Please excuse the repeated use of the word “strange” but it is due to the perfect fit it has with what I am trying to say.
Ahmedabad best known for its IIMs and NIDs is a strange town definitely lacking in spirit. The 6.2 million people are primarily Gujarati speaking so much so that even rickshaw walas look confused when you ask them something in Hindi. The city does attract a handful of travelers, tourists and foreigners who come here for strange reasons like research, business, and studies but this lot is always fluctuating. Comes and goes like our seasons!
For anyone who isn’t born and brought up here or does not like Dhokla& sugar thalis you are bound to feel out of place. Don’t worry it’s not you it’s just how they roll in “Amdavad”. There is nowhere to go to socialize or chill unlike other cities in India. No bars (Dry state), no regular clubs, however there are a thousand sports “clubs”, no coffee shops (coffee shops play Britney spears and Enrique on such a high volume that it affects your heartbeat), no appropriate cafes (you will find salad & parathas & biryani & chicken tikka all in one place) and lastly (this one holds true for me) no place you can just be without being stared at!
Ahmedabad does have some ancient museum like sites to visit. Things like the Gandhi Ahsram, the step well, old city structures, museums and some lakes
. I am all up for history and architecture and heritage but these aren’t everyday things to indulge in are they? Having spent more than 7 years in Mumbai I find it beyond strange to have a social life that is home bound within the interiors of 4 walls- sometimes mine sometimes my friends’! It is important to mention that some of the houses and farms I have seen here are no less than palaces/mansions with the finest interiors and absolutely luxurious facilities. It’s a shame you still have to call it a house and not a fortress of some sort. Apart from sightseeing, one really needs places to go to and just hangout. Unfortunately Ahmedabad doesn’t offer these.
So my absolutely original recipe of “How to survive Ahmedabad” is as follows:
You will need a bunch of strange foreigners, preferably Dutch but in case they are hard to find since their country is so small I guess Germans, Italians, Africans anyone is fine, a start up, 10,000 buckets of patience & a small pinch of common sense. Also throw in a geared bike if you can ride that is. There will be no need for a rational mind so if you have one just throw it out of the window.
I have managed almost 5 months here and the reason I am alive is – I am part of a
start up run by the Dutch. Work takes away most of my time. When I do socialize it is with people who are not from here. This becomes “MEGA” (courtesy Dutch colleague) interesting. The questions I am asked are hilarious most of the time. Things like “why are fat ladies allowed to show their big fat tummies from below their saree blouse but skinny girls doing the same is considered slutty? “We cannot live without toilet paper, don’t know how you do it”? (I almost thought of saying how can you NOT use water to clean your bum…eeeeks!) “Is it considered rude to say “no” to people”? “How come there are slums, modern houses and huge buildings all in the same line”? (Have you seen our population!?) Everyday things that I don’t even stop to think about suddenly need a reason and preferably a logical one! Sometimes I really don’t have answers just because I am so used to it and other times I feel like aliens from mars have come to me and want to know all about my planet and people.
It really is an experience I think everyone should go through. The most morose things can become interesting and funny when you think about it. The funniest thing I notice is the sheer gap in communication between us even though both sides speak English.
When they ask “can you stay for this meeting a little longer?”
The reply they get is something like “I had this dinner planned which
I really need to go to but think I can postpone so I guess it’s alright”. To which they will ask again “So can you stay or not?” To which you have to say “Yes.” Not one word more. It’s like they just stop listening after 4 words so invariably have to ask you to repeat what you say. It’s not exactly bad that we Indians love to talk and often get into details that may or may not be necessary.
Another strange thing about people here is no one ever says no to something, it doesn’t matter if they know it/have it or not! For eg: I go to a scooter rent shop and ask if I can rent one for a month. The man in-charge discusses everything about the cost and repairs with me. I am told he’ll get back to me. I don’t know if it will be in 2 hours, 2 days or 2 months. I go again. Samething. I do this every day for a week till I give up! The only logical reason I can think of is he never had a scooter to rent and was scared of saying no thinking I bite.
Apart from my regular dose of entertainment that comes with knowing people from outside India I indulge in home food and more home food in my relatives’ houses. Working, eating, sleeping, eating, cycling, eating, meeting a friend, eating, taking a walk, eating, instagraming, and eating again is pretty much all that I do in this city.
In conclusion all I can say is you’re most welcome to come to this wonderfu
lly weird city but do make sure you come with an exit strategy! Needless to say I hope you have a better time than me.