Goodbye Gujarat

“Why does one person need so many cloths?? How many t-shirts and salwar could one person wear in a span of 3months?? What in the world was I thinking when I bought all this stuff?? How the hell was I going to get all this stuff across 5 states?!”

These were just a few questions that were going through my mind as I sat in front of a suitcase that was looking increasingly puny in comparison with all the stuff that is supposed to go inside it. So I decided to do what many a genius has done time and again when faced with such daunting tasks. I decided to procrastinate.

See the thing is, I am moving out from Gandhinagar in less than a week. Wow… hurts quite a bit to think about it! In a little over than 3 months, this place has become as much a home as is possible. So many memories…walking down the memory lane, I am jotting down some of the most vivid memories I have of this place.

  1. Wandering through Manek Chowk

Manek Chowk is a street food bazaar which opens at around 10.00pm every night. Known for the mouth-watering variety of food it offers, it is the perfect place to have the BEST dosa you’ve ever had (I’m a South Indian. So when I say The Best, I mean it), lip-smacking pav bhajis, kulfi with raita, faludas, hot jalebis, and reasonably good pani puris among other delicacies. Key in the 1980s Bollywood music streaming in from speakers to experience life in North India at its best.

Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy: www.ahmedabadgiftshop.com)
Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy: http://www.ahmedabadgiftshop.com)
  1. The day of hailstorm

This is truly an unforgettable experience. A few friends and I had set out to visit the Adalaj Stepwell as few kilometers away from Infocity. It was a very hot and cloudy day and we were expecting (or rather hoping) for a strong drizzle at most. Imagine our surprise when the sun who had been playing peek-a-boo barely a second ago, suddenly disappeared and wind strong enough to overturn roadside carts and uproot age-old trees appeared. Initially we waited a while, hoping it would abate as abruptly as it started. And then it started to rain with such ferocity that we wondered if this was a replay of the 2001 earthquake. Somehow we managed to find an autorickshaw. It took us a moment to realise that half the ferocity of the rain was because it wasn’t raindrops that was drenching us – it was sharp, pebble-sized pieces of ice! My first hailstorm! And then, as if it were a Bollywood movie, the rickshaw broke down. How we got back to the hostel with our wits intact still eludes me but once we did, it made a hell of a story!

Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy: www.skymetweather.com)
Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy: http://www.skymetweather.com)
  1. Strolling through Sabarmati Riverfront. At 12.30 am.

Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project is an initiative by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to develop the Sabarmati riverfront in the city of Ahmedabad, India. . We reached there at around 12.30 am, only to be sent back as it closes at 11.00pm. Neverthless, the short walks outside the entrance were enticing enough to make me want to come back to this place as and when I can.

Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy: defence.pk)
Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy: defence.pk)

It was also the place where I got the first glimpse of how dangerous the seemingly safe places of North can be. The fact is, in the Southern parts of India, people rarely venture out after dark, with the exception of metro cities. We don’t have night bazaars or street shopping. However in the other parts of India, night is the time everything comes alive. There is something about seeing multitudes streaming through streets going through their lives that make you put your guard down. It makes your forget all that you’ve read about how unsafe a place it is for girls. Which you should never, EVER forget.

  1. Sunset at Somnath

Somnath is an ancient temple located in the Western coast of Gujarat. We were on a trip to Diu and stopped there and ended up visiting the temple at the best moment possible. The evening aarthi was just starting and the ambiance inside was amazing. But the best part of Somnath was standing on the deck there and watching the sunset across one of the most beautiful expanse of sea I’ve ever seen. Experiencing that sense of peace and tranquillity – very difficult to put into words.

Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
  1. The day Modi won

How can that day not be memorable? Hearing about Gujarat rejoicing over Modi’s win is one thing – seeing it person, feeling that joy and sense of triumph vibrating through passers by…unforgettable. Needless to say, by the night of 16th May, there was not a single sweet shop not empty and there were policemen stationed every 100 metres. (Erm…I just realised that those two facts have nothing in common!) Brushing aside my personal emotions, it was amazing seeing so much faith in one man’s vision.

Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy: indianexpress.com)
Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy: indianexpress.com)
Advertisements

LFG #2: Shopping at Law Garden, Ahmedabad

Here’s the thing. I dislike hate shopping. For makeup, shoes, bags, dresses – especially dresses! You know that moment…that instant when your fingers curl round the handles of a shiny, uncreased bag — and all the gorgeous new things inside it become yours?¹ Well, I don’t. And I swear to God that I-WILL-KILL-YOU if you give me that puzzled look and say “But I thought girls loved shopping!”

So anyway, my shop-o-phobia is quite well known to all my friends back home. They “claim” that I am the worst shopping companion ever. And I must admit, they do have a point. Take me shopping with you and chances are that once the initial fascination with a shop wears off, I may sulk, pout, throw tantrums and generally behave like a 3 year old in a theatre.

Now the thing is my friends here are blissfully unaware of all this drama I am capable of unleashing without a moment’s notice. You see, we’re still in that honeymoon phase where we ask ‘May I?’ before dipping into the other person’s ice-creams and say ‘You look good’ when what you are really thinking is “REALLY??” So when this idea of going shopping in the evening came up, I didn’t wanna be a party pooper and say no. And thus I went shopping.

Considering that Ahmedabad is famous for clothes and its unique styles of handcrafted silver jewellery, we (read they) decided to head to Law Garden at Ahmedabad. One of my friends had heard from one of her friends’ friend that the place had an amazing collection of traditional wears. And so, off we went.

Law Garden is a public garden in the city of Ahmedabad. During day it is like any other street. But at night the place comes alive with hoards of makeshift shops that boast of exquisite handicraft goods sold by local people. Also, the road at the side of the garden is filled with street hawkers selling all kinds of food items. So while the wife-y darling is off burning a hole in her pocket, the husband baba can go gaga over the delicious, if slightly unhygienic, street food and burn a hole in his too. Combined hole-burning opportunities – what an idea sirji!

So we spent a good chunk of night going gaga over gorgeous chaniya cholis, and dazzling silver jewellery. Sure, it was hectic, we were worried we wouldn’t get back to the hostel in time, my friends were complaining that “There just wasn’t enough time” and I was like “I know!” (While chanting “Jai Mata Di” in my head for ending it quite soon) and we couldn’t have dinner ‘coz by the time we reached the hostel, we were way past curfew.

And yet, I enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to, but I did. I even ended up buying a few kurtis and a lovely silver earring! Is it too soon to call up my mommy and claim that my shop-o-phobia is cured??

And that's a peek of how it looked in the streetlight.
And that’s a peek of how it looked in the streetlight.
This lovely babe is mine. I saw it, loved it, bought it. For 40 bucks :-D
This lovely babe is mine. I saw it, loved it, bought it. For 40 bucks 😀
An exquisite chain I fell in love with. Didn't buy it though. Darn! I should've na?
An exquisite chain I fell in love with. Didn’t buy it though. Darn! I should’ve na?

In case you’d like to get a better feel of Law Garden at night, I suggest you go through wander collection’s post titled ‘Law Garden Night Market.’ It has some lovely photographs as opposed to my amateur ones. 🙂


[1]Quoted from ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ by Sophie Kinsella

Live From Gujarat #1

Almost a month back, when I was all set to move to Gujarat, I put up a post in Facebook covertly poking fun of a certain Mr. Development. It is common knowledge that I’m a secularism-spouting, slightly-pretentious, arguably-naive new kid on the block and hence by principle I was against Mr. Development. So I stepped into Gujarat rather curious to see the much-touted “development” – I was all set to report the level of deceptiveness of all those articles that was buzzing around every Indian’s ears.

My first day in Gujarat was pretty much what I expected. The road connecting the airport to the Old Ahmedabad city started deteriorating exponentially as we moved away from the airport. Filthy roads crowded with chaiwallahs (pun not intended. Honestly!), roadside vendors, not to mention hoards of animals, vehicles that buzzed around with little or no regard for traffic or the lives of the pedestrians, women with every inch of their body covered to protect themselves from the unbelievable dust… the scoffer in me grinned like a maniac. See..! This…this right here is the development you were talking about huh?? What a Modification of the truth!

And so I started my life in Gujarat with a certain sense of peace. I was right after all…who doesn’t love hearing that? (Even if you are the only person who is saying it!) Nowhere I looked could I see even the ghosts of the much-touted D-word. All was well.

It started out with little things. Like how I could walk around at 9.00 in the night without a care in the world, reassured at the sight of the police vans at every other junctions. Or how I am yet to sit through an hour of power failure. Or the beautifully paved roads lined with sturdy & shady gulmohar trees on either side. It was with no little horror that I realised that I have been sighing in contentment a tad too often for my comfort! “So…?” I argued with myself. “It wasn’t as if I was hosting chai pe charcha. And I wasn’t even impressed with what I was seeing.”

And then I went on a trip to Ahmedabad City.

As you might have heard, thanks to the relentless media music, Gujarat is home to one of the largest man-made lakes India, the Kankaria Lake. It was during the journey from Kankaria Lake to ISKON Mall in Ahmedabad that I first came across Janmarg. Janmarg, which means ‘the people’s way’ in Gujarati, is a rapid transit bus service system that was inaugurated in late 2009 by the then Chief Minister Mr.You-Know-Who.

Now Janmarg…Janmarg blew my mind. As a civil-engineer who has often lamented on why-can’t-India-have-a-comfy&attractive-public-transport-system, to say that Janmarg had me drooling would be the understatement of the year. Dedicated lanes just for public transport which ensured zero traffic-jams, smart-cards for ticketing, numerous flyovers, automated buses and middle-of-the-corridor bus stations…I had goosebumps by the time I got down at the destination. Later I heard that the Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited went so far as to offer free rides to commuters for three months before commissioning the service to get suggestions, most of which it implemented. I seriously contemplated rearranging my priorities and, at a weak moment, inching over to the dark side.

No kidding.

So what’s with those dusty roads and emancipated kids selling chai on the road-side, you ask? The covered up women and the dangerously speeding vehicles…the roads with not one speed-breaker or pavement or a shadow of a cop… Turns out I hadn’t chosen the best galli of Gujarat to shack-up in those initial days.

Funny it didn’t dawn on me earlier considering how everywhere I looked, kajal-rimmed eyes and paan-smeared lips had smiled at me.

LFG series

Dear sweeties-who-indulges-in-the-self-afflicted-form-of-torture-that-is-reading-this-blog,

              As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve moved to Gandhinagar and is set to have a grand time here for the next 3 months. So, considering the fact that I’m absolutely (and at time, irritatingly – yes, I am aware of that) fascinated by this place and the people and the customs and what not, I thought I’d write it all up with this weird idea that I might love to look back to this time someday. So what is gonna follow is a series of the things I love about this place so erm…consider this to be a fair warning – kinda like your Miranda rights, teekay?

Cheers!

Live from Gujarat

Hey!

Long time huh? It has been for me. You see, I’ve gone through some monumental changes in life in the past few days. I’ve moved from home to Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad for work. It has been a bit of a change – one that I expected to be much more challenging than it has turned out to be so far. Initially, hidden in my proclamations of delight at living in North India, I was rather sceptical about staying away from home for the first time in my entire life. In fact, the first two days were a bit hard, especially yesterday. Not in a I-wanna-meet-my-amma way, but in a oh-my-god-what-the-hell-am-I-gonna-do-if-I-can’t-manage-to-stay-away-from-home-without-getting-depressed kinda panic. But somehow, magically, all was resolved after an evening walk around our neighbourhood. You see, now that is one of the many things I’ve come to love about this place. Since there are quite a few and I have a history of being a non-sequencer, I’ll just list out those to ya all. Ready?

  1. The best – and by that I mean BEST – thing about living in Gandhinagar is the fact that you can roam about at night (till 9.00 – haven’t been out beyond that though our curfew time is 10.00 pm) with minimal worries. There’ll be multitudes of people out on the road, men and women, at all times. There is also a Police Station about 10 metres from where we live, so that gives an extra sense of security.
  2. The second best thing is the weather. It is perfect at the moment – not too cold that I’ll have to use a sweater nor too hot. Esp at night, though I’ve been warned that it is about to change with the advent of summer.
  3. The people – truly one of the best things. There are people from Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal…my roommates hail from Orissa and Gujarat respectively. Am revelling in the diversity – in terms of language, customs, looks, accents…its beautiful!
  4. The chance to hone my Hindi. I always knew I could handle Hindi but it’s only after I came here that I realised that I was proficient enough to actually have conversations in Hindi with native Hindi speakers and get away with it!

That’s all I can think of at the moment. The only problem…well, I wouldn’t define it as a problem as such…so, let me rephrase that. The only slight hiccup is the food. South Indian food is not available as much as is needed and what little of it is available is way too expensive for day-to-day consumption. North Indian food that is available at the canteen is nothing like the authentic North Indian food, but hey, one can’t have everything, right?

All in all, enjoying the first week at Gandhinagar. For sure.