Desertfull of life – Madhu Menon

Each time I tell my friends that I am going to Dholavira, they show me the same expression, “ you are crazy” and ask me the repeated question “ what is there in Dholavira, such a hopeless place?” Of course for a typical tourist there is nothing in store at Khadir, the desert island where Dholavira is situated. This place is isolated from the mainland except for an eight km long straight road that connects to the outside world. The distance between Ahmedabad and Khadir is almost 400 kms. The weather out here is very tricky with the highest rate of evaporation, probably highest in the world. Dehydration will be with you throughout even if you try rehydrating yourselves with plenty of liquids, but if you are with an eye to see the less seen things; it is the place for you.

The travel from Rapar, the nearest town, to Khadir will teach you what loneliness is, it is almost a straight road, you can see as long as your eyes allow you and you may feel lucky if you see a vehicle or two pass your way. Once you are close to Khadir, the road becomes a straight line with shining crystals and slow moving waves on your both sides. Yes, time to realize that you are passing through the Greater Rann of Kachchh. The shining crystals are salt of life; the slow waves are the symbols of continuity in life.

Rann of Kachchh is not a desert if you consider the first images created in your mind by the word “desert”. You will never come across the typical sand dunes and mirages but definitely the vastness and emptiness of Kachchh will attract you. With cracked mud lands and thorny shrubs around, the major part of Kachchh resembles an inhospitable terrain. But this unique ecosystem is very rich in biodiversity and demands a thorough study. Kachchh displays the spirit of humanity and showcases the practical side of Natural Resource Management. The village water storage facilities including the rain water harvesting, sustainable method of agriculture, architecture that is in harmony with the environment,.. There are several examples.

When the surroundings becomes dull and gray, the people become colourful; it seems that people of Kachchh have adapted to their land and environment since a long time. The colourful embroidery work of the interior villages and the dashing colours that the women wear surprise you. The interpretation can be that this is the way they bring colours to their life in a place where brown is the only colour around

A walk to the Sangavaari Mata Temple through the interiors of villages and a trek through a terrain full of thorny bushes dominated by the Ganda Baval (prosopis juliflora) towards Bokadgadh, the highest spot in this island would be worth with the wonderful view of the greater rann, white desert. This is the place where you can spot at least a few of the critically endangered White Backed vultures. The same vultures that dominated our skies few years back, now in the verge of extinction.

One can enhance the visit to this otherwise “inhospitable” terrain by interacting with the people living in the last village, Dungarani Vand, the village closest to the border with Pakistan -. A settlement of people migrated from the other side much before the partition, interestingly all the villagers numbering around 150 persons are descendents of a single parent and they still have their dinner together.

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