“They symbolise innocence, purity , and positivity.” – Web
The world outside his or her olive greens is overwhelming for the soldier whether he or she walks into the world either as a mortal or simply as a bodiless soul. The world looks so new, like a new leaf.
When I stepped out of the boots , I felt I was in some time machine. Everyone was so in their hustle , and me scuttling to catch up with them in vain. CoVID came as a rescue (yes seriously!).
When I was making attempts to hold the sand in my hand, the world had to come to a standstill. This might sound so selfish but it was not just my wish but heart of heart of every soul on this planet. Everything was fast, and that made it senseless, just like a fast driven car repelling all the breeze that could have been felt by you, but the speed fades away your senses… or May be like a bottle of spirit that distances you from yours…You forget to feel.
The numbness of ourselves was the most dangerous thing that had happened to the mankind because of the gadgets. We preferred touching screens then souls..
But lockdown came as a blessing in disguise (though the most horrific one, almost a lesson learnt in the hardest possible way). We realised (at-least few of us) that the gadgets can’t appease you for long. You need people !! Real people! And this was something we Soldiers are good at handling ,people vis-a-vis Facebook pages.
When you speak it’s not just words , it’s your eyes that talk.. and when that’s not happening, the conversation is just another boring chat. The satiation comes only when the soulful self of two people connect and this depends on the depth of your eyes and your thoughts. Just like the purity of the daisies.
Our uniform takes through numerous moments of life and death few mortal and few mental. And in these moments we learn to touch people with utmost purity , innocence and optimism so that all that the other person receives is humaneness in its purest state. Soldiers connect not to be forgotten but at some point of life be remembered as a beautiful flower that brought smiles!
Tezpur is an old sleepy town like any town in Assam. And this calmness and composure makes it more loveable by especially wanderers. It’s a typical humid July Sunday afternoon, cloudy but not the usual morose wet monsoon day. As I sip through my caffeine dose, the electricity ditches, leaving me with only sweat. But something told my guts that today I am to be surprised. And in the absolute silence , I felt the sudden gush of a cool breeze. Cool breezes are rare as diamonds in monsoons of Assam when the rains take a break.
I could hear the trees sway as if they have rejoiced the sight of a celebration. The leaves ruffled with joy , as if they are laughing on being tickled. The blue sky chose to play today. The constant hide and seek with the clouds and Sun was a treat to watch and confuse any mortal soul. A branch of the old mango tree in the backyard crackled but the creak was soon mellowed down by the chirps of the unseen visitors on its branches.
The afternoon was warmer than usual. And all one needed to come out of this agony, for a stroll to the riverside. Often people in India preferred to keep themselves behind the doors in the afternoons. But on a Sunday as this one, the Brahmaputra natives , preferred a picnic or just the company of the riverbank. It won’t have been the same if it had rained heavily; humidity too can teach you to bring solace. The wind was cooler on the banks. Small islands in the mighty river were all submerged by now due to the floods, the rice fields seemed to have never existed. The merely inundated big islands were the only exception.
Dusk brought newer surprises with the twilight. The resonating sounds of crickets filled the air. Greener pastures near my home which turned darker with the Sunset were now lit up by the fireflies. Once in a while the unusual cacophony of the native lizards also break the silence. But they are shy, more shy than the usual home lizards; the natural members of any Indian household. One thing admirable about Assamese lizards are they never stare you back rudely, in fact you hardly see them.
The branches all fell to silence in the early hours of darkness. The birds weren’t chirping anymore, evident that they have retired to their safe havens. But a hoot might surprise you from the old peepul tree at the street corner. Folks often feared to wander into this part of the locality where I sheltered. But often also envied the strong presence of nature in my neighbourhood.
A nice dreamy Sunday ended in wilderness with a profound sense of contentment that in this gizmo world , you can have such dates with the nature; getting pampered by its unconditional love. A love so perennial and omnipresent that you have to just close your eyes and hear to nature’s wonderful talks. But a love, who’s voice which gets muffled in our rushing busy lives.
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….’