In the search of Gandhi

The train started moving at 1245 hrs , not in the least did I feel uncomfortable in the unreserved bogie of the Porbandar Express boarding from Rajkot. A kind of mixed bag with traders, farmers, with their agri produce and some elderly groups groups travelling here. The group wearing white dhotis and red turbans snoozed all along, perhaps just waiting for their destination to alight.

The landscape was flat and many fields of sugar cane and mustard. Closer to the coast though, the land grew hillier and more ponds and fields appeared.

Finally, Porbandar station arrived at about 6pm and I decided to checkin at a nearby hotel and rest after this long journey.

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Porbandar is a small port town along the Gujarat coast and is deeply connected to the Indian history because of its association with Mahatma Gandhi. A place of extreme historical, religious and cultural significance, it has also been the cradle of the Harappa civilization.

Early morning I arrived at the ancestral house of the Gandhi family, deep in the town. Of all the buildings encountered on my trip, it would be the one that stayed with me.

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Kirti Mandir the birthplace and home of Gandhiji, tops the list of attractions here. It houses a museum with some of his possessions and old photographs, a Gandhian library and a prayer hall. Here, the sight of the charkha and the echo of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite bhajan Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram are sure to revitalise your senses. Rising a full three floors, connected by small, steep staircases with ropes for banisters, and bursting with light streaming through its many little green windows, the bare rooms were adorned by ornate filigreed niches. The edifice radiated charm and self-possession.

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A stiff, salty wind from the sea swept through its upper reaches. On the top floor, a small sign marked the reading room of Gandhi’s childhood. I wondered how many times in his life post-1915, Gandhi, walking or taking a train in the sweltering, suffocating plains of the north, harked back to the breezy rooms of his childhood, the high winds and blue sea of the city of his birth. All evening, I wandered around the planks, hulls, and frames of vessels in Porbandar’s massive ship-building yard, breathing the promise not just of the sea, but of all those western worlds that lay across the uncrossable kala pani of the Hindu imagination that Gandhi had in his youth daringly traversed.

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