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.
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!
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!