I arrived at Shaam-e-sarhad (Sunset at the Border), a mud-built resort in a village last night just at dinner time, tired and dusty after a day on the road visiting villages, artisans and points of interest on the way from Bhuj. After dinner, accompanied by village musicians drumming, singing and dancing, I retire early without a bath as the hot water will not arrive until the morning and the warmth of the late winter day is giving way to the cold of a desert night.
I slept well on the hard bed, had a deliciously hot bucket bath, sat catching up on blog articles in the common area near the open-sided dining hall, and now it is lunchtime.
Lunch is a Gujarati thali (a tray of a variety of foods ) – papad, green millet rotla, dal, onion stew, subzi (vegetables), chawal (rice), bean stew, capsicum pakora, salad of tomato, cucumber and red onion with lime to squeeze over it and a sweet noodle dessert – all served and eaten together. I could have added sweet pickle, other pickle, jaggery and a few others, but some I don’t like and others I don’t need. There is always buttermilk served as the drink. Together, a nutritious and tasty combination. As I am served each dish, I repeat “tora, tora” (less) as it is too easy to have too much on the plate and then it is wasted when I can’t eat it all. The Gujarati style is to keep filling the thali until the diner has had enough, but I find a small amount of each is plenty. All of this is eaten with the right hand using the rotla to pick up the food, with the exception of the dal, which comes with a spoon.
The fellow diners include:
- The noisy and opinionated family group discussing small and large issues in querulous voices and a colourful and seamless combination of Hindi and English.
- A couple of uncontrolled spoilt city children with parents seemingly providing no boundaries to their offspring who race around between the other diners trying to attract attention.
- Two policemen at next table whose eating is interspersed with grunts, belches and nose clearing noises (yecch!). The only bodily noise we didn’t get was a fart, but had the occasion arisen, I have a feeling that there would be no hesitation in adding that to the symphony.
- And a lovely young couple taking a rare holiday from their IT related jobs to see some of their own country and with whom I enjoyed several conversations.
My tent accommodation is very comfortable and homely. It consists of two rooms (tents) – the bedroom and the bathroom – separated by a small enclosed space open to the sky and created by the need to have strong tree branches embedded in the ground to secure all the guy ropes from the tents. There are half walls about one metre high surrounding the rooms set inside the tents which are hand-made from a strong canvas lined with printed fabric. The bedroom is tall and spacious – about 5 x 5 metres and the bathroom is about 4 x 4 metres, separated diagonally across the middle with a free-standing stepped wall. This creates the washroom with basin, shelves and mirror attached to one side, and the toilet and shower space in the other half. The mirror is decorated in traditional Kachchhi style with raised mud decoration, painted white with embedded pieces of mirror. All the walls, floors, shelves, platforms and seats grow out of the earth itself, being made from a mixture of mud and cow dung. Bedcovers and seat cushions are all made from locally embroidered fabrics.
After my meal, I retire to the seating area at one end of the eating hall to write this missive. It is the quiet time of the day for the staff, and a couple of the guys are taking naps on the ‘sofas’ opposite me.
Low curving wattle and daub walls form the backs to the seating, creating semi-private spaces lined with hand embroidered cloths and cushions. In places, the walls are painted with traditional designs.
As it is full moon, the resort is booked out as people come from far and near to see the White Rann at full moon (more about that in another post). So I was not able to secure one of the traditional bhungas (round cottages) for my stay, but am happy and comfortable in my tent.
The mark of the hand is everywhere here, and it creates a very comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. It’s a pity I only have two days here.