Sanand is a bizzare little dusty town 21 kms away from Ahmedabad. The place was exploding with colors what with ‘Chakadis’ painted in kitschy fashion, and locals wearing every bright color there is in a rainbow. The town best known for producing the first Nano car rather prefers to travel on this weird cross between a bike and cart. It must have been the brain child of some eccentric ‘jugaadu’ Indian.
The chaotic streets infact looked like a live museum of different versions of Chakdis. I gave the chakadi a miss and instead sat in another weird vehicle, locally popular as ‘Doodh waali gaadi’ i.e. Milk carrying jeep. The vehicle was cleverly converted into a passenger carrying taxi. The driver waited for close to 45 minutes until he ensured that at least 3 men are hanging precariously from the rear end of the jeep. 20 minutes into the ride , the jeep halted for 3 more passengers who ended up sitting atop the roof of the driver’s seat.
The road from Sanand to Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is lush green and gives you a glimpse of idyllic lifestyle of rural Gujaratis living on the either sides of the road. My favorite moment was spotting many families tending to mundane chores while peacocks nonchalantly roamed around in their houses in peace. While the news these days are replete with man-animal conflict, it was heartening to see a utopian world where man exists in harmony with nature.
An hour later, I found myself alone at the crossroads, walking distance from the sanctuary. Surprisingly, I was the only passenger who was heading for the sanctuary. Never mind, it added to my soul nourishing experience of solo travel. I saw some of the most amazing scenes of my life which I will cherish forever. By the time I was in the boat, it was already 5 p.m. and the sun had already turned softer. As soon as the boat moved, a group of menace makers accosted and harrased us from all sides. Being in the middle of the water ,we had no escape but to bow to their demands. They were the Pirates Of The Nal sarovar sanctuary. Before you drop your jaw, let me disclose, they were the Gulls who were demanding food from us rather vehemently. They were big time fan of Gujarati food, mainly ‘gaathiya’.
We had traversed far in the lake and could not see a single human now. Our boat moved gently making way by running down on the weeds jutting out of the water. At every nook and corner I could spot some species of birds which had congregated for their conferences. Sky was inundated with flocks of flamingos heading towards a resting ground for the night.
It felt heavenly to see scores of migratory birds returning for rest. Their collective sound added drama to the erstwhile silence of the place! As they moved poetically in perfect synchronization, another scene vied for my attention. A breathtaking moment was unfolding before my eyes. The Sun was changing hues fast from a bright orange to a mellower deep red as it was setting behind trees and shrubs. The reflection of the Sun in the water looked bewitching and ethereal. The huge birds passing by, gave the illusion, as if they had just entered and exited the Sun.
Before I realized, the whole setting had cast a spell on me. I didn’t expect to witness such beauty. It was definitely one of my most beautiful winter evenings. After all it’s not everyday that one gets to see thousands of migratory birds settling down with a breath taking orange sun setting in the background. The only sound: flapping of wings and the sound of ripples when the oar of the boatman gently caressed the water. Bliss! Moments like this makes me spiritual and contemplative. It was time to bid adieu! The birds were still returning, The sun which had set by now had imparted the sky and water a magical orangish-purplish tint making it look like a painting on a huge canvas. The Sun had given way to a beatific moon.
I was dropped on bike at the crossroads outside the sanctuary. I was still smiling romantically just thinking of what all I had just seen. But my stupor broke in no time when I realized that I was stranded in pitch dark and no vehicle was ready to go to Ahmedabad, just an easy 100 kms away. There were no buildings, no street lights, no shops (I was hungry and had no food!), no civilization. I was running out of patience. It’s not easy trusting anyone in an alien land. I would gingerly ask for lifts to every vehicle passing by. None were ready to go to Ahmedabad.
After an excruciating wait of 2 hours, a God sent jeep driver came to rescue. He peeped out and looked at me hesitantly. I was sure he would refuse the way he was scrutinizing me. But to my delight, he let me in. Concealing my anxiety, I hopped in without wasting a second. In that jungle , we had no option , but to trust each other. Through the journey we stayed awkward and quiet. After a ride of 45 minutes in dark forests, we were finally in Ahmedabad. I can’t remember the last time I was more delighted to see the city lights!
This entry has been shortlisted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest in association with Linger. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.
Submitted by: Abhinav Singh