Bhuj is a small city, perhaps one square mile altogether, not counting the outlying colonies and relocations centers. So how I keep getting lost continually is beyond me. I suspect three culprits:
1) the city’s lack of street signs or notation (in English)
2) my lack of a comprehensive map
3) my general crappy sense of direction.
The Aina Mahal is another beautiful building damaged by the earthquake. But unlike the Sarad Bagh Palace, there’s reconstruction at the Aina Mahal. The workmen toil in the sun outside, the dust and bricks piled outside the entrance. The curator says that the government has given some money for the rebuilding effort -- it’s a slow process, and the money is nowhere near enough. But still.
Inside, there’s a blue tiled floor and an ornately carved ceiling. If you’re going to have a palace, might as well make it over the top, right? Though the interior of the palace is kept dark (better to enhance the feeling of escape, otherworldliness), along the back wall, stained glass lets in blue and green light. The main bedroom is lined with old mirrors; most of the silver backing of the mirrors has oxidized, so that they reflect nothing but black. The wall has an inlay of semi-precious stones in a sinuous floral design. The legs of the royal bed are made of solid gold. The opulence may now seem threadbare, but you get a sense of how the royalty spent their time. Namely, collecting porcelain dog figurines.
I’ve had tremendous luck in finding good food here in Bhuj. The number of proper restaurants seems limited, but so far, eating has been a pleasure. Even if one waiter misheard my request for a “kashcamber salad” (I imagined it to mean “cucumber salad”) for a kashmiri pulao, I much preferred the pulao, a sweet rice dish with dried fruit and cabbage (at least, as the Ash Restaurant served it). Tonight, I had a mixed sizzler at the Nilam Hotel -- imagine vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce served hot on a fajita plate. The manager dissuaded me from ordering more; the sizzler would be more than enough for me. He was correct. Next up on my culinary adventure will be a Gujarati thali, for which I’ve only heard rapturous praise. That is, if I don’t get lost on the way there.