Have you ever thought what it would be like to step out of that car from ‘Back to the Future” series? Or get access to Dr. Who’s Tardis and make a journey. That moment when you step out into a different world, separated from your reality will punch you in the gut for sure. That is what Junagadh is like. The first sent, the first smell and the first feel of the place will know your socks off and then either you love it to the core or hate it to the bones.
A quaint and lovely town hidden in plain sight, in the heart of Gujarat, India is more than what meets the eye. This place literally translates into ‘old-fort’ and there could be no better word to describe it.
Being the cheerful person that I am (needless self-praise ), I loved it to the core. Now, i was there for all of 23 hrs. I didn’t see anything except the resort where my friend got married. I did feel the charm while driving to and from the destination and that made one thing clear, I have to go back, take my time and savor this place!
It is old! Everything there will remind you of your city 15 years ago. There is simplicity, an easy, non-rushed feel to the place. Cattles roam the street, hawkers make their sale, and handmade exquisite talent is on display everywhere. The language there will melt hearts and the smile will strike home. The food there will break all your diet-resolve and to avoid the fight and loss of face, go in prepared.
My day was spent in Leo Resort; the beauty of it is the fact that it is nestled at the foot-hills. The greenery is not forced here; it is just a part of life. The wedding was beautiful to say the least and as the rituals completed and party began, the traditional dance form with live orchestra had everyone on their feet in no time. And Gujarati food! Its heaven! From the kulchas right out of baking drum (yes there is a hollow drum made into an oven like system!) to the comfort food of Rotla and ghee-gudh (childhood comfort food), they had everything. A mix of classy sophistication to the roots and tradition. Breakfast had the major Guajarati food mascots ‘fafda, jalebi, thepla’! Needless to say, no one gave a second look to the idli and poha.
Train Disaster: So the thing is, this train stops at Rajkot junction for 2-3 minutes, then goes in reverse for few minutes and the engine separates from the train. Then the Saurashtra mail ( thats my train) joins with some local passenger train and resumes the journey in another 5 minutes.
It so happened that the lure of Dhokla ( another local delicacy) had me disembarking from the train in the initial 2-3 minutes section. The seller was explaining this process and asking me to not panic if the train goes away for it will come back. This was in the local language and as i have a fair understanding of it, i did panic. I thought the guy was either so-not-funny or a loon. Then the train left and my heart flopped to my feet! i did spill the tea and the food and tried hastily to appear calm and collected, the man smiled and said “aaavi jaase, fikar na karo”. ( it will come back dont worry). And true enough, first came Thomas ( engine) and then came the train. I did worry my friend and had her up from her beauty sleep, frantic and panicky. So all in all, was worth the scare!
I told myself that the 17hr train journey (one way) to attend half of a wedding and travelling back all in span of a weekend was for a friend. That is a lie. Sometimes, we need a break from life. As the bold and reckless act of becoming a hitchhiker still scares me, i took this shot for myself. The train journey was a treat, owing to festival of Sankranti; the crowd was all Jing-bang. The General sleeper class is always animated and has the true flavor of Indian Railway. I had a checklist of all clichéd activities and I did them all. Sat by the window, watched the nature by the window, fell asleep by the window. In the remaining 16 hr., i slept, ate, chattered and of course read. ‘Yes, my accent is real’ by Kunal Nayar (our very own Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali) was my pick for the trip and as always I was right (needless show-off J). Check out the review here: ‘yes, my accent is real’.
Never let go a chance to explore. It’s the food for the soul. It’s after the journey that you will realize how parched you really were!