning ships, at tea-stalls, etc. I guess Saurashtra still does not have a social organization willing to take this up as a cause.

6. Voice Modulation

This is probably a big-city thing. Wherever we went, the noise levels were so high that the Mumbai Dandia and Ganpati decibel police would have booked each and every restaurant and open space in Saurashtra for violation. People talk all the time, the world over…in Saurashtra, people shout at the top of their voice, even at close quarters.

7. Prohibition

People drink in Gujarat as much as they do everywhere. And yet we have to behave like school children trying to sneak away drinks in cars and parking lots and hotel rooms. It’s just so stupid!

8. English

There is just no concept of the language across the entire province. Spoken English is bad enough, but written English, especially in public spaces is as atrocious as it can get.

It is a different part of the country…despite the obvious poverty and hardship, the people are friendly and warm and enterprising…perhaps sometime in the future, they will ask for their own separate identify and statehood as well!

This is the land that shaped Bapu in his early years!

14 Comments

  • Nalini did say you had gone but not these details. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Dr mona Badani wrote:

    Your observation skills coupled Wid ur penning abilities are so good !!!
    I’m sure some of us have had similar experiences but could not articulate it so well!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Thanks Mona

  • It is very interesting to read your visit to Saurashtra,eating in hotels etc.
    Please note “hospitality thy name is Gujarati”.I was in Ahmedabad,Vapi,Surat some three decades back and was staying in lodge/as PG and Rented house.The experience I got was that if you meet a person once,he/she tries to be very friendly and obliging.If you meet often the same person, invitation is extended to visit their home.
    Once you are seen as a normal/harmless person and well behaved one gets treatment meted out to a member of the same family.
    Gujjus are known for munching something or the other thro out the day till going to bed.At Maninagar in Ahmd. people venture out in chilly weather at night after 10 p.m.to eat different varieties of ice cream.
    As far as etiquettes/mannerisms/corporte training as you put it, the educated and household women and young ladies lack all.
    But the traditional affection/affinity/humble behaviour continues among the people of Gujarat till date. Once any outsider other than Guju conducts himself according to the customs and style of living anywhere in Gujarat,he/she feel at home.

    But all Gujjus old and young,not so educated or illiterate the moment they get up from bed think of god food/outing/making easy money.
    In Gujarat as on date things are not so good in rural areas/Tribal belt as far as per capita income/shelter/education/health care are concerned.But unlike other Metros or States in Gujarat the ratio of poverty and beggars much less owing to broadminded nature of people giving food and charity.

    But a Gujari is enterprising/business in his blood and venture for any type of work.

    But the Patels and Jain community are little communal in that they see non gujjus as aliens and do not reciprocate well.This is my VIEW as I have been in Mumbai since birth.
    Thanks
    Laxman

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Laxman. All communities are insular if that’s what you mean. None so for example than Palanpuri Jains who control the diamond trade in India and along with Hasidic Jews, the world.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    All communities are insular if that’s what you mean and none more so than for example Palanpuri Jains who control the diamond trade in India and along with some others, the world.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    And, the land that NaMo will shape in the years to come! Seig Heil!

  • Another good piece
    It went well with my father’s love of travelogues

    How is your book coming along? The one with the compilation of your articles

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Punit. Book will take time.

  • Prakash Nanavati wrote:

    Hope you enjoyed Chhakda ride, Fafda with chillies, strong sweet tea served in saucers. After studying engineering in Morabi, we visited Saurashtra after decades and enjoyed nostalgic trip thoroughly!

    Have you also noticed that educated Gujjus tend to speak to fellow Gujju in English if he happens to be a visitor?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    We speak English at home as well and we are all Gujarati. With my Gujju relatives from Gujarat and the elders in Mumbai it is always Gujarati.

  • Sundaram M R wrote:

    useful intro to that part of the wworld, though we aare awaaare of some of it!

  • Dr subhash tailor wrote:

    Nice travel quote , informative & digging out what socially & day to day life style prevails there. Must be pleasant to realise & experience our own native values. Finally, of course ! your literal expressions are really worthy & spans a different stroke of your magical write up.

  • I always wonder why we can’t just be called Indians. And have just one rule for every Indian.
    Will be back later, as I had the pleasure of looking after Gujarat and based in Baroda, where I learnt a lot from the locals.
    I am tied up at present.

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