Monday, September 10, 2012

One month, many worlds - Part I

I had left home on 10th August. Since then I am living out of a suitcase. Or shall I say, many suitcases and overnight bags. It was meant to be a holiday where I could be with myself. Alone. Reflect. Think.

Instead I feel like I lived many lives in many worlds. I wasn't alone for a single day despite having planned it in a way that would give me many many free days by myself. I am glad it turned out this way. I was never alone. I couldn't reflect. I had no time to think. Yet when I flipped through the pages of an old issue of Harper's Bazaar magazine yesterday and almost lost a breath upon realizing that people wear watches worth 40-50 lacs of rupees, I felt the trip had served its purpose. Here is a brief outline of the whirlwind one month.

In the first leg of my Gujarat itinerary, I was joined by my friend Irawati from Mumbai.

Sitting by the 5000 year old well at Lothal in Gujarat we were transported to a time when the world was a very different place to be. We sat there and felt like two 'paniharins' sitting by the well, gossiping about neighbours. Things haven't changed much. We still do that by the water cooler. The Acropolis, the dock, the lower town, bazaar....all the excavations give me goosebumps. Each stone tells a story. So does every brick. The Lothal museum houses jewellery, twin burial replicas, pots, pans, fabric, tools etc. from an era that seems so far away. The Bronze Age.

Then we took a tour of the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad where the Sarabhais have painstakingly stored and restored textiles belonging to the last three centuries. May it be a gold embroidered 'chanderwa' (canopy used for animal sacrifice), 'motibharat' (intricate pearl embroidery) swings or extremely fine 'kutchi' needlework, it took me into a world where hard work found many creative expressions. I also understood why 'antique' is always sold at such a high value and people say 'don't sell old family heirlooms, you won't get such work again'. I pride myself at being able to differentiate machine embroidery and hand embroidery but this museum crushed my pride to bare threads. They were so fine that if they weren't old, I would have brushed them aside as machine work. It is a dark quiet museum in a haveli with a cowdung+straw+clay flooring, where they take only 20 people per day. It is free of cost but you have to book your tour in advance. It had rained a lot that day so it was just me, Ira and Kamalini Ben who took us around. We would stop at each display and actually imagine how it would be to wear a Lagadipatta paithani or sit in a bullock cart covered with pearls and applique work.

Another sight which got me glued onto the viewing glass by the visitors corridor was the Amul butter production unit in Dudhsagar Dairy at Mehsana. From production point of view it is the largest dairy in India and probably in Asia too. It deals with 19 lac liters of milk per day and packs 25 tonnes of butter. I totally felt like Charlie in the chocolate factory. There were trolleys which would go under a big siphon. And magically, gargantuan lumps of yellow butter would fill the one tonne trolley. It would go into packaging and emerge as tiny 20 gram butter packets at the other end. I wanted to jump into the trolley. So what if they didn't allow us that, they did make our day when we went to see the flavored milk bottling plant. We drank energy drinks straight off the unit before they went in for mechanized lids.

I have always wanted to own a Pattan Patola saree. I kept rupees 20,000/- aside for it. After a few wrong turns and a long journey we reached Pattan. There is only one family with three units that makes this kind of double ikat fabric. I entered their weaving workshop with the gait of a prospective buyer. There is something different about you when you are the buyer. I am sure all clients feel the same when they meet their business associates. An hour over there and I walked out of the unit like a middle class man who has entered designer showrooms by mistake. The starting range of each saree is Rs. 1,50,000/- and if you place an order today, you will get your saree after 1.5 years to 2 years. But those were very humble owners. They gave us a full tour of the weaving and dyeing units. Once you see how difficult it is to make one saree (as the designs are dyed first and woven later) you feel it totally commands the price. They let us click pictures and spoke on camera about the technique so that we can share the clips with friends. My 20,000 rupees were saved :)

Now that we were in Pattan, we asked around if there is anything else worth seeing. And we hit the jackpot!
Shall tell you more about the jackpot and add more pix after tomorrow coz I will be back in Delhi. Homeward bound :)

PS: Have borrowed the headline from Karnataka Tourism's 'One state, many worlds' tagline.


  1. Paittani sarees start at 1.5 L? I had no idea they were so expensive. :)

    The Calico museum sounds very interesting. Looking forward to further posts about your journey....

  2. Not paitthani....Patola from Pattan start from 1.5L

    Calico Museum has old paitthani sarees with gold pallas which were called 'lagadipatta' meaning bricks of gold (because of their dimensions). It is worth a visit. Will add in the phone numbers once I get back to Delhi as all pix are on my laptop and I write this from somewhere else :)

  3. 5000 years old well! Would love to visit! :)

  4. Looks like discovering India after Nehru! Would love to see more of the kind!


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