Bhavnagar is the last station on the rail. It is a “small” town of 100,000 people, situated on the Gulf of Khambhat, on the western coast of Gujarat. It is our base for three days as we comb the Khaddas (literally “holes”) of the salvage traders of Alang, who sell equipment and furnishings pulled from the hundreds of ships that come to be broken. There are no accomodations in Alang, and just one grubby dhabba, serving only lunch. Indeed, there is not a single toilet in all of Alang. So, here we are at the end of the line.
Bhavnagar is said to be famous for its “three G’s”: Ganthiya, Gai, and Gando.
Ganthiya is a local savory snack made of gram flour and water, and deep fried in long, ribbony strips. It is usually eaten dipped in kadhi (a sweet, liquid Gujarati dal), although in Bhavnagar it is served with a warm chutney of sautéed onions. The locals say that their Ganthiya is so delicious because their water mixes well with the gram flour. It’s nice to know that the hard, briny-tasting water is good for something. If you want to wash your Ganthiya down, I recommend mineral water.
Gai, of course, is the cow – mother India herself. Folks from Bhavnagar claim that their streets have more cows than any other town in India. This would be a more reliable piece of information if anyone from Bhavnagar had actually seen another town.
Gando are crazy people. We were told that screw-loosened people love to ride trains; and since Bhavnagar is the last stop, they are forced to disembark here. As a result, Bhavnagar is disproportionately populated with nut-cases. Spend even an hour in Bhavnagar and you’ll see that this is not simply a self-deprecating local joke. The streets of Bhavnagar are a fascinating, seamlessly integrated combination of buzzing commercial hub – in the finest Gujarati tradition – and wall-less insane asylum.
Remind us, again: why did we get off at the last station?