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Seasons of Sail: From Aakhar to Mausam

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Dhows –  wooden sailing vessels – have historically linked the Indian Ocean, carrying goods and people across its littoral. These vessels continue to traverse the ocean today. Vahans from the Gulf of Kachchh transport cargoes of foodstuff, medical equipment, livestock, cars, mattresses and other essentials across ports in South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. While these vessels once sailed with the monsoon winds, they now run diesel engines, the drone of the engine drowning out the sea. Sailors from towns such as Mandvi and Salaya are always itinerant, at sea, travelling from port to port for nine months of the year. They come home during the end of the sailing season or aakhar, usually in June, until they leave again as the monsoon winds change in September. Aakhar is a time of homecoming, and intense social interaction. It is a time that contrasts sharply with mausam, when the lonely sailing season begins. This seasonal calendar based on the monsoon winds continues to shape the lives of seafarers and their families, even as they fly in the face of the winds, powered by diesel.