Saturday, November 08, 2008

In and around Villabh Vidyanagar

On Saturday we visit the painter Kanu Patel in his home and atelier. He gives us some very nice presents: booklets and brochures with his paintings. He shows us several of them, and I consider buying one. Price would be £100, not too bad, but quite high considering the local expense level.

Our group then begins preparing for tomorrows online conference with our project partners in Yorkshire. We set out an agenda, and I collect bits of work, upload them to our shared server where our Yorkshire group can access them.

In the afternoon we are visiting the Sardar Patel memorial, a few kilometers east of Vallabh Vidyanagar. This is a whole park and conference center, with information displays about his life and legacy. The guides there take a few pictures of us which we will later receive by email. One interesting moment occurs at the end of our guided tour through the facilities, when the main guide shows us a powerpoint presentation on his PC: first it appears like there would be some thought-provoking questions, but we soon realise that this has a strong anti-Muslim inclination, and we do not really know how to respond to this. The slides seem to indicate that the Hindu minority is making a lot of concessions to the Muslim minority - quite explosive material (no pun intended, in the light of the events in Mumbai 2 weeks later...) and very provocative. We decide not to go into a deeper discussion, but we leave slightly concerned about the very difficult situation of these two groups who appear to be quite hostile towards each other.

We visit a nearby temple. This area is very rural. A herd of sheep and cows passes by on the road, guarded and guided by a shepherd. We then drive a few miles north towards the town of Vadtal. First it looks from the outside like an unremarkable village in the middle of nowhere. But as we come closer, there are suddenly many people, walking through a sort of town gate into a large square, surrounded by buildings. Music is played from loudspeakers. In many small stalls, drinks, food, and other stuff is being sold. The whole place appears very busy.

In the centre of this square, there is a temple. Inside are colourful statues of some gods. I have no clue what this all is about, but the atmosphere is very intense and lively. When we leave at sunset, we see a few monkeys climbing on the roofs.

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