Made it to Bhuj yesterday, loved it last time, love it even more this time. It is a very special place, I think one of the friendliest places in the world, most definitely in India.
After an epic over night train journey from Udaipur to Ahmedabad, with a 3 hour chai drinking, paper reading session/wait at Ahmedabad Junction train station, big rat n hole near feet, I finally boarded my train to Bhuj, albeit a little late. Travelling sleeper class I was devoid of most creature comforts, other than a bench, and also any other English speaking fellow passengers. I had a seat in with a big extended family, who for about the first 3 odd hours just stared at me, offering me the occasional biscuit or sweet. They seemed really nice, just watching their interactions with one another. Eventually we started hanging out - the kids jumping all over me for the remaining 3 + hours, and the adults and I making conversation with our limited cross communication vocab. We had fun though, and they force fed me, buying some pakoras and drinks for me, refusing any money, because I was "their guest in their India". We were all travelling to Bhuj - that much I got, among other bits and pieces. Arriving in Bhuj we all said goodbye, and I dragged my ever increasing bag up and down stairs before catching an auto to my hotel. On my journey I felt very sad that these are my last few days in this awesome country. There is something magical about this place, as crazy, chaotic and sometimes infuriating as it is, it brings out something in me, it makes me really happy, I always have an internal and external smile here, for so many reasons. Indian people are fantastic on many levels, but on the train, I really saw their spirit, out the windows their resourcefulness and determination in the face of adversity and hardship. And being in Bhuj, people here are truly unbelievable, the past 24 hours have been great. Bhuj was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2001, but lives here have been rebuilt in the Indian spirit - they just get on with it. Over 50,000 were killed and much of the city, and surrounding villages destroyed.
To tee up my embroidery lessons and village visits, I phoned Mr Promod Jethi, the curator of a museum here, upon my arrival. He invited me over to his house as he was having a day off (2nd & 4th Saturdays - that's all). I went over, more chai was had, and we worked out my few days here - Monday and Tuesday. Fortunately I will be travelling with the same auto driver as last time - Bharat - he was so cool in an older Indian's way. Anyhow upon leaving Mr Jethi suggested I go and check out this festival down the road at the local mosque (you could hear the drumming from his place). What the festival was for I have no idea, but it was really cool, as the people were decedents of African slaves and settlers who came to India 300+ years ago. So there was all this dancing and drumming in the mosque grounds and it was like a fair ground outside. I was mobbed by locals - kids and adults, and even interviewed for TV here. In fact they were more interested in me, and I got numerous invites into peoples houses for water, to say hi to the baby, whatever. I was even ushered around the back for a good view by a man, something that I would have been made to pay rupees for anywhere else. But here people are just very hospitable, and being not too touristy, they are not "over" foreigners, or into getting what they can. I tell you the place is special, though I should keep it to myself! Am so glad I made the trek back here, particularly after touristy but gorgeous Udaipur. Today I went to Mandvi - on the coast - about an hour away. Went to see the palace that was used in the film Laagan, and walked around town, the beach and ship building area. Returning to Bhuj I went to Aina Mahal - another palace, this one severely damaged in the earthquake. It was under reconstruction last time I was here, and it is amazing to see the completion of the project. Am very tired now though.
Forgot to mention on my last day in Mysore I did in fact go to the dentist. Wish I'd gone on my first as I probably would have gone every day, well at least would have had my silver fillings out and replace. Anyway she was really busy but squeezed me in - ground the rough edges off my tooth, checked all the others and sent me on my way - all the the sum of nothing!!! That's right - no appearance fee here - not $120 to open the door. Will be back there - have made a few dental enquiries with her!
Yoga - have done nothing more than a few stretches - no room, either in my hotels or on the train. So no boring asana news - bet you're happy!!
Namaste from Bhuj - will try and update after the villages tomorrow. Happy Easter!