Sunday, April 02, 2006


DISCLAIMER: I’m still writing this article after the bloody windows crashed 7 times from last night. This made me start this piece and settle scores with a cry of “SCREW BILL GATES” (that’s on the tip of the tongue of every Linux user) as I type every word.


The first impression you might get of Jamnagar is a small chaotic city (that’s much closer to Pakistan than many other cities in India) of salt pans and the worlds largest oil refinery (Reliance) with it’s out of the world constructions and roads. As the 10th largest city in Gujarat (and one of the richest) it boasts of maybe two hotels and one multiplex that are free from pan stains that adorn the walls of the many buildings giving them a not so pleasing psychedelic artsy décor.

There are three distinct dots (along with the roads that crisscross among the potholes) that leave an indelible mark in the salty, arid landscape. A dusty gust hits you at 80 kmph along with a waft of ‘sweet smelling’ salt when a truck driver crosses you by. These truck drivers with their F1 licenses could make the likes of ‘Schumi’ & his brightly attired cool dudes look like toddlers crying for lollipops. The motorists and the ‘chuggdi drivers’ with their own interpretations of traffic rules, laws and not to forget the ‘disc(o)’ brakes; the third being the camel carts that often thunder about the roads at lightning speeds of less than 10 kmph.

Somebody once told me that the best food in any city is in its gullies and by lanes; that along with the ‘Gujju’ appetite and him being a connoisseur of food makes eating out great. You have ‘Malabar hotel’ serving authentic mallu parathas, appam, and ishtu. There is a dosa joint (by the name of bajrang) serving you with a platter of a dozen different dosas to suit the taste buds and the not so deep pockets. Just across this guy is ‘New Amul Dhaba’ where you get amazing rotis reminiscent of ‘Moms kitchen’ with paneer tikka that just about melts in the mouth. Speaking of parathas you just cant miss them at ‘Ashish’ right from the smoldering fire. For the omnivores there is ‘Tava Taqdeer’ that apparently serves good chicken and whatever that moves.(Believe me, if you are a stickler to ambience, dim lights, candles and even clean table cloths et al, its better to pack your bird and finish the poor guy off at home)

Tucked away in into the remote corner of gujjuland, you just about can’t miss the ‘gujju thaali’ that comes terribly easy on the pockets for the quality and the endless quantity served. Traditionally prepared by the women of the house it is a delectable combination that sets the taste buds dancing to its subtle tastes. (Places: brahmaniya dining hall, Purvi’s hotel and if you are anywhere near junagadh don’t ever think of missing Gita lodge.)Add to all this a ‘paani puri thela’ in every street (the best being the guy who loiters opposite Lalwani pan, a landmark even a donkey can’t miss) and fresh fruit juice from ‘Deepak juice’ to wash it all down.(the best being a potent concoction of chikoo and chocolate) To mock at all this great street food you have Yummy’s , a new joint where the bloody chinky gujju cook’s idea of a burger and the sandwich is the same thing which he shoves into a pav and a crooked triangle of bread garnished with one raw tomato, two bitter cucumber slices and some shredded cheese. What Has God Rot? The evenings sure are nice and pleasant with a breeze and so much to choose from.

There’s Mt. Abu which is quite a drivable distance on a bike (400kms give or take a few more) with its Dilwara temples hand curved out of marble costing the national budget a few centuries back. That we completed the trip in three days flat with a feast of Rajasthan food at Jodhpur Bhojanalay made the trip all the more enjoyable. The trip to Gir on Dec 18 with a blazing log fire, maggi, booze, chicken and paneer running freely amok, a tent rigged up with eight bikes (courtesy Nanda) and evergreen incidents from the past six years unfolding deep into the night etched the trip in our minds. The trip to Dwarka is well documented by Alekh in

Ten kms south of the city towards Rajkot lies a Bird Sanctuary with a weird name I forget. The season to find birds and not bird droppings about the place is from December to February. I am not one of those patient chaps who lie down overnight in a mosquito infested swamp waiting for an egret to land or for a duck to start cackling about its last gourmet meal, but this place even in mid March was teeming with Flamingoes, Cranes, Egrets, Ducks, Lapwings and many other UFO’s cluttering, in search of food or whatever it is they search for. No amount of snaps, videos from a digicam or eloquently worded essays (like this!?) can justify the sight and sounds of a hundred squadrons flapping their wings, rising high with the sun and soaring higher than the eye can see in precisely orchestrated V’s of perfection. I’m leaving Jamnagar for good in less than a month but if it is one thing that I might remember some years down the line it is of the beautiful birds on a nice laidback Sunday morning.

Chuggdi: is a contraption that is a modified Royal Enfield Bullet with three wheels and a carriage that carries people, hens, eggs and just a bout anything under the bright sun. At thirty kmph you can hear every screw screaming for mercy along with the engine, at a hundred kmph this would be a weapon of catastrophe.

Disc(o) brakes: Instead of the usual screech of the tires crunching the gravel there is a fad among the pan spewing gujju youth to make the brakes dance to the music of Dhoom. As a matter of fact am yet to find a single bike that doesn’t have this thing playing every thirty seconds or so.

Dhoom: Popular Hindi movie with a lot of bike stunts and skimpily clad ladies trying to dance in the rain & not get wet, which they inevitably do.

We: refers to 10-13 crazed guys in eight bikes and a scrap of 1988 model Maruti 800.

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