March 3, 2006
Dhordo and the Salt Desert.
Dhordo and the 40 villages that comprise the Banni area have been dependent on animal husbandry as a way of life. Now, what used to be Asia’s largest grassland, is undergoing desertification and salinification, and more and more villagers are turning to handicrafts for their livelihood.
Hoorbai Mahemood Mutwa, our hostess, won the 1999 National Award for Excellence from the Office of the Development Commissioner of Handlooms and the Office of the Development Commissioner for Handicrafts for her embroidery. The kanjari (backless blouse worn by Kachchi women) pictured above is the piece for which she won the award.
Mahemood, our host, is an all-round artist who makes his own instruments, sings, plays, makes ceramic products, carves wood, builds bhungas, etc. Manav Sadhna buys the frames that he makes, decorated with the traditional colored mud and small mirrors, for Gramshree.
Dhordo Panchayat Primary School has 27 registered boys, 32 registered girls and two teachers. Most of the boys and two thirds of the girls were present when we stopped by the school. The children, who speak Sindhi, a common language with Sindhs across the border, sang the most beautiful songs for us.
After leaving the school in Dhordo, we took a trip to the area of the desert that is salt for as far as you can see. Salt 5 meters high. The staff at the bromine factory that Kantikaka set up to provide employment to the local residents, sent a Mahindra tractor along with us in case our bus and truck got stuck in the mud and salt.
Then back to Bhuj, where we said goodbye to Anjali, Jayeshbhai, and Pankaj, who left for Ahmedabad on an overnight bus. Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan hosted us for the night, and Sandeep Virmani, who along with his wife Sushma Iyengar, have coordinated the reconstruction and revitalization of Kachchh since the earthquake, gave us contacts in Rajasthan, our next destination.