Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ahmedabad - Fleeting Impressions

I landed in Ahmedabad. I was glad the journey was over. Not so much for me as the old man next to me who looked like he was really unwell. He must have been well over seventy and was accompanied by his wife. A nice Telugu couple, who could have stepped into SPBs and Lakshmi's roles in the movie 'Miidhunam'. It all started off well. Then he started feeling uneasy. He ripped off his shirt. He started sweating. He wanted water. he'd twitch and lie down on his wife's arms. He pulled down the table rest and lay his head down. The young air hostess vanished the moment she saw his rip off his shirt. I asked if he was OK. He said he'd been unwell the day before. His wife, remarkable woman, took out a prayer book and started reading. Old book, with the marks of oil and vermilion, well read and well kept. How much of her life she must have steered through with it in her hands, I wonder. Anyway she kept him alive through the journey with her reading.

I asked is I should call for help. He was adamant. I am fine. I need water. I got him water. I want a lozenge. I gave him one. Lucky I had many. His eye lit up like a kid's. That settled him down a bit. The wife looked at me with big, grateful eyes. The old man settled down some more. The worst was over. The air plane landed with a thud. Both of them thanked me profusely. My deed for the day was done. Told him to stock up on lozenges on the return trip. He nodded. And then asked the dreaded question. 'Where do you work?'
The Ahmedabadi frame - An intriguing contraption on the handle, the thin wire frame
On Indigo flights I have been asked to avoid the sandwiches. I overheard my neighbours on the return flight tell one another that the sandwiches must be avoided. I ordered an upma. Wait for eight minutes she said. I don't think it made any difference. Its not nice.

Ahmedabad was cold. The roads had all the tell tale marks of Swacchh Abhyaan being enforced. White powder sprayed (disinfectant), cleaned roads. But its all external still. people still spat, still threw stuff. It needs more time. More amenities for the public. Dont' don't is easy. Give them stuff to use - urinals, toilets, spittoons, garbage cans.

The traffic is crazy. Worse than Hyderabad. The way the bikes cut across is unbelievable. Anyway we made it to the highway and then the journey to Baroda where I had a lecture.
Another view
On the way back I saw those funny contraptions on bikes which intrigued me in the morning as well. On the handle, a wire like frame would rise in a looping semi circle. It appeared to me to be  a frame that could hold a visor, a large visor before the rider. Only thing was that there was no glass or plastic in the visor. Just the frame.

I asked the driver, Ranchod, what that was. He tells me something really interesting. That frame is to keep the manja or thread that is used to fly kites out. This thread is no innocent thread, and is treated with sharp glass and glue etc and made hard and sharp so it can cut the other kites. Sometimes when the manja hits your throat, Ranchod says, it can scythe through easily like butter. Your head can be lopped off easily if you're not careful he said.  I found that extreme. We have famous manja in Hyderabad too, the murder weapon in Anita Nair's 'Cut Like Wound' but have never seen such a happening - of heads lopped off. But the danger remains and the stories have been told. The frame helps keep the manja away. Wow! Each place has its own little peculiarity.

The radio blared on. Prominent among the ads was one by a company that makes manja. The thread to fly kits. It was a brand that is famous for how tough it is. No warning. If it lops off someone's head what does one do? Is it a murder case? Or an accident case? Or just a festival casualty?

I could not resist asking Ranchod if he foudn any development in Gujarat. He was very vocal. yes. He said. Much has changed. He was happy. Good. The road between Ahmedabad and Baroda was an expressway, well maintained. We stopped and ate at a Reliance stop - the pav bhaji was sweet. Welcome to Gujarat. But the tea was excellent.

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