Incredible India!

 I love India. I love being an Indian even more. I’m extremely passionate about my role as the citizen of this country. On every Republic and Independence day I sing Jana Gana Mana in the shower. I love our different landscapes, our food, the struggle of the common man and their unbelievably inspiring stories, our culture and traditions, our rich history, every thing. Saying this I’m not in denial. I know India is going through one of it’s lowest phases. Our economy is on an all time low, the parliament sessions are less about passing important bills and more about throwing chairs and blames at each other, there was a gang rape of a 22 year old in one of the safest and in one of my most favourite cities, there is  corruption in every sector, Narendra Dabholkar was shot in broad daylight in my city, and onion is 100rs  a kg. This is the truth which I have to accept, though there is another truth- right now it’s critical for me to not lose faith in the system and the people.  I am not going to lose faith in my vision of a dream India. It will happen.  If not today, in some years. We can’t afford to lose patience. I have a dream project in mind, which I will like to work on after a few years. Thus I’m on a quest of seeing India’s every corner, every city and village. ( whenever I get time from my badminton dream)

This time  around it was Gujarat. I went to Ahmedabad and Surat with my friend Shweta.  She works for an NGO, Parisar. Her goal was to meet different NGO’s in both these cities and find out what they do and how they do it. All these meetings were extremely interesting, I went with her and posed as an intern( not a badminton player) and took down notes.  Our other goal of course was sight seeing and exploring the cities. Let’s start with Ahmedabad.

Shweta- there is a crazy side to her, only few get to see. thankfully im one of them..:)


in a school we visited- all the important questions of life on one window.

we also met some interesting professional  photographers- look closely into that wall, you will see a camera.

Ahmedabad is the capital city. There are huge roads all over the main area of the city. The signals though are never working, not one. I found this really surprising, during the peak hours there would be chaos managed by the traffic police, which looked absolutely overwhelmed and daunted by the task. Being pedestrians is extremely dangerous, especially on the cross roads. Everyone is almost pouncing on each other. The highlight of Ahmedabad is of course the BRTS. It is well run, covering most of the city. We used it for a very small distance and found it very easy to use. Though Karen Nazareth the executive director of SAATH gave us an interesting perspective of the use of BRTS. She told us that the people in the poorer sections, especially women prefer the rickshaw over the BRTS. The reason being that the BRTS looks too swanky and technical to use. They just don’t relate to it and almost avoid using it.


the BRTS


SARKHEJ ROZA



I don’t blame the women. Both I and Shweta had to go from one end of the city to other,and we didn’t know much. We took the rickshaw everywhere. The men riding this rickshaws were extremely decent and honest. They knew each and every address we asked them to take us to. They didn’t charge us more than the meter and bonus they were extremely informative.

GOL METER



QUEEN PALACE AT SARKHEJ ROZA


Ahmedabad is host to a lot of mosques, the Sabarmati Ashram, the Jhumta Minnar, the Step-Well, Sabarmati riverfront, and Akshardham. I’m sure there is much more but these are the most famous and we didn’t have too much time with us either.  The mosques mostly are situated in the old part of the city. The mosques are extremely beautiful structures. The Jama Masjid is huge. The architecture is typical in most of them. The work is all done in stone and with stone. The windows  all  have  different designs. Out of the mosques we saw, we both fell in love with the Sarkhej Roza. The Sarkhej Roza has a mosque, the king and the queen palaces which are mostly broken and only some walls remain. There is a huge lake right in between of the structure. It’s quiet and extremely peaceful. You can sit down in one the windows that looks over the lake and get lost in a different era. The Jhumta Minnar is again a very fascinating structure. There are 154 pillars in total. The most interesting story of this Minnar is that if you climb upto  the top floor and push the Walls, you get a feeling that the MInnar is swaying. Thats how it’s known as Jhumta. Though today you are prohibited to go up, as some fools use these things to kill themselves or accidentally fall. It would have been so cool to experience it swaying.


LOOKING OVER THE LAKE FROM THE QUEEN’S WINDOW

ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL- AT ONE OF THE MOSQUES


154 PILLARS IN JHUMTA MINNAR

JHUMTE MINNARS

The Sabarmati Ashram is another place that we loved. This is where Gandhiji lived with Kasturba for a very longtime. It was home to many poor people, especially the untouchables. Gandhiji sat on his charkha weaving clothes or tended to animals. It’s right on the banks of  Sabarmati. It has a collection of great photos and paintings of Gandhi and an account of the history of the place. When I saw the room where Gandhi used to live and work, I did get some goosebumps. We sat there for a while and felt really peaceful. You have to see it atleast once in your life time.



GANDHIJI’S ROOM


Another interesting place is the Step- Well. It’s called a step well, because you have to climb down 4 floors to reach the well. The step well was made by a Hindu ruler, and you see inspiration of a lot of muslim architecture as well. The step- well was made exclusively for the women. This was where the women would come to gossip, to bath and to pray. The temperature of the water remains refreshingly cool in any season of the year. There is unbelievable amount of work done on the Walls. Every wall is worth your time architecturally.

STEP WELL


CHECK OUT THE WORK


ONE OF THE WINDOW IN THE STEP WELL 



The last stop in Ahmedabad was the Akshardham temple. We were disappointed by it. It is a relatively new structure  in the honour of Swami Narayan.  It’s a huge place made of marble. When you go inside there is a huge sitting sculpture in gold of the Swami. I am personally not a fan of the concept of these temples. It promotes everything other than religion. It offers pav bhaji and Akshardham labeled t-shirts. I have no idea from where the money comes from. If our religious gurus   donate all their money to the government we would not have an economic crises for the next 20 years at least.

After two and a half days in Ahmedabad we headed to Surat. Surat is a developing city and apparently the second cleanest city in India. We didn’t find it to be that clean, though. Also the city has not had public transport or bus service for the last 20 years. All there transport is dependent on the rickshaw, which doesn’t have a meter. There are no traffic signals and being pedestrian is a crime. The city hosts 20 flyovers, and also one that stretches along for 15 kms. The city doesn’t need the flyovers really. The roads are huge and have comparatively less vehicles. There are also 8 to 10 malls in the city. The city doesn’t need the malls either , just like the flyovers. Eighty percent population of the city is poor or lower middle class. I have no idea from where did this mall culture begin. I rather use that place up for a garden or even better, a school.  Surat has nothing to offer sight- seeing wise. Even the local people when asked, say,” Yahan pe Kuch nahi hai. Malls Dekho aap” This is true. There is a fort which is breaking down and being converted into government offices. We tried to find the Dutch Cemetery for an hour but couldnt find it. The only thing in Surat is the cloth Market and lots of places to eat. I loved the Egg Specialty restaurant called Bhai Bhai. It hosts around 250 types of preparations of egg. It’s delicious, it kind of let go of all the disappointment I felt of that fort being converted into a government office.





BHAI BHAI- DELICIOUS




I have to sum up this post with something that Rajeev Bhai our rickshaw Wala in Ahmedabad said, ” Development kya hai? What is development? Old Ahmedabad is in shambles. This is where a lot of Muslims live, where all the beautiful structures are. There is no development here. The government is not bothered.  There is no clean  water to drink. The riots have changed everything. Hindus and Muslims lived  like brothers, now we look at each other with doubt. I was forced to sell my house, after the earthquake for peanuts. Nobody heard us. Pehle apna ghar saaf karo, phir duniya ki socho. All this  hype over the development in Gujarat is a one sided story.  what is shown in the T.V is glossed over and only the  good things are flashed.  One has to remember agar media tumhe raja bana sakti hai to woh tumhe zameen ke niche gaadh bhi sakti hai.”

I didn’t have an exact answer to his question,  ” What is development?”. I need to find the answer, I think all of us need to think about it. The next few years are crucial, it is the time where we have to make a choice. So what’s  it going to be, a mall or a school, river or a road, hills or buildings, flyovers or cycle tracks, religion or a clear conscience? Time will tell!

HE POSED FOR ME- HOPE HE NEVER STOPS SMILING!



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