Sunday, August 29, 2010


Its been three months since we first set foot in Ahmedabad on 30 Jun 10. I had come here for a day before I took up this assignment. In that one day and night that I had spent here in early June, I had travelled about 250 kms and had seen that the BJP had lived up to its promise of 'Bijli, Paani and Sadak'. I was to move here from Bangalore and had a lot of reservations - incidentally Bangalore is also ruled by the BJP. I met a few Amdavadis who told me that once you come to this city, you would love it here, and would most definitely settle down here... they said 'everyone does, and so would you'. My wife and I thought about it and since we did not have much to lose - as a matter of fact we would gain a lot, as we were moving North, I agreed to take up this job.

There is something in this city that slowly starts to grow on you. There is a certain vibrancy in the air. Every one, including the auto rickshaw driver, is friendly. Distances are short and there is a happy mix of modernity with traditionalism. Weekends are a treat in this city. Gujjus love to eat and the whole town is out on weekends - restaurants, there are plenty of them, are all full. Every street has regular mobile eating joints - that move in a van - park on the side of the road - about 15 - 20 plastic tables with four chairs each are off loaded and you have the roadside restaurant ready to serve 'dosas', 'chinees', 'momos', 'rajasthani', and any other dish that one can think of. Roads are wide and so these restaurants that start after office hours donot block traffic. People love them - one can see them doing good business.

Ahmedabad is the seventh largest city in India - it is raring to become a metro city - requirement is population over 50 lacs. It is getting there. Gandhinagar is the state capital - a new well planned city - the only city after Chandigarh to be planned from the scratch. It is lush green - specially after the monsoons. It is a treat to travel on the wide 4/ 6 laned highways around Ahmedabad.

This Friday evening I had gone to the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar - the temple is really beautiful; the complex even more so - it is a pity that cameras are not allowed inside after the terrorist attacks on this temple. The temple also has a laser show of about 45 minutes duration - it is a must see for the people who love to watch the latest in technology - this show is really beautiful. However, the contents of the show are even better. I got to know for the first time that 'Bha' in Sanskrit meant 'prakash' or light, and 'rat' meant 'khoj' - so the name 'Bharat' stands for 'in search of the light'. Now that I know, I believe there could be no better name for this country than Bharat. The laser show is spectacular but the message is even more so. A video giving the trailer of the show is available. Enjoy the video now, and if you ever happen to be in Ahmedabad, do not miss the show.

Today I visited another place, 'Adalaj ni vav' - step well in Adalaj. This was built in 1498 - it is a well with steps going right up to the well which is five stories down. The structure is supported on pillars with intricate carvings on all the red sand stone walls. Archaeological Survey of India has declared it a heritage site - but we Indians do not have any time for our heritage - we have so much of it, that it does not attract us any more, me included. Guess when did I first see the Qutub Minar - 1990, although I used to go through Delhi every year. In 1989, I had gone to see the Washington monument - paid $ 8.00 and stood in queue for 2 hours and went up listening to the guide tell us about how the monument was built when there were no cranes, etc. etc., and my thoughts went home to the Minar that was built many centuries before that and I could visit it free, but had never done so. I landed in India in 1990 and first thing that I did was visit the Qutub Minar.

Adalaj ni vav entry is free. There are plenty of visitors now, but sadly the government is slow to understand the potential to earn revenue from the visitors - this revenue can help maintain these sites. Wish we can adopt a public private model to make these sites tourist friendly. I am sure a number of our big business houses would love to take-over and maintain these heritage, sites as per international standards - parking, toilets, guides, dustbins, snacks, water, etc.


P.N. Subramanian said...

The water show was great. I came across something similar at Singapore. The step well seems to be well kept but I agree with what you say. Thanks for a wonderful post.

BK Chowla, said...

That is why Modi wants congress to fight him on development and not in courts

J P Joshi said...

P.N.Subramanian: People who have seen both say that this one is better - it is not only science displayed aesthetically; it is the use of this science to show case the deep wisdom of our land that is explained in simple easy to understand words and dialogue. The step well is preserved, but the surroundings are absolutely rustic, as the well is located in a village - abandoned cows, stray dogs, young kids playing cricket in the yard, no parking, vegetable market at the gate, and so on. No guides except for the solitary board put up by ASI. We would understand its significance if somebody could tell us the context in which it was built; the engineering and architectural talent available at that time; the 'why' and 'how' of the chosen design; etc. etc. Right now we go, see and come back - we cannot seem to go back in time and see what had been achieved in 1498 in this case, and why it is our heritage of which we could justifiably be proud.

J P Joshi said...

BK Chowla: Agree with you on this one.