Just before the flight touched down in Ahmedabad, captain Manmohan Singh (yes, that was the flight captain’s name) announced over the speakers that the weather outside was 20 degree Celsius (at 11:30 at night). I was expecting something in the range of 12 degree since it was December and this part of India is supposed to be colder. But I don’t like cold weather so the announcement was a pleasant surprise especially that coming from a person with the name Manmohan Singh.
This was my first visit to Gujarat so everything I saw goes as ‘first impression’. Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport is a much smaller airport when compared to the one in Bangalore. I’m not sure whether it is big enough for a city aspiring to be one of the best cities in India.
The roads in Ahmedabad are wide in most areas but in the main city roads, the middle two lanes are barricaded and dedicated for the BRT service. Though the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is reported as a great success, not all are happy as it has made the other lanes far too narrow and caused traffic congestion.
I didn’t see many tall buildings in the city because ‘flat’ accommodation style has only started recently, but instead of flats, they have ‘housing society’. A society is a group of houses, typically two storied, in similar style and painting within a compound wall.
Quite strangely there weren’t many banners and posters of Narendra Modi and absolutely no giant cutouts with milk pouring from the top, despite milk being cheap – I think that happens only in Tamil Nadu.
But the most important impressions were, that the2002 riot is not a big deal for many local people, that all the talk about ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ are just media hype and smart marketing by Modi, that Gujjus aren’t that bad – in fact they are sweet people and they eat a lot of sweet; sweet breakfast, sweet lunch and sweet dinner, even their pickle is sweet.
Something I didn’t like: Though I didn’t see many people smoking cigarette on the roadside, I saw people smoking and spitting tobacco inside inter-city bus. First I mistook the cigarette smoke for mist and I was thrilled to see ‘mist’ inside the bus and then a hand holding a cigarette sneaked out of a blanket, tapped the ash off the stub and coiled back into the blanket.
Other interesting things I saw in Gujarat:
The Royal Enfield rikshaw known as Chakda. The Chakda is a Royal Enfield with diesel engine, some sort of shaft drive and it is a passenger vehicle.
The Kankrej cattle is one of Gujarat’s own cattle breeds and they are found everywhere on the roads across the State and the striking feature is they have got big horns.
The Jains in Ahmedabad have a good habit of feeding birds everyday. In their house compound wall they keep a pot of water and grains for the birds and you get to see a wide variety of birds hanging around.
Places you shouldn’t miss to visit in Ahmedabad:
Of course, the first one to visit should be Sabarmati Ashram or Gandhi Ashram. It has that aura of history everywhere.
The latest developments in the city is concentrated around the banks of the river Sabarmati. Modi’s plan is to transform the waterfront stretch of approximately 10.4 km into a thriving residential, commercial and recreational haven.
There are a couple more places to visit in Ahmedabad. The Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar is a major tourist attraction. The design of the temple is somewhat similar to the one in the same name in New Delhi. But photography or use of any electronic items is banned inside the temple complex.
Adalaj Stepwell in the village of Adalaj, close to Ahmedabad, is a must visit place. I will do a seperate post on it soon. Great place for photography.