Posts Tagged ‘Gujarat


Of Djinns, Chudails and other such para(normal)phernalia!

“The dark dangerous forest is still there, my friends. Beyond the space of the astronauts and the astronomers, beyond the dark, tangled regions of Freudian and Jungian psychiatry, beyond the dubious psi-realms of Dr. Rhine, beyond the areas policed by the commissars and priests and motivations-research men, far, far beyond the mad, beat, half-hysterical laughter… the utterly unknown still is and the eerie and ghostly lurk, as much wrapped in mystery as ever.” – Fritz Leiber

In recent times, I attempted to pep-up my non-existent social life and decided to join a heritage walk. With a great sense of déjà vu, I experienced some unbelievably insufferable creatures at this event and, “bloody chudails” was what I felt like yelling out.

But being a fraidy-cat and not wanting to create a scene, I did not and quietly slinked away.


The very next day I read in the newspaper that some people, in Bardawan district of Bengal, were selling a djinn trapped in a bottle and of course, there were customers!

* Continue reading ‘Of Djinns, Chudails and other such para(normal)phernalia!’


मेरा साया

कुछ दिनों पहले
खिड़कियों में लगे जंगले से
इक़ पोषीदा साया
मेरी नज़रों में इठलाया.

Continue reading ‘मेरा साया’


And then, there were none?

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.” – Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays

Returned from Kachchh earlier this month.

Glad to have met old friends but the trip remains sad and I fear what the future has in store for this most wondrous of places. Within hours of reaching Bhuj, I also learnt about the fire that apparently wiped-out Musabhai’s Bhunga and all his worldly possessions, including his flutes.

The Rann Festival will probably become one of the greatest threats to the sensitive eco-systems of this region – and nobody within the Sarkari Raj is concerned as long as the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ becomes global. Sadly, the Kachchhis themselves seem oblivious to the impending catastrophes that face them and, I don’t just mean the flora and fauna. Who is allowing high-rise buildings to be constructed? Haven’t enough lives been lost in 2001?


Continue reading ‘And then, there were none?’


Pa katè vanotā?

 “And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true wise friend called Piggy” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Chapter 12

It was late afternoon and the khānchās (lanes) were fairly deserted. However, saw people attempting to peer out discreetly. The thug-faced man supervising the demise of a part of Kachchh’s history looked at me with suspicion and nervously shifted his buttocks that were resting on a mobike. Trying to control the anguish mounting inside me, I pointed the camera towards the blatant ruin of the heritage building in Mandvi.

Continue reading ‘Pa katè vanotā?’


22° 29’N; 73° 32’E

If a building makes us light up, it is not because we see order; any row of file cabinets is ordered. What we recognize and love is the same kind of pattern we see in every face, the pattern of our life form. The same principles apply to buildings that apply to mollusks, birds or trees. Architecture is the play of patterns derived from nature and ourselves. – Jonathan Hale, ‘The Old Way of Seeing’

Tranquil and silent in time – more or less protected by its sudden abandonment nearly 500 years ago – Champaner is the name of the settlement adjoining the volcanic hill of Pavagadh that rises an odd and abrupt 800 m amidst the sweeping  plains of Gujarat. It is a hill range that has yielded pre-historic tools, cave paintings and probably still conceals further layers of history – from the Puranic to a Rajput; an Islamic to a Maratha; and, finally a British.

The complete hill is one amongst the oldest stone formations in India. Due to its igneous rocks that contain high amount of Rhyolite, the entire hill gives an appearance of light yellow with tinges of red.

Continue reading ’22° 29’N; 73° 32’E’


Musabhai and his Hindustan

Music has no boundaries – it most eloquently delivers the message of love, peace and harmony.

And so, in 2004, when Jat Musa Ghulam played the flute, it had some music from across the borders. For, Musabhai was playing a ‘Jodia Pawa’ that had been sent from folk music lovers in Pakistan.

The Jodia Pawa has a significant role in the rich cultural heritage of Kachchh. Those exposed for the first time, to the sounds only of the Jodia Pawa; are likely to confuse it with a Bansuri – a flute. However, this Kachchhi wind instrument is very different from the traditionally recognized flute.The Jodia Pawa is a pair of two flutes or double flutes (generally between 20 to 22 inches) and played together. One is called the Nar – the male and the other is known as the Madi/Mali/Mada – the female. The Nar has eight equi-distant holes for maintaining a ‘drone’ or ‘Sur’. The Madi is used to weave a melody over its twelve holes, out of which only the upper-six are used functionally to manipulate music while the lower-six are mostly left open and free. The player has to inhale and store the necessary air in his mouth through his nostrils and blow continuously and simultaneously through the two mouth pieces. Wax is fixed on various holes systematically to produce melodious notes. Laborious to play and requiring much strength of the lungs the Jodia Pawa remains on a high pitch but does not jar the sensibilities.

The Jodia Pawa is not made in Kachchh and requires special skill to prepare it. Worked on a lathe the wood is treated with oil and copper wires wrapped strategically to prevent breakage.

These double flutes are also known as the Alghoza or Alguza and are an instrument still found in Rajasthan, Punjab and the Sindh Province of Pakistan. The artists of this instrument mostly play the songs of the Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai of Sindh. Mostly played by shepherds in the deserts of Sindh and Baluchistan, the Jodia Pawa came to Kachchh when a few groups migrated to graze their cattle and settled in some parts of Kachchh. However, over a period of time, the Jodia Pawa of Kachchh has developed its own unique style.

Continue reading ‘Musabhai and his Hindustan’


The Day the Earth Shook

Earthquake shocks are a recurring phenomenon in Kutch history… Following the great earthquake of 1819, the western portion of the Rann, which had been drying up around the Kori… sank twelve feet or more… But another violent earth tremor, of the magnitude of that which damaged Anjar so severely in July 1956, might at any time alter the terrain of the Rann once more. ” – The Black Hills: Kutch in History and Legend, Rushbrook Williams, 1958.

My recollection of earthquakes was adventurously romantic, seen through the eyes of a young lad. Of Delhi in the early sixties, being dragged out of the house, dumped on the road, snuggling up under a huge blanket (shared by the dogs with attempts to kick the sister out), secretly waiting for some silly building to collapse… that was what earthquakes were made off!

Thirty-eight years later, on January 25, 2001, Delhi was long forgotten. I was camping out in the countryside near Bhuj, conducting a conservation education camp for the Gujarat Nature Conservation Society.

We, of course, had no clue that early next morning Kutch would be turned on its head. Nothing could have been further from our minds than an earthquake. We even dismissed the ‘abnormal’ behaviour of animals around the campsite as inconsequential. It started after midnight with the howling and yelping of jackals. This continued for a few hours and it seemed as if the pack had gone berserk, running all over the place. We presumed they were reacting to the presence of a leopard reported in the area.

Much later, I woke to the sound of growling and weird gnashing. I came out of the tent to keep the fire going, and as if on cue, the partridges started their chorus, soon joined by the Red-wattled Lapwings from the nearby water body. Then the Green Bee-eaters nesting in a tree took to the air. It was bizarre, amazing and a bit unnerving! I had never experienced anything like this in my life.

Like most other people, I had heard about abnormal animal behaviour just before earthquakes, but I never thought that the ruckus being made was a warning!

However, on the morning of January 26, 2001 it took just 1 minute and 15 seconds, for me to realize that there are no romantic visions as far as killer earthquakes are concerned.

Continue reading ‘The Day the Earth Shook’

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