Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Day in Ahmadabad

This is our last day. We have done a lot: visited several institutions, recorded material, collected information, created writings. Now I would like to see some more of Ahmadabad - we only had been there for our project activities. I had heard that the old town would be worth seeing. Also I wanted to be a bit adventurous - and take a train.

Strangely enough, nobody of the locals recommended to take the train. Our hosts at the university offered to provide a car, as they have done during all the time. But Brian also agreed that taking the train would be worth doing, to get a bit more immersed in local life. Only Brian, Jane, Asha, and myself would go. We had an invitation to a private home for lunch: a participant of the Creativity Conference last week had invited our group, she wanted to introduce us to her family and offer us some homemade Indian food. After breakfast we take off. First we take one of these rickshaws from the guest house to the train station in Anand. All four of us sqeeze into the small vehicle, and this time I record with the hand-held camera. At the train station there is a large lane-crowd in front of the ticket office. The train leaves in a few minutes, no way that we would get tickets in time. But Asha knows her way: she goes to some dealer stand outside of the station and buys 4 tickets. Each costs 15 rupies, which is 20 pence, for a 2-hour train ride.

We are rushing to the platform. Interestingly the low sensitivity for risk again shows, as everybody just crosses the railway tracks instead of using the bridge... and we do that too.

The platforms are very crowded, for trains in both directions. This is the train line which leads south to Mumbai.

The train is very crowded, people sit on the floor. Nevertheless we find a seat bench and chat a little with the local travellers. The train does not go very fast, max. 80 km/h, so it takes 2 hours until we arrive in Ahmadabad. Trupti, our host, and her husband are already there and welcome us in the station. They drive us a bit around, then we go to their home. The streets are loud, but these side streets are very quiet. A nice well-maintained house, with garden. We sit down, and Trupti wants individual introductions from everyone. So each of us gives a brief CV. I film it, and when it is my turn, Trupti films. We then have excellent food, brought out from the kitchen by the servants. Suddenly a shout from the kitchen: there is a monkey! But before I can get a climpes of it, the monley disappears out of the window from where he (she?) came from.

Jane and myself are taking off, as we only have a short time for exploring the old town of Ahmadabad. Again we feel this mode of surprise, about our desire to see some old things, when the town has to offer so many new things... it seems that many Indians consider some of their heritage as outdated, dirty, full of traffic, crowded, cramped... or is it just because the Old Town is Muslim?

Brian and Asha stay, we will meet at the bus station. So Jane and I take a rickshaw towards the centre. Again the GPS ix very helpful, as I can trace our routes and can indicate the proximity to the train station for example, even though I do not have a map of Ahmadabad on the device.

We see a great old gate and get out of the vehicle. Then we walk towards East and Southeast into the town. Narrow streets, many vendors. We follow just arbitrarily the path, always knowing that we can just get out and take a rickshaw which would bring us right to the bus terminal. Many nice old buildings, often damaged and not cared for. Suddenly a small gate, and behind there is a temple. Houses with intricate masonry work. We have no idea what these houses are, there are no signs, it is all being used for daily life and not kept as a museum.

After one hour we get back onto the main road and take a rickshaw to the bus terminal. When we arrive, we see this is a large area wich many busses... and we have no idea which one would go to Anand. Fortunately, as we go around one corner, we see Brian and Asha, and she guides us to the right bus.

So we go back by bus. Noisy, dusty, but it drives. Takes about 2 hours as well, across country roads, through small towns and villages. Unfortunately it si getting darker already, so my pictures do not come out well... too much motion blurriness. In Vallabh Vidyanagar for the last time a rickshaw, then we are back at the guest house.

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