Monday, January 22, 2007

Ahmedabad: Day One

After a mildly grueling 9 hour train ride in 3rd class without a seat reservation I've arrived in the bustling, polluted, but incredibly welcoming city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat state. The train ride provided a sneak peak into the people of Gujarat: friendly, outgoing, and hospitable. You're never in want of food on an Indian train, even in a decked out 3rd class compartment. Vendors hawking samosas, rice, chai, and fruit board the compartment at every station, even if that means they have to jump in and out of the emergency window because the entry ways are inaccessible. On top of that, the family that "took me in" and offered my a little space on their upstairs loft bench seat had come well prepared with chapatis, curd, and a potato and vegetable masala.
Arriving at 2 AM in an unknown city is never my first choice, but sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles, so I put myself in the hands of an autorickshaw driver to whisk me off to the promised "cheap and good" hotel. After a few tries I found a suitable room with the only downside being the gang of pigeons that live directly above the room and march around from early morning to dusk, periodically shitting on the windows and losing feathers through the small hole in the roof where the fan is mounted.
With remarkably few foreign tourists here, the people are friendly and genuine. In the space of a few hours I've been invited into several homes, had a free of charge "heritage tour" of the old city, and learned quite a bit about the history of the place. One striking thing is how divided the Muslim and Hindu parts of the city are, though they are both warm and welcoming (to me anyway, though not to each other).
I've also had a good run-down of the other places to visit in the state. It's a significant place for Hindus as it is [supposedly] Krishna's old stomping grounds. On the far western end of the state which borders the Arabian Sea, several successively older cities are submerged underwater, flooded and abandoned as the oceans levels have risen over the centuries. There's also a handful of wildlife sanctuaries, including Sasan Gir, which is the main home in India of the Asian lion.
Wild lion anyone?

1 comment:

pj said...

I cannot stomach the thought that you are implying that your readers eat wild lion so I must assume you are inviting us to go on a photographic style "hunt" for lion. If you do see some interesting native creatures please post the pictures - they are sure to bring oooo's and ahh's from your readers.

So, does it seem very crowded? You always hear from people who have been there how crowded and dirty it is. What's your reaction?