Beauty in Barrenness

There is such an emphasis on adornment. Cakes are expected to be decorated. Clothes are supposed to be embellished. Girls are expected to be ornamented. Presentations are required to be beautified. Amidst all these trimmings, we forget about the innate beauty of people, of places, and of things. We do not, for a second, imagine there can be attractiveness in simplicity. In our estimation, a plain Jane cannot be beautiful. Unless we garnish our dishes and make them look pretty, we are dissatisfied. We purchase knick-knacks to be kept around the house; these will, presumably, make our dwellings worthier. When we are conditioned thus, it was exciting to find beauty in barrenness.

Now, this post is old. Any travel post that comes after I have done more travels is old. So, bear with me if I end up losing my threads here and there. We had had our eyes set on the Rann of Kutch for quite a while. The white salt desert was enticing. We found the miles of nothingness inviting. But, going to the Rann of Kutch needed time, and we were not getting any holiday which was of more than three days. So, patiently, we waited. October last year threw up an opportunity and we found ourselves on the path to Gujarat.

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Pity I cannot identify birds. This one is a Red-Eyed, Black-Shouldered Kite for me!

Rail journeys caught our fancy last year when we realized it was quite convenient to undertake them as long as you could book in advance. And, well, my travel planning is in ADVANCE! So we booked ourselves onto the Ahmedabad-New Delhi Rajdhani and sat back for a comfortable ride. From Ahmedabad, it took us about four hours to reach Dasada, a hamlet on the edge of the Rann of Kutch. We had booked ourselves at Rann Riders, which turned out to be one of the best places we have stayed at. But, more on that later.

I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the Rann. And, mind you, I was at the Little Rann of Kutch. The Great Rann of Kutch is supposed to be grander and prettier. We went to the Little Rann for a sunset safari, and everything they show in photographs and movies is cent per cent real. For miles and kilometers and a few more miles, there was nothing except the parched land of the Rann, crusted white due to the salt deposits. This was immediately after the monsoon. I cannot imagine what the land would be like during summer. At the far end was a lake, on which the Sun was slowly setting. A flight of flamingoes brooded on the lake, wondering surely what we humans found so interesting in them. Or, perhaps, they wondered, how after destroying their natural habitats, humans create sanctuaries to ‘protect’ them. No matter what the flamingoes thought, they were a sight to behold. The curved beaks, the pink bodies, the slender legs- all proving, yet again, what a great artist the One above is.

Coming back to the Rann, the precise barrenness was what I found beautiful and calming. We are so used to chaos around us, and the need we feel to be constantly doing something, that these moments, and these spots, where time stands still, are rare. I felt at peace with myself. I felt one with nature.

For my eyes, there was the Sun, mellowing down to a soothing yellow. There was the lake, shimmering against the rays of the Sun. There was the earth, cracked and white, and yet moist underneath. There were shrubs, providing a splash of green in the somber setting. The only sound around me was the patter of the hooves of the wild asses running around. And, once in a while, when the flamingoes took flight, their wings flapped to create a symphony. The only smell I had was of the dry, salty earth. The only taste I had was the salt on my lips. And the only sensation I had was of a pesky insect trying to bite me. But I felt complete. All my happy memories rushed back to me to make me smile. All my pain disappeared for that moment. And yet, I neither felt great joy nor great sorrow. I just felt peaceful. (I had a similar feeling recently, once again, when I was in the lap of nature. But that would be another story!)

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Can you believe there is water beneath this dry earth?

The wildlife of the Rann was another aspect that caught my fancy. I could not imagine a landscape as arid as that supporting any kind of flora and fauna. But, surprise! God must have thought- let me make a few patches of earth unfit for human survival, but let me create a few gorgeous animals who will thrive in the same ecology. Good move God! Amongst mammals, you can see the most gorgeous donkeys, nimble desert foxes, shy rabbits, and even more shy nilgais. I am not great at identifying birds but I had some help from our safari guide. You can easily spot ducks, flamingoes, and francolins amongst many others. Of course, they are all wary of human beings, and will fly away the instant you step closer to them.

Lastly, our resort- Rann Riders- was a delight to stay at. We were in the midst of a lush green setting, making us wonder how such verdure could survive the harsh weather condition. Acres of plants and trees, the names of which I would take a lifetime to find out, surrounded us. playing hide and seek in these trees were a plethora of animals – dogs, cats, horses, ducks, peacocks, emus, monitor lizards- all living in harmony with each other and with us human beings. Our dwelling was a little mud hut called ‘kooba’, a typical village house but with modern amenities. We woke up to the sounds of the animals and slept to the gentle hum of the air conditioner. Truly a step in the eco-tourism direction!

We are all the more determined now to visit the Great Rann of Kutch, but it will have to wait a couple of years I guess, and also for the winter months. Even October smoldered here…

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The gorgeous Wild Ass not afraid of humans

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