Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad Day 2: Thol, Sarkhej Roza, House of MG

Even though I slept at 10:00 pm last night, getting up at 4:00 am is a torture. It doesn’t feel like I’ve had 6 hours of sleep; feels like just 15 minutes. I sleep walk into the bathroom, manage to get ready and we set off after waking up the sleeping driver. I am scared that he hasn’t had enough sleep and will doze off while driving. This time, M’s friends don’t join us; so it is just three of us. We set off on the narrow lonely road through sleepy villages towards Thol village. We are not the only ones who have decided to start the day watching a beautiful sunrise at lake side. There are several cars and bikes, mostly college kids, moving in the same direction.

From what I know about Thol, it is a bird sanctuary based around a lake. We had originally decided to go there to get some peace but it doesn’t look like we are going to get peace there what with so many Amdavadis flocking towards the lake. The road till Thol village, though narrow, is smooth. Thereafter, you are required to take a right turn into a kuccha road leading towards the lake. The road is not only full of pits and pebbles, but is also very narrow. We lead a queue of unknown cars to the gate of the sanctuary. The man at the gate surprises by asking for Rs. 250 entry free. He refuses to give a receipt in return when we demand. When we argue, he lamely lets us go. What is disturbing is there is a board mentioning the entry fee, which happens to be Rs. 20. Not only does he try and charge us something higher than the authorized rate, he forgoes the authorized fee totally! He ought to have charged Rs. 20 from us, atleast. The sanctuary deserves it.

I am still left pondering over this while E & M struggle to get out of the car and brrrrr, it is cold! We fish out our sweaters and stoles and work our way up towards the lake. The air is foggy and misty. I am dying to have a look at the peaceful waters. But what do I hear? Not birds. Not water. But college kids hooting and teasing each other. Darn. I want serenity! I want to hear the sounds of birds’ wings flapping against the water!

Like us, several college student groups and families have come to watch the birds and sun rise. The recommendation of this place must have been so strong such that so many people managed to come here at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning!

We walk along the lake and move down towards the woods on banks of the lake. The woods are filled with dried trees whose branches are bent and twisted in weird angles. Somewhere towards the sunset the place is likely to look eerie but now it looks plain heavenly. We may all be in a pensive mood looking at the surroundings but the college kids are far from being pensive. They are having fun posing and getting themselves clicked.

I am happy the natural state of the lake is still preserved. Though there are spots where polythene packets and plastic bottles are dumped (can’t help that in India), the surroundings are generally clean and odourless. Here is one place where the air is actually pollution and dust free.

After spending sufficient time there, we realize that the sun has risen and will soon be in its full glory. We are beginning to feel the heat. We decide to head next to Sarkhej Roza and have breakfast on the way. Our driver seems to be unhappy with us and doesn’t like us giving him conflicting, sudden directions. Though most places are closed because it is still quite early in the morning, we manage to fine a small open restaurant and thela that serves breakfast dishes like poha, dabeli, tea, etc. We have some heavenly poha and push off towards the old dargah.

After losing our way, we reach via dusty narrow roads into the interiors of the place called Sarkhej (which is located off S G Highway). We pay the entrance fee and go in where we are asked to remove our shoes (and my friend who is wearing knee length capris is asked to cover herself a bit more).

DSCN5060

DSCN5068

DSCN5093

DSCN5142

DSCN5169

DSCN5128

DSCN5171

The architecture is very similar to what we saw in Champaner and Adalaj Step Well. The same meshed walls, arches and doors. It is still a photographer’s delight. I still can’t have enough of it. The entire area is very huge and contains some havelis, step wells and mosques. These structures are placed away from each other (around a huge ground that used to be a pond sometime) and it is unthinkable of to walk around in the sun. E still decides to take us to the huge water pipes and stepwell located behind the mosque area.

We go through the neighbourhood village, down the dirty stairs dodging garbage and cow dung and walk across the ground towards the huge water pipes. There is a step well too beside it but the area is so stinky that we rush out from there. I do not understand why it is so difficult to maintain basic cleanliness in India. Does every free space have to be filled with rubbish? Do people have to dirty around compulsorily? Had it become their compulsive habit?

On our way back, because we cannot go back the same way we came in by because of the heat, we try another way and end up trespassing people’s residence compounds! It is quite embarrassing. The ladies of the house (luckily, the men are mostly not in sight) are too surprised to say anything. They probably do not know whether to stare at us or shout at us. We pass through narrow lanes where clothes are getting washed, children are having their baths, water is flowing from the washing areas onto the road and goats roam around lazily.

It is hardly 10:30 am when we touch back S G Highway. We decide to go to Iscon Mall which is hardly 10 minutes away. Now, I know how dangerous mall can be to my bank balance. I still agree because I feel sticky and feel like I’m covered in dust and desperately want to splash water on myself. E & M rush to Accessorize like ants rush towards chocolate. I try to keep away but end up trying glares and bags and keeping them back on the racks with a heavy heart.

I come across these sweethearts at the store. The moment they see the camera pointing towards them, they rush to the glass door and stand with their back towards me. The boy is especially cute with his floor length ‘shorts’. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance on my part to get some decent snaps of theirs. Not only do I leave Accessorize with lot of remorse, not having bought the Rs. 3,500 messenger sling bag and Rs. 1,500 floral glares, I also get shooed out of 2 washrooms by grumpy, aged cleaners for trying to come in when cleaning is in progress. Not a good welcome at the mall, isn’t it?

DSCN5187

DSCN5184

We make a few purchases, have milkshakes and juice and leave for the city. Our next stop is lunch. No doubt, I am starving by now. But what makes the prospect of lunch more alluring is the place at which we are going to have it. We have chosen the heritage hotel, House of MG for this. Ever since we first decided this trip, a couple of months ago, and E told us about this hotel and I visited the website, I have been waiting for thismoment. House of MG has been the highlight of this trip.

The hotel exceeds my expectations. The interiors are beautiful. Old memoirs and collections of the family home are preserved and displayed proudly to visitors. I am delighted to have come to this place. We hurry towards their rooftop restaurant, Agaashaye, which serves authentic gujarati food. I am a big fan of gujju food (Mandap at Baroda being my favourite restaurant) and I cannot wait to try this one. The open area is decorated with colourful folk puppets and low diwans with gujarati print & mirrored bed sheets. However we cannot sit there during day time. So we head towards the air-conditioned restaurant which is made of wood and stained glass. Waiters in white kurta-pyjamas and bandhini aprons welcome us warmly. And my expectations are met again. The food is simply wonderful. I manage to finish off everything on my plate and have 2 bowls full of basundi (have been wanting to have it since I shifted to Baroda 4 months ago).

DSCN5212

DSCN5233

DSCN5260

DSCN5245

photo 2

I am stuffed to the maximum by the time we leave. We spend some time in their garden restaurant, which is called The Green House, and shop for organic soaps and other skin care products at the Bodyline stall (the in-house brand of House of MG). And whom do we bump into? Abhishek Kapoor (director of Rock On!) with what looks like a film unit.

A sad realization comes that the end of our mini vacation is approaching. We pass Law Garden area, which is famous for Gujarati traditional costume and metal jewellery) but we dare not step out to shop as it is too hot. We stop briefly at a second hand book stall at a roadside near IIM and buy some books. We conclude our trip with cold coffee at a small (and not so clean) cafe which is a popular hangout place for youngsters. I must say that the coffee is amazing. E & M take 2 glasses each while I resist the second one. We do not hang out there for long not only because we are totally out of place there because of our age but also because of the cigarette smoke.

We drop off E & head towards Baroda. I feel refreshed and serene. I go back home thinking that I must research and explore the treasures of Gujarat,

Categories: Ahmedabad, Gujarat Diaries, India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Away we go, to Ahmedabad and more.

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.

1

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.

11

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.

2

3

4

5

6

7

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.

8

9

10

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.

22

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.

Some tips:

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)

Categories: Ahmedabad, Gujarat Diaries, India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ahmedabad Trip–The Fun Itinerary

We are geared up for our Ahmedabad trip. We’ve postponed it 2 times already leading to a one month delay. Finally, the time has come. When E sent this itinerary (since she is from Ahmedabad and is going to be our guide for 2 days), the excitement that had fizzled out because of the indefinite postponement, has emerged again.

Saturday : 24.03.2012

0400 : E wakes NS up
0405 : NS is already awake since she has to choose what to wear(that takes time)
0430 : NS wakes M up to check if she is not dozing off
0445 : NS and E are almost done, ready to go down to the car
0500 : E and NS get ready to pick M up
0530 : Weach M’s place and they leave immediately
0600 : We have reached outskirts of Baroda
0730 : We reach the outskirts of a’bad
0800 : We go to IIM thela for poha/maska bun/anda-maggi and chai (traditional a’bad breakfast)
0845 : We leave for Modhera, The Sun Temple
1000 : We reach Modhera and are joined by M’s sister friends
1030 : We shoot a lot of photos until M is exhausted since NS can never get tired of getting her photos clicked
1100 : We plan to leave
1130 : We actually leave
1200 : E shows the other girls her college enroute to Adalaj Step Well
1230 : 5 girls reach adalaj step well
1245 : 2 girls go down and deeper into the earth as it is cooler down there
1300 : NS is still clicking photos not of her but of the carved walls
1345 : Girls have had enough of stones and are now hungry
1400 : Girls head out immediately to first eat out place-“Upper Crust”
1430 : Reach upper crust
1600 : Girls now have glucose in their blood. Girls can now run and shop
1630 : Girls head to Law Garden/CG Road for silver Jewelry shopping
1730 : Its evening time, oh wait..girls are not done shopping
1800 : E takes girls to Zen Cafe and shows them MF Hussain’s questionable, un-decipherable, coded paintings
1845 : Paintings  are still confusing, girls enjoy a drink at the cafe and leave soon
1915 : Girls leave for dinner at “The House of MG ”
1945 : Girls are awed by the restaurant at the House of MG-Agashiye
2100 : Girls are in a gujju mood as they munch gujju dinner
2130 : Girls decide to go out for a drive or have ice cream
* please note E has to pick some stuff in the evening from Vastrapur. Will accommodate when nearby

Sunday : 25.03.2012

0000 : Girls might decide to go to Zaveri Bazaar at mid night to have pineapple pizza or can go to Jasuben’s pizza
0430 : Girls wake up. They don’t want to
0530 : Girls leave for “Thol lake”
0600 : M and NS are awed by the beauty of Thol lake. (The others have already been there)
0700 : Girls appreciate the sun and the water and the birds if they get lucky
0800 : E takes girls to a paratha dhaba sorts for breakfast where they give 5 gms Amul butter with every paratha
0900 : The day is theirs
1000 : The girls go to old a’bad for a heritage walk conducted by themselves. They meet The King of Ahmedabad here-King Ahmed Shah’s tomb
OR
1000 : The girls decide to visit Sarkhej Roza another architectural heritage site
1230 : E takes girls to “Mint Route” a new restaurant near her hostel
1400 : Girls enjoy Mexican/Italian/some other cuisine food and are yawning
1430 : Girls choose to shop again, at the places they have missed
1600 : Girls can go to the new Alpha mall (it is really huge but nothing interesting apart from that)
1700 : The two sisters say bye to M, NS and E
1800 : E catches her train from A’bad Rly station

And a pleasant weekend comes to an end.

Yippiee!!

Categories: Ahmedabad, Gujarat Diaries, India, Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.