Given the fact that we slept after 12:30 am, it seemed highly impossible that we would get up at 4:00 am on Saturday morning. And even if we do, we would enjoy the journey ahead. And if you would remind me of my possible future homeless situation, I would have felt even worse.
Luckily, we sail through. We leave a few minutes after 5:15 am to pick up M. We are armed with lots of music CDs for the journey; M is to get the food stuff. While we are putting our backpacks into the boot of the car, the excitement starts creeping in. Yayyy! Its travel time!!
M is laden with a huge packet of chips and biscuits and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. but since 3 girls have assembled together, there is another activity that becomes a priority over eating – gossiping. So we attack the Chocopie and biscuits and bitch, gossip and chat about everyone all the while saying that we don’t really care what happens to others.
The highway looks beautiful. It is cool and a bit cloudy and the roads are lined with trees adorned with bright yellow flowers. We are left spellbound. We are wide awake by now looking forward to the rest of the trip.
Our first planned stop is the thelas opposite IIM-A for breakfast. E & M squeal at the first sights of IIM-A premises. Joggers hang around in front of the thelas chatting and sipping chai. The hawkers are getting ready for the full day preparation and supply of poha, chai, omelette, anda maggi, and the famous maska bun. A few students come out of IIMA, one of them holding a huge SLR camera, and order nashta while all of us stare at them like they are celebrities. Makes me wonder what makes us in awe of them. Is it their intelligence or just the amplified sheer perceived glamour?
We take a walk along the road while we wait for M’s friends and come across a group of Gujju elderly men (retired businessmen, I assume) playing games after completing their morning exercise routine. I attack the herbal soup and juice thela while E & M observe the men. The carrot and beet juice, a tiny glassful that costs Rs. 5, is heavenly and perfect to kick-start a long day.
After an hour or so, we are finally on our way to Modhera to visit the Sun Temple there. Modhera is near Mehsana and can be reached within 2 hours from Ahmedabad by road. A state highway, flanked by fields on both sides, leads to Modhera.
We do get lost at times and the heat beats down on us heavily but we make it to the grand sun temple. Not before we enter all kinds of wrong temple premises. Gujjus are religious people but I realized the heights of it only today. The tiny area of Modhera and the way from Mehsana to Modhera is filled with temples. People from nearby places are flocking in and out of the temples / aashrams. They are either barefooted or have huge tikas in their foreheads and invariably have ‘I am the biggest follower of God’ written all over them.
The Sun Temple has a huge structure in front of it which could have been a pond some day. The whole structure is made up of infinite number of steps and pillars. The beauty of the temple is that the deity was placed in such a position in the olden days that when the morning rays fell on it, it would light up the entire area of the temple and surrounding gardens and hence the name Surya Temple. Alas, the deity was then stolen. The temple is still is decent condition and photo worthy. The temple is surrounded by huge lawns and some time can be spent relaxing under the trees. Read more about it here.
We are quite famished by the time we finish looking at the temple and taking photographs. We move towards our next stop which is Adalaj Step Well. This is located on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. I expect it to be a step well similar to the one we saw at Champaner but this is quite different and very beautiful. This isn’t spiral. The carvings on the pillars, ceiling and walls take our breath away. I do not know what to shoot, how to shoot so as to have enough of the architecture and to do justice to it. We do not want to move out because it is so cool here. We click to our heart’s desire and spend some time relaxing on the stairs.
I am struck by the cleanliness and good maintenance of both the structures we see today. The sun temple has a meagre entry fee; for the step well there isn’t any fee. Barring the bats that made their home in the sun temple, the temple was clean. Gujarat is one of those few states that preserves its history and promotes it well.
It takes lot of self control and efforts to leave the cool comfort and go out in the heat again. I am driven simply by the thought of food. We have planned to have food at one of the oldest non vegetarian food serving restaurant in Ahmedabad, Upper Crust. E has been praising this joint since ages and visits it every time she is in Ahmedabad. I am by now curious to know what this place is all about.
Upper Crust is located on the University road. When we reach there at lunch time, the place is packed. It isn’t a very big place; just some 6 tables which are occupied by hep well dressed college kids. We order sizzlers, sandwiches, pasta and some mocktails to drown them and I must say that Upper Crust lives up to my expectations. The brown sauce of the sizzlers is unique. I haven’t ever tasted it anywhere before. It is less salty and has a tinge of sweetness in it. I do not exactly feel heavy after ravishing each and every thing on my plate. In fact I feel very very content. Not to forget the Brownie. If the dessert isn’t chocolate, it isn’t dessert.
No trip is complete without shopping. E then takes us to a store called European Catalogue. So, I am this shopaholic who can never have enough shoes and bags. So how much ever I resist, I end up buying a pair of tiger print high heeled pumps. But the feeling of satisfaction? Priceless!
A part of the evening is spent in finishing off some pending work at C G Road which used to be the most popular, hep commercial area of Ahmedabad before the malls came up at SG Highway. Still, it does have lots and lots of shops most of them unbranded but expensive. Most of these are old business houses and people come here only or the sake of trust and old relations.
We next move to hang out at the Zen Cafe which is located inside the CEPT campus. For a person like me who has never really had a normal college life, it was difficult to relate to a typical collegians hang out place. CEPT campus has those typical sights of hostel life – couples sitting below trees talking; group of friends bunking on stairs; late work at library or labs; graffiti on walls; hanging around the canteen.
Zen Cafe is an open air joint with low tables and chairs of seating. Its dim lighting was enough to send M in a nostalgic dreamy mode. This is the kind of cafe she has always wanted to open. It isn’t the food there but the ambience that is to be experienced. The place is crowded and noisy but E informs us that a few years back, this used to be a place where friendships and love were born, artists created their work and friends cried over separations. Today, it is just a happening place every young person wants to be a part of. While we make our way out, we see a bunch of girls dressed in skimpy and tight clothes waiting for space quite obvious to the glances everyone was giving them on their way out. So typical.
Another important thing worth seeing in the campus is The Cave painted by none other than M F Hussain himself. The inside of the cave is dimply lit by snake lights. The ceilings and walls boast of typical MF art. Something distinctive.
It is sad that we have no energy left but there is still lot of desire to make the most of our trip and see whatever new places we can during our limited time here. We are not hungry and I am totally exhausted but agree to the group’s decision to go to this restaurant called Tomato. This is a vintage sort of restaurant which serves Mexican and other continental food. The walls of this restaurant are covered with vintage posters, signs and items of old American movies and music. The pictures will say it all.
I am not hungry. I just order a grape and orange mocktail and fish chips with tartar sauce. Both are, I must say, brilliant.
I am almost stumbling out of the restaurant and into the car which we’ve finished our food. I am so exhausted and badly need to sleep. We have more ambitious plans tomorrow. Today’s day has been very satisfactory but I wish it wasn’t so hot.
1. Avoid visiting sightseeing spots near Ahmedabad during summer as Ahmedabad is comparatively hotter.
2. In case you do, decide to visit early. The earlier the better.
3. Modhera can be reached by car from Ahmedabad.
4. Restaurants / shop of Gujarat Tourism (by the name of Toran) is available at both the spots or snacks, water and cold drinks.
5. Wear cotton clothes and open sandals to avoid sweat.
6. Keep your camera fully charged. And take a camera. A mobile phone camera won’t do here.
(Coming up: Thol Lake, Sarkhej Roza)