I was on a no-money walking pilgrimage — with one of my spiritual mentors — in 2014. The was about experiencing the GUEST IS GOD philosophy of our land. It was also about letting off the false ego and live on the mercy of strangers.
It was a mad experiment.
I keep doing this.
We would walk for hours together and ask for food and shelter in the night. During one such pilgrimage, we were walking towards the north of Gujarat. We got a call from Mustukhan Sukh who wanted to host us for the night.
I was thrilled when I got to know that he’s inviting us to his tribal village. We started walking towards the location directed by him. It was the summer season and the sun was on top of our head. Although he guided us well, the fact was that the village was quite far from where we were.
To our surprise, the roads were quite good. We had to go across may villages, and on the way, we met many people who were surprised to see us in their villages. I am sure no tourists ever go there because of the remote location.
The route was enthralling as we passed green farms under the blue sky. It looked like we almost got lost when one local put us on the right track again.
After a long walk, we reach in the footsteps of the village. The area was scarcely inhabited but the people were friendly enough to guide us the way ahead. At this point, our mobile phones stopped receiving any signal.
We were all alone.
No communication. No network.
We walked our way through rocky terrains. Our destination was still far. We had to do the trek for 3 hours. The route is terrible but we’d a lot of fun enjoying the rough terrain and surrounding scenery.
Finally, just before the sunset, we reached the village. I couldn’t believe what I saw—an entire tribal village in the lap in the lap of lush forest. The village — Khatisitra — is situated somewhere in the Balaram-Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary that is the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan; in northwest India. You can visit this tribal village if you’re on your way to Mt.Abu, it’s close to that.
As we stepped in the home of Mushtukhan, a team of young tribal women welcomed us in their traditional fashion. The moments were mesmerizing. But they were having a lot of fun watching a madman from Mumbai. These people are simple and humble. They don’t have much idea of what’s going on in the outside world. This makes them more interesting to interact with.
It was dark soon and we set up a bonfire. We couldn’t understand each other’s language but our friend became the mediator. We talked about the world outside, technology, desires, machines, politics, and they talked about the forest, food, joy and their dreams. It was interesting to see two different worlds coming together to make one for the night.
It was a memorable night.
After the night comes the morning. But I didn’t know that this one will bring in so many surprises. We slept in Mushtukhan’s mud-made-home and when I got up, I saw this beautiful paradise around me. I still can feel goosebumps when I remember the sight.
We were served hot and delicious breakfast by his wife Mumtaz. The food is so fresh and organic, unlike what we get here in Mumbai. While breakfast I made friends with this little boy named Bhuria.
The story goes like this, Mushtukhan had taken Bhuria with for some work in the city one day. They went to a restaurant to eat. It was Bhuria’s first trip outside the forest; into the concrete forest. When he saw a bill after the food, he asked — why are they selling food?
According to me, this is the most difficult question someone has asked in the entire timeline of human civilization. I was numb to listen to this incident; such an innocence.
We got together well. He was excited to interact with me and show us his village. He collected a few more friends and planned a trip to the top of the village. We were e equally excited and started trekking towards the top. Bhuria was swift and we were quite slow but somehow we made it to the top; slowly-slowly.
From the top, you can see the entire forest. It’s just beautiful!
Khatisitra is a beautiful place to go if you can to enjoy a homestay in the lap of the forest. It’s a serene and virgin place. No one comes there unless invited. It’s best to go with the entire family so that one can experience the simple life of the tribals.
They’re loving-kind people and can go out of the way to gift you a memorable hospitality. They’ve got little but have too much to offer.
Mushtukhan has also initiated homestay in his village. This way the villagers earn some money and we can enjoy rural tourism. The tribals have a constant fear of getting wiped away due to industrialization and we can only understand their pain if we go and live with them.
The tribal village has solar electricity but still waiting to get an entry into the map of India.
I hope it doesn’t.