Mandvi-The Port of Good Hope

Travel never commenced for me without doing some detailing in my itinerary. But this time I just left for the moment , to let the trip go on it’s own course.Bhuj to the famous Indian harbour Mandvi was an hour plus drive. The road runs smoothly till a beach which is a major tourist attraction. Mandvi’s historical heritage is a spectacular as the beach which bestows fame to this old sleepy town.As narrated by Mr Pramod Jethi in his book ‘Kutch people and handicrafts’, historically also Mandvi was a world renowned harbour. Mandvi’s naval heritage dates right back to the era of Vasco Da Gama whose navigator Kanji Malam was a native of Mandvi. Mr Pramod also accounts that Mandvi was established 1585 by the Kutch ruler Rao Khengarji and well connected with South Africa, Zanzibar, Arabia, China Malaysia and Japan. Greatness lies in simplicity and this is evident when you visit Mandvi.Mandvi beach , proclaimed as the cleanest , does deserve the credit especially after my experience visiting the famous populated Goan beaches in the past. It is pertinent to mention that the serenity of the beach is absolutely not because of inaccessibility but probably because of how the natives practice tourism. This will get explained as you read further.

A Glimpse of the Beach

The decent level of virginity contributes to the blueness of the sea and the whiteness of the sand. The playful flights of the Seagulls coupled with their highly pitched chirps, is a sight to be witnessed as you stroll on the beach. Various recreational activities in the form of camel and horse rides or the Chaupati (Indian snack vending shacks) are available for the tourists. As I visited in January the breeze and air was not humid or hot and light woollens may make you comfortable. But visiting this region in Summers is not advisable. It was now time for Sunset. The Sun smoothly dipped itself in the blue sea scattering it’s golden rays on every mortal and immortal element present there to witness this divinity.

The Sun submerges at Mandvi

The peculiarity of any old city in India is it’s closely woven narrow lanes; and so was in the Mandvi market when we swayed towards the rustic streets to savour our taste buds with traditional flavours. While you stroll here, you witness some exquisite architectural history in the form of well pronounced gate like structures at the various entrance points to the area.

The Passage of one of the Entrance Gates

We had already acquired information about. one of the must visit eating places , ‘Joshi Dabeli’. The shops in Mandvi close early as was told us by a local whom we enquired Enroute, where we came to know that we were still far away from Joshi’s; and were instead guided to a Dabeli stall under a electric pole in distant. Dabeli is a spicy stuffed bun snack made using spicy potatoes sautéed in homemade spices and gravy and garnished with groundnuts. Dabeli is lovingly relished in Gujarat, Maharashtra , Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It is interesting to note that the credit of origin of this lip smacking snack goes to Mandvi! Although the delicacy transforms in the other regions , but I felt it was indeed in its purest form here. As we pushed our way through the crowd surrounding the stall, we found a smiling aged gentleman, Manu Bhai exhibiting his professional acumen at preparing Dabelis. The swift movements of his hands made it difficult for anyone especially mortals like me to decipher the contents.

Dabeli prepared by Mannu Bhai

Finally, we got our order of Dabeli which was the most exclusive I had eaten till date and full of flavours of Indian homemade spices. But more heart warming was the sight of how his similar aged friends quietly volunteered for assistance in the forming packing the orders, distribution of money and bidding every customer with a smile. When I referred the simplicity in greatness earlier , I was referring to this bountiful humility which is uncommon in big cities but not in a culturally rich coastal town which ruled the marine business ages ago. Our next halt at Kailash Farsan was probably to bump into another fine gentlemen Jyotishi (Hindi word meaning Astrologer) ji (a form of address to elders). Jyotishi ji welcomed us in his home to eat the variety of snacks we were savouring on shamelessly but we politely expressed our confinement to the shop premises. Farsan is reference to a variety of snacks prepared using Besan (a flour made of Bengal gram). Gujaratis and Maharashtrians equally relish this and in fact it is an inseparable part of the Gujarati breakfast. In Gujarat, it specifically includes fafda , dhokla, thepla, etc.

Farsan prepared by Kailash: Dhokla ( Left) and Fafda( Right)

Although full to the brim, the sight of freshly prepared Vada pav at another elderly gentleman’s snack stall next to Kailash Farsan couldn’t be ignored. In all the eating places we came across it was the cleanliness and the service by their owners could give a tough competition to big names in Indian Snacks including the preparation and taste. All these indicated at a very striking quality amongst the people who run these shops was excellent entrepreneurship with self dignity in their jobs. No wonder, Mandvi remained a business hub for a major portion of the history. Finally, and seriously finally with our full paunches we commenced our return to Bhuj with a young boy navigating us to the highway , as Google confused us which was noticed by him . The major takeaway for me from Mandvi alongwith invaluable memories of its serene beauty and satiating food culture, is the bountiful humility possessed by its people which made this whole visit priceless. Mandvi is undoubtedly the epitome of Compassion and Sobriety, an inspiration for the new India , or I would call ‘a port of Good hope….’

The Sand at Mandvi

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