It was 11:30 am in the morning. I was laboring away on my cycle under the hot sun on a highway having just gotten outside of bhuj..It was a little too hot and not having slept properly the night before, my morale was a bit down and i was having a lot of doubts about my plans for the trip. I was supposed to end my ride in Ekal Rann that day and i had no idea where it was.
As i was lost in my gloomy thoughts turning over the pedals, a guy on an activa pulled up beside me and introduced himself as Kanji bhai and asked me if i wanted to drink tea. Puzzled, i just said yes and he led me to a small dhaba by the side of the road a few hundred meters away. While i followed him, i wondered if he would drug me and steal my money and cycle. As soon as i stepped into the dhaba, i was handed a saucer and then someone poured tea into it. So, i drank tea from the saucer in the good old fashioned way slurping away to glory…After i finished, kanji bhai started asking me where i was from and where i was headed. When i told him the end point of my day was Ekal Rann but i dod not know here it was, he pulled up a chair, got a pen and a notebook and started drawing out a route map for me. He gave me exact details about the Ekal Mandir, whom i should contact there, what kind of food i’d get along the way, where i could stay for the next day. Basically, he laid out the plans for my trip for the next 2 days!!! Bemused, i just listened to him and nodded to everything he said. After he finished, i just thanked him for the tea and started to leave. But, he asked me if i could stay for lunch. I wanted to get going as the day would get hotter and i wanted to cover as much ground as possible. After some insisting on his part, i gave in.
He ordered the food for me and lunch was a typical kutchi fare. I was served hot bajra rotis straight from the oven along with some curry and dollops of butter. It was delicious and i felt thankful for having said yes for lunch. We chatted casually over lunch and he told me everything about how industrialization is helping kutchi people. When i raised the issue of modi, he jsut had reverence in his eyes. He told me that the shooting of lagaan movie happened just a few kms away from the dhaba and he had seen Aamir Khan in person!!!
After lunch, i was given half a liter of cold chaas (butter milk). Drinking it under the hot sun felt really good and i thanked him for the food and the tea and the chaas. When i went to pay the cashier, he simply refused. He said the dhaba was owned by Kanji bhai.
Surprised, i turned around and kanji bhai said that i was a guest in his region and it was his pleasure to host me for lunch and he said it was his duty to make sure i had proper directions to where i was headed. I insisted on paying but he just refused. He said he had interacted with a lot of cyclists before and said cyclists were a fun and polite bunch of people (yay for that!).
After thanking him repeatedly, i went on my way. I cycled for over 7 days in kutch after that but nowhere did i find such delicious baajra roti again nor was it served anywhere with so much love and warmth for a stranger…