Friday, December 6, 2013

Understanding Bhuj - Day One

One of the questions a traveler is faced with when arrive in the new city is to how to understand it. One of the easiest question but difficult to answer in entirety. The group of 19 students were tasked to understand the city in 2 hours which comes out to be around 40 man hours.

From the historical remains to the evolution of human settlements to the food culture in the city. These are few indicators of the nature of the city which readily comes to the mind. But we went a way further in exploring the city, we analysed the incoming and outgoing of the goods and services to the administrative structure and decision making process in the city. Apart from these insights the perspectives of people involved in the constant movement inside the city such as autowallahs, chaiwallahs, restaurant wallahs and others.

So what is Bhuj ?

Administratively, bhuj lies in the district of Kutch(Gujarat) and is the district headquarter of Kutch. It is a municipal council and has district population of around 150,000 as per 2011 census. The municipal council has a jurisdiction over 36 sq km and runs under staffed by 100 employees.

Historically, Bhuj has a rich culture and history, strongly associated with the Kutch identity. Remains of the Indus valley civilization has been found at Dholavira-Kutch.

Interestingly, one can also find buses going to Gujarat here . Sweetness in almost every man made food from dal to sabzis to namkeens'. Infact, Gujarat consumes 7 times per capita consumption than the national average.
The autos and chakras (large passenger autos) are in plenty here. Unverified information reveals that there are around 500 chakras and 3000 autos in the city which comes out to be 50 persons per autos. The city buses are in small numbers here.

Even during Godhra riots, the region was relatively peaceful and curfew was accidentally imposed here.

In short, what we learnt was that knowing any city is by converging different aspects which defines it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


The man who takes away
a handful of cement
in his lunchbox, each day
To smoothen the floor he sleeps on
his home, of plastic roofs and tin walls

Will never meet
the little girl
who builds castles on debris
on a hillock of bricks and mortar
inviting stray dogs as play dates
on a dust infused construction site

The couple
Eating their meal in darkness
for the fear of being evicted, today
a mere candle will give them away
in a flicker, their lives destroyed

Are indisposed
to see the man who struggles
with the loss of his family trade
unlearning the skill of his ancestors
to a blind, progressive state

The woman, who sweeps your floor
unflinchingly tolerant
protecting a pride that holds her back
from begging in her own village

Does not recognize
The newly wed bride, forced to move
from the support of a new family
onto a desecrating footpath
adorned only by a husbands faith.

These strangers
Have nothing in common
Except movement
From fear and loss
For dreams and hope
For space, freedom, solitude, respect

For their need to belong
For their choice to live...

Marla and me: Day 1

It is no wonder that Merlyn and I chose the same topic in our task of 'Discovering the city of Bhuj' on the first day of the Winter Institute. Our topic was 'exploring culture through food', and we were aiming to understand the city through its traditional and not so traditional cuisines. Sandeep ji, the CEO of Hunnarshaala, had asked us to get a feel of the city in a way that we may be able to grasp the most- by talking to people. We divided ourselves into groups of two and headed out to understand heritage, economy, administration, culture, perspectives of workers, women, children, NGO officials, etc.

Merlyn and I decided that we will begin by going to the most commonplace areas for food that would give a taste of what Bhuj was all about. We were also keen on understanding the change in the Kutchi food through the years, and if there were patterns that would tell us some interesting stories. Being foodies ourselves, we were also keen on exploring the unique flavors of this city and state. We were joined in our pursuits by Jigna ben from Hunaarshaala, who turned out to be both knowledgeable and curious about the mission we were about to undertake. She added her own delicious tadka to our explorations.

Now, as Marla and me understood, food was either bland, or spicy, or sweet, or with masala. But soon we found out that in Kutch, one flavor was not enough. The interesting thing about Kutchi food was that it encompassed both sweet and spicy in one go, a unique blend. It was also in the way they said it. That two flavors in the same dish were better than one. And surprisingly, the Kutchi dabli we tried that day and the Kutchi aloo we tried consecutively, did complete justice to that statement.

We also discovered a pride for all things Kutchi, while we went about in our explorations. Many of the dishes in the region had names like Kutchi peda, Kutchi pakwaan, etc. Although it was difficult for us to understand the difference between Gujrati and Kutchi food, the localites were very clear about it. It helped us understand how important the identity was to the people here, a very important piece of information.

Marla and me were also interested in understanding the new flavors in the city. We had presumed that migration in the post Bhuj disaster phase had brought new flavors into the city. Our findings were as follows:

- Most migrants from other states like Rajhasthan, UP, Bihar, etc came here for work, but ate food cooked by themselves. Manual labor had fixed hours that left them with some time to shop and cook for themselves. Hence all the migrants we spoke to said that they didn't eat food outside but made their own food. On Sundays and holidays when they decided to eat out they would find places to eat that made food without sugar. But such instances were not frequent.

Tourists have shaped the change of taste buds of the locals more than the residing migrant population. The Rann of Kutch festival has grown in popularity in recent years and many tourists from other parts of India as well as outside come here to visit and have brought with them the fast food culture as well. Their most favorite food, Dabeli has been followed by Pav Bhaji, Chinese and Italian food. But the elders even today prefer the tastes of the village with its bhakri nu rotla and ghee, cooked on the chula.

Bhuj is a city of vegetarians, but eggs are quite popular and meat is catching on. Peoples reaction to non vegetarian food was dramatically different, some dispelling it as a minute phenomenon , others guiltily admitting that everyone eats eggs on the sly. Families seemed intolerant while individuals were indulging. This phenomenon was very interesting to watch, as it unfolded in front of us.

The city Marla and me experienced within its cuisines was somewhere stuck in between the forever authentic and the somewhat transitioning, with a hint of hidden flavors, some that can be tasted, others that seem invisible. A little bit like the city itself. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Heading to Bhuj

Hello friends....
As all of you know that we are leaving to Bhuj on 1st december 2013. Our voluntary committee members are Avadhut, Gauri, Nikita & Shardul, dont think that they are committee members they can manage everything each and every ones contribution is required. As of now our schedule is like this...
Meeting at Bandra terminus at 2:30PM (Make sure that everyone should reach station by 2:30 at any circumstances)
Day1: We will reach Bhuj at about 7:30 am... (Depends on the trainJ)

Our pleasant winter institute starts when we land on Bhuj.
UPG 2013 Batch

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hello everyone......! good morning....! I'm very exited for Bhuj.......!