I saw an advertisement of Amitabh Bacchan booming on the television saying “Kutch Nahi Dekha to Kuch Nahi Dekha” . This was in November 2012. The next morning I open the papers and see an advertisement of the ‘Kutch Festival’ . I had never been to such ‘Festival’ before, and this idea excited me. All I could think of was the beautiful Kutchi embroidery, the white desert showcased so beautifully in the movie ‘Refugee’ and the awesome photos that my friend Divya had shot while she had travelled to Kutch as part of her photographic assignment. I told N, we had to do this.
Travelling to Kutch for the ‘Kutch Festival’ turned out to be a humbling and a profound experience. Reaching Kutch requires one to travel to Bhuj and from thereon the Tourism Depratment of Gujrat arranges bus to the Tent City at Kutch. We reached early morning in Bhuj and reached the pick-up point. It was a simple building but with good seating arrangements and arrangements for tea and drinking water. The buses too were plying every half an hour, taking tourists to the camp site. It takes approximately 2 hours to reach the site. Bhuj is a big city, but as you leave Bhuj behind you are greeted with wast expanses of nothingness. The contrast is a hard hitting one and you realize the harsh realities of Kutch.
We reached the campsite and the campsite was a wonder in itself. There in the middle of nothingness stood a huge tent city, bustling with people, entertainment and some touches of luxury. There was a huge banquet tent churning out 3 meals a day for the travelers. There was an exhibition tent showcasing various artifacts, tourist locations and other interesting exhibits from the area. There was a cultural section that had cultural presentations on all days that we were there and there was a flea market to buy various artifacts in one place. The tents were comfortable and offered touches of luxury like heater, newspaper, teabags for early risers. The tents were self sufficient, the food was great and the overall experience in tent city was wonderful. Watching around all I could think of was the hard work and planning that must have gone into establishing this huge city and the smooth functioning of it. The people behind this huge festival worked with briskness and clarity of goal. A rare thing to see in government organized events that are conducted at such a huge scale in India.
Our tours for the two days that we were there were well planned and undertaken with great time management and punctuality. Another interesting thing that I saw was the way this festival was helping some far flung villages with their livelihood. These people lived in some very harsh conditions. These villages share a border with Pakistan or are in close proximity. The weather is extreme and the water scarcity is acute. The land has a high concentration of saline and hence farming or cultivation is impossible.
The wasteland provided them with little comfort, yet the women in the villages decorated their homes with such skill and bright hues that it just masked the bitter realities. Beautifully embroidered quilts, bedsheets, dress materials and even shoes. There was brightness and exuberance in every design.
Anybody who is struggling to fight depression should meet these people. Always smiling, hopeful and determined. I for one learned that no problem is larger than life! These people taught me that.