Sunday, May 18, 2008


Imagine a children's park late on a moonless night. The swings though unoccupied sway restlessly in the strong breeze. The silhouette of the slide is against the clear, star filled sky. Underneath is soft, yielding sand and beyond the streetlights which cast their light on the park, there is only the light pouring from the distant stars. In that region of darkness, I can hear the yelps of foxes who are not visible and evidently do not want to be. On another day and in another place, I might have been a little tense but this night is different and so is this place. The rules from the concrete jungles do not apply here. And that's because just beyond where the swings are, the sands have frequent visitors. Every few seconds, waves from the depths of the Arabian Sea are paying them a courtesy call. This children's park is right on a sea beach and the intoxicating rhythm of the gentle swell of the sea plays on. Of all the images worth retaining from my trip to Mithapur, this one was the most striking.

Mithapur is a small, picturesque little town located on the blue Arabian Sea (as is its colour is - in and around Dwarka) near Dwarka in the north west coast of Gujarat. It owes its existence largely to the Tata Chemicals Limited plant there around which the entire economy seems to centre. The 3 hour drive from Jamnagar is a great one too with gradually undulating, smooth roads running through acres of open, uninhabited scrub land punctuated in intervals by wind farms. Wind farms being of course the evocative name for dozens of huge windmills standing guard over these desolate areas as they go about their dreary but essential business of generating power. The Tata colony is an example of beautiful planning and whats more, its got two private beaches of its own within its vast boundaries and a toy train that ferries kids during the summer months for a day out on the beach.

The tiny, single-platform Mithapur railway station (I refer to the real Indian Railways train now) opens out into a square situated in the heart of the Tata colony and its shopping area. This plant and its associated colony was set up in the late 1930s, and back then it must have been even more magnificent, literally the last outpost of civilization in the desolation of north Gujarat. Its the typical plant colony with complete self-sufficiency and especially distant location. Its the aspect that I appreciate most about set-ups like this. The whole thought process and effort that goes into creating something exotic like this out of scratch is astounding. The insularity of the location may be stifling for some people who are used to crowds and more variety but its a really exhilarating place for a visit. It was May when I visited but the weather was shockingly pleasant with the sea breeze making vicious summer take off on a holiday! Its difficult to describe the remoteness and beauty of the place and what an incredible dimension the waters of the bordering Arabian Sea add to it. A complete soul searching experience for me if there was ever one!