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Sunday, 5 February 2012



Days 05-06-07: AHMEDABAD

Gandhinagar has the thickest green
cover amongst all Indian cities
Day 05, 06 and 07 were spent in Ahmedabad in a leisurely way enjoying the hospitality of our niece in Gandhinagar which is the capital of Gujarat and the twin city of Ahmedabad. It is a well-planned city with a lot of trees and greenery and is recognised as the highest density green cover urban area in India. With the green flora, there was black fauna too.

 Langoors (Baboons) of Gandhinagar
The place was full of baboons with black faces. Our red-faced monkeys in the capital are scared of only the baboons from Gujarat which are hired by the affected Deptts to ward off monkeys from Govt. offices. Please do not try to read between the lines. No pun intended here ;-) !
Another interesting observation about Gandhinagar is that not only does it have total prohibition like the rest of Gujarat, being non-vegetarian is seen with a lot of disdain. The non-vegetarians are condemned socially too; the land-lords do not rent out their houses to non-veg tenents and if caught taking even eggs, the chances are that you will be asked to vacate the house. I had to face such dirty looks from the employee of a Pizza outlet in a big mall when I enquired about availability of some chicken pizza. Hey Raaam!

Staying at a walking distance from Akshardham, it was our first point of attraction. I loved the architecture and craftsmanship of Akshardham Temple. Carved in pink sand-stone, the temple complex which is barely 20 years old is spread out in about 23 acres of land. I was quite impressed with the maintenance and cleanliness of the complex. And I also particularly relished the khichdi in their restaurant. In contrast, the khichdi served in Delhi’s Akshardham is much too hot and spicy.  Another good thing in Akshardham was that there were no Arti, Pooja, Archana etc and one could quietly enjoy the beauty of the place. Only one question, why should one human-being worship another human-being?

The Temple also organises laser show in the evening which our hosts had booked for us. Not very keen to go initially, thinking in hindsight, I would have really missed something great. Not merely the unique interplay of sound, light, wind and water, I really liked the spiritual part of it. A young Nachiketa, questions his father on getting undue credit for donating his old cows which were of no use to anybody and for which he was being recognised by everyone. Pestered by his continuous questioning of the sanctity of such a daan, the irritated father donates the son Nachiketa to Yama, the God of Death. As Nachiketa goes to Yama, the latter refuses to meet him at first but on his persistence, gives an appearance and explains to him his three forms, a public form which every human-being is scared of, a religious form which is essential and a spiritual form which portrays him as a do-gooder. The concept was new and explanation enchanting. Apart from this, the show was enthralling in terms of its technical expertise and presentation.As no cameras or mobiles were permitted inside the premises, no photographs could be taken by us  there :-(  


The entrance to the Ashram

Serene and peaceful Sabarmati Ashram located on the banks of Sabarmati river was once the residence of Mahatma Gandhi. The display of history of Gandhiji’s life has been done here quite aesthetically. 

On the banks of Sabarmati
Reading one panel after the other, recapitulating what all one had read in the history books in the school, was nicely refreshed. How time passed, I didn't realise. Felt as if I had been transported into a time-machine. Seeing the place in reality is so different from reading it in the books!

Hriday Kunj

Hriday Kunj, the humble cottage where Gandhiji actually lived still has the Charkha on which he used to spin cotton and advocate swadeshi khadi. 

The Charkha in Hriday Kunj
I find Khadi fabric as actually a very comfortable wear in the Indian context and climate whether summer or winter or rainy season. I wonder how effective is Khadi & Village Industries Commision for promoting khadi fabric. Are they really doing their best? 

A painting of Dandi March
It was from this place that the famous Dandi March started off in the year 1930 which later became an important land-mark of the freedom struggle of India. I couldn't help humming, “De di hamein azadi bina khadga bina dhaal, Sabarmati ke Sant tune kar diya kamaal….”?


Officials details of Adalaj Stepwell

Intricate captivating carvings

Before actually seeing Adalaj, I often used to wonder what a step-well or a baoli is but a visit to Adalaj, a little away from Gandhinagar, cleared all the cob-webs. This step-well was built in the year 1499. 

Hubby in a jharokha

Keep climbing down the steps admiring various jharokhas, pillars and walls until you reach the water level… Wow..what a concept! But I thought the water was dirty and needed better maintenance.

It is said that this step-well was built by Rani Rudabai who promised to marry Sultan Beghara, who had killed her husband King Veer Singh, only when the well is completed and gained more than 20 years in the process. Once the job was over and she had no excuse for not marrying the Sultan, she jumped into the well and took her life to save her honour.

Various levels of Adalaj

Adalaj step-well is a place definitely worth-seeing for its impressive architecture and intricate carvings. 

No electricity, only hurricane lanterns

Typical Gujarati dinner served on real banana leaf
A visit to Vishala restaurant, when in Ahmedabad, is strongly recommended. Typical Gujarati food served in typical Gujarati style, served by boys clad in typical Gujarati dress, sitting on the floor and eating without spoon along with the typical homely style of insistence for taking more and more food left us absolutely full. 
Post-dinner, sitting on the cots and admiring the artificially created rural ambience including hurricane lanterns was very relaxing. 

Enjoyed puppet dance after dinner
Vishala is unique as the first ethnic restaurant of its type. Chokhi Dhani etc came much later. I had visited it for the first time in the year 1985 when I had gone to IIM, Ahmedabad to attend a one week course for Women Executives and which became the bedrock of N number of programmes I conducted for women officers of SBI where I was working.


Visiting “The Village” in one of the Malls in Ahmedabad was yet another unique experience. The Munshi sitting at the entrance charged the entry fee and then the guy at the entrance checked the ticket and branded a stamp on our left hand with the violet stamp ink which I initially found quite ridiculous but was quite impressed when I was told that one could go in and out of the restaurant by showing this multi-entry "visa" which was valid for quite some time. Once inside, it was “Eat As Per Your Capacity” plan. On one side,the youngsters were busy dancing on the beats of latest Bollywood numbers played at very high volume .... discotheque of sorts and on the other side were an astrologist in one corner and a tarot card reader in another, combining East with the West!!

A truck in the village
Starting with “ Poorvi Chaniya Maniya” there were stalls for Goal-gappe, chaat-papri, dosa, Punjabi dhaba food etc. The ambience was rustic with rough unpolished wooden tables and chairs and kites in the ceiling. There also was a truck and interesting quotes from the truck rears adorning the place some of which I have tried to add here. As we sat enjoying the street food, a chai-wala came on his bicycle sounding the typical old time cycle ki ghanti. Good change, good fun; laughter and amusement, "the Village" basically was all about that.
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