Friday, November 07, 2008

2nd Day in Ahmadabad

In the morning we have a breakfast at 8am. I keep taking Strepcil lozenges to remove the soreness in my throat, and I seem to have slight success. This morning we will attend the morning prayer of the students - there will be a few hundred of them, and Brian and myself are invited to say a few words. But before that, I use the opportunity to take a few video shots outside of the campus. I put my in-ear microphones on and record the sounds of the passing traffic and the voices of the people, while recording simultaneously with the HD video camera while walking along the street. The people look at me slightly amused, but friendly, and often wave and begin talking to me. They often pose for a picture, and then they even thank me for taking a photograph of them.

The contrast here in this city is remarkable: busy noisy street traffic on one side, with busses, cars, rickshaws, modern store fronts, advertisement for internet. This is the 21st century, as it is in many cities around the globe. But in side streets off the main street appears a different side of life: quiet, with small dealers selling services, fruit, and other items of daily life. This appears to remain from another century, back in time.

At 10:00 there is the morning prayer of the students in the prayer hall. Brian and myself are invited to attend - and to give a short address to the students. We walk into the hall and take a seat on the front bench, facing towards all the students (I estimate about 300), who are sitting on the floor, rotating their little mobile spinning wheel. On the right to me is a musician who plays on a type of mobile harmonium a prayer song.

Brian talks about poetry and the environment. I talk about the Leeds Met Gandhi Hall and the use of technology for creative purposes. Each of us only has 10 minutes, and what we say is sentence by sentence translated into Gujarati by our host Dr. Jadeja who accompanied us from Villabh Vidyanagar.

Afterwards we visit the Tribal Museum which is on the campus of the university. It shows arts from different tribes in India. Many people in the countryside still live in tribal communities, and the museum shows some of the tools and the housing that is common.

In the afternoon we head home with our vehicles. We pass a famous mosque where just now the Friday prayer takes place. This mosque is famous for its intricate windows. Adam, our poet from Gujarat / Bolton, takes the opportunity to participate in this prayer. We get out of the car and have now to cross the street - not easy when there appears to be no working traffic light in sight! Actually there is one at the nearby intersection, but it does not seem to have lights for pedestrians - it just combines three different traffic streams into an endless traffic stream which to cross appears to be highly suicidal. I record a video of the crossing, when Adam goes ahead, and Brian and Asha follow.

We continue towards Vallabh Vidyanagar and arrive at the Guest House around 16:30. Since our stay began here, I had not yet explored the area and surroundings, so I begin a walk on the main street towards Anand. I am not very well, my head hurts, and I have almost used all tissues for blowing my nose - so I look for finding some more tissues. I go to a few stores on the side of the road, but when I show them my last package of tissues, the store clerks / owners shake their head. Even at a "medical store" no tissues are available. When I mention that the tissues can be also in a larger box, the store owner goes back into the storage and brings out a dusty green box with tissues. The last and only one. It has the printed note "expiration date September 2005". I show this to the clerk, and he rightfully replies that tissues do not really expire. Well, they are a bit rough, but fulfill their purpose.

I walk further, take pictures of building construction and high-rise apartment houses. A cow follows me for some reason, and the guys who sit at the side of the road have a good laugh about this. After darkness sets in, I wave to a rickshaw taxi and drive back.

We have been invited by Sunil Shah for a nice dinner - his wife cooks an excellent fusion cuisine which has European and Indian elements.

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