12.20 who's your daddy?

for the first time in india, i am sweaty.

we're driving through the countryside in my grandparents' home land of gujarat. it's a mix of semi-arid, semi-desert, semi-farmland. amid rocks and rolling hillsides of cacti, you suddenly find a tropical 'oasis' of date palms and small village enclaves.

in a moving car, you can always catch glimpses of women in beautiful traditional gujarati saris, carrying large pots of water on their heads . the local dresses are adorned in mirrors and bandhani patterns in the brightest of colours. the women inspired me: i had a couple of bandhani outfits made for myself!

we visited anjar, bhuj, nangalpur, sinongra and mandvi, the places where my dad's family are from. many of the buildings are new, having been rebuilt after the killer earthquake of 2001, in which a million buildings collapsed. about 20,000 people in the region died.

my great-grandmother grew up on a farm in nangalpur, before heading to anjar and catching a train to the sea-side for a boat that would transport her to a new life in africa. today, that farm is a jungle, sold to family friends long ago. in nangalpur, we visited a pristine kindergarten school across the street from the house my father's father built for his wife when they returned to india before he died. painted on the wall of a classrooms: "live as if you will die tomorrow, learn as if you will live forever".

while visiting with leaders of the mosque in nangalpur, my father was very careful not to divulge his identity. they were naturally curious why we would travel from canada to visit this 'remote' village with only 250 people in the community. my dad told them he was orphaned and grew up in a boarding school, not knowing his family. when asked, he said his name was abdul raheman kanji (instantly dubbing me salima abdul kanji!!!). though desperate to correct him and even more desperate to see the house next to the mosque, which i knew belonged to my grandfather, i knew my dad has important reasons for keeping us hush hush. i kept quiet. even though salima abdul kanji has a most terrible ring to it.

the day was topped off with a visit to the sea-side beach town of mandvi. it was here that i woke up a sleeping camel, snapped some shots of kids on the beach and bid the sun good night over it's watery bed. all in all, a good day - can't describe how it feels to know one's homeland. a good feeling, but no words can capture it.

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