Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Should Mr. Modi be the next PM of India or not ? --- My two cents

The biggest democratic game in the world's biggest democratic and diverse country has begun.  I'm not a big political analyst to judge to decide why or why not, who can and who shouldn't become the next Prime Minister of India.  As most of the people who'll vote for what they feel is the right party and right candidate, I'm going to do the same no matter what. 

Towards the running to this election and still, there has been a lot of sayings about BJP's prime ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi and not wanting him to be the next PM of India.  The main reason for many people rejecting his candidature for the post of PM is the 2002 Gujarat riots.  Since 2002 the only thing these people opposing Mr. Modi have done is to accuse him of being the only man responsible for the riots. I am not trying to justify here that what happened in 2002 is right.  People being killed in the name of religion, caste or sect is totally unjust, uncivilized and the culprits should be punished.  No where killing of innocent people can be justified, after all we are all humans first.

I just want to draw the attention of all these people towards the numerous 'communal' riots that have happened in independent India. The 1984 Sikh riots, the latest Muzaffarnagar riots, Mumbai riots and many more.  Many central governments and state governments should be held responsible for all these riots and the PM's and CM's during these riots should be banned from contesting just like these people wanting to ban Mr. Modi.  But this hasn't happened and still is not happening.  And we all know why?

People have labelled Mr. Modi as a communally polarizing political figure who if elected to be the next PM might create havoc in a religiously diverse India.  But that's a thing of the future and only time will decide it. 

What I'm looking at today when I go to caste my vote is the development and governance track record of the parties and it's PM candidate.  If I go and look at the current ruling alliance of UPA led by Congress, no way would I want to give them the chance to mis-rule India once again.  In the last ten years of their governance they have broken all the records of scams, corruption, indecisiveness and policy paralysis on economic reforms.  And yet they are arrogant enough to defend themselves for running a good government and portraying themselves as the only option available.

Another option is the new party of AAP under Arvind Kejriwal which for me really is like a big joke.  They really should have had the patience of first giving good governance in Delhi and than prove it at the national front.  Today AAP will just divide the Congress or BJP votes and take the parliament towards a more hung parliament, again very detrimental for the country.  And than lastly comes the so called Third front with the outside support of Congress.  The Third front is the worst option that India can have.  It will take India further deep in its economic crisis and each regional party in the third front would pull for favors towards each region and after few months or years ultimately it'll fall.

So what's the best option that we have got at hand?

1)  BJP led NDA with Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister

2)  Congress led UPA (PM candidate yet not declared)

3)  AAP with Arvind Kejriwal

4) Third front govt. formed of regional parties (who call themselves secular) supported from outside by Congress.

Out of the above as of today my common sense and logic would definitely go for Mr. Modi and why not?

Yes I know most who believe that it was Mr. Modi behind the 2002 riots will say how can we vote for such a person responsible for these acts of cruelty? The facts behind his involvement that are out in public domain has not found him guilty.  But till now many facts must have been erased or hidden and might never be made available to the public. So largely it remains to an individual whether to accept Mr. Modi as a person responsible for the riots or not. As such India as a country have never been religiously a tolerant nation.  Still today many or I should say most parts of the country are not tolerant when it comes to religion, caste, or economic and social status.  Be it urban or rural areas.  Shouldn't we blame ourselves for still being in this mess or should we blame the past governments?

As we stand today at the cross roads of electing the best possible government and the best possible person for the most important government post I found it very difficult to elect the right person.  When I say right, most candidates from all the political parties would not fit in the definition of the right person to the post of PM.  And those who fit are not in the foray for being the PM or are not given the chance.  But still we the people of India shall have to vote and elect the best possible person out of the choices available.  

As I mentioned earlier, I don't want a to see a fractured mandate.  I don't want a corrupt, hopeless, scam ridden govt. and so I don't want the current ruling alliance forming the next government.  Hence I'm left with the only choice of NDA led by BJP and Mr. Modi as the PM.  And for me why not?  

*  12 years of total peace in Gujarat.
* Rapid development in agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, industrial growth.  
*  24 x 7 electricity in even the remotest villages of Gujarat which no other state in India has.
*  Good highways connecting urban and rural regions.

And many more such economic development that Gujarat has seen under his 12 years of governance.  I don't say there aren't any social & economic problems in Gujarat and that it's the best place to live in India, but at least it's a much much better place than most of the cities in India and Gujarat is among the top 3 if not on top when it comes to economic development. 

I very strongly believe that a country will get a government just like the population it has.  Politicians don't descend from heaven or from some alien planet.  They come from among us.  The kind of government we get is a reflection of the mentality of majority of the population.  

And as the nation votes for the next government we hope that this time we get a government and PM which actually leaves behind governance on religion and communal lines, leaves behind governance on social and economic lines, but governs India on the basis of equality.  Equality on religion, equality on gender, equality on economic basis.  


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

One day with 'The legend - Amitabh Bachchan'

How will you react when suddenly out of the blue, you realize that in the next 24 hours there is a high possibility of you getting a chance to be with the great and legendary Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan? For majority of the Indians it will be a dream come true.  I would say even to dream of standing next to him, saying few lines to him and shaking hands with him twice can't be in a dream.

As many would agree, if I call him 'The God' of Bollywood, it would not be inappropriate at all.  To get a chance to spend almost 6 - 7 hours around him while shooting is simply unbelievable for me.  So how did it this happen?  Well honestly speaking it was really very sudden.  And the very first moment when Punit called me and talked about the shoot taking place in Ahmedabad for Gujarat Tourism's advertisement - 'Khushboo Gujarat Ki' it didn't excite me much.  The shooting unit were in need of some foreign people for the shoot. So I shared this idea with few of my friends and they agreed to be a part of the shoot for Sunday.

It was actually by Saturday that the excitement really started to crawl into me.  And it was just to have one picture with Mr. Big B that excited me immensely.  So Sunday 26th of January, on the Republic Day of India, Palak, Daniel, Aida, Christin, Daniela, Anette, Miguel and his wife and myself we started together and reached the first location of the shoot.  It was the Vintage Car Museum at Kathwada  Igor, Lucie and Florencia also came a while after we reached. We all had come as instructed with different outfits and some props, as we had to look like tourists.  Palak and myself were actually not called for the shooting but we thought why not take a chance ;) Just in case if we can sneak in for few shots in the background.  We came to know that the locations after the Vintage Car Museum will be Law Garden market and Sarkhej Roza. All three are kind of a must visit locations for any tourist visiting Ahmedabad.  

The first shot at the Vintage Car Museum started after breakfast.  Everyone and everything was ready for the shot and soon Mr. Bachchan arrived from his vanity van. His personality and aura around him was too gripping.  I was awestruck on the very first glimpse of him.  It was for the first time I was seeing him so close. After the shot he was made to sit in the garden area of the museum and soon the owners of the place came to greet him.  He was presented with a gift and some pictures were clicked as always.  Palak and myself were really getting impatient now to get ourselves clicked with him.  All our other friends (yes foreign friends) had already got the chance to get clicked with Big B right after the shot.  Lucie had the best picture clicked with Mr. Bachchan.  I'm so jealous of her... ;)

Mr. Bachchan pointing towards the gift that he
wanted to show us
So finally we asked our friends to lead us to Mr. Big B for at least one picture with him and they very willingly agreed.  Thank you guys.  So together we all went up to him ignoring all those stopping us and requested Mr. Bachchan for some more pictures. It was just so very nice of Mr. Bachchan that with a smile he stood up and was standing among us for more pictures. What simplicity and humbleness.  His greatness can be experienced just by standing next to him.  After a series of clicking pictures, he suddenly turned to the gift he was presented with and very eagerly wanted to show it to all of us. 
Mr. Bachchan showing the album that he
was gifted
Very fondly he was showing the first part of the album which was filled with 5 and 10 rupee notes whose numbers were exactly the same as his birthday and the date of release of his pictures.  Now that's some gift.  

We all had our questions to ask him and he very gently, happily and politely replied to all what we asked.  Standing next to him one can easily feel the aura of his greatness as a human being. As for me I was just waiting to just tell him that "Sir, it's a honor to meet you in person" and to that one line of mine he smiling extended his hand to shake mine and I willingly took his hand for a warm handshake.  Wow, it was just wow.  I couldn't have asked for more.  It was almost 10 min. of uninterrupted time with him clicking pictures, sharing a nice conversation and some jokes particularly from Christin & Daniel.
Mr. Bachchan with all of us. One life long memory

The next location of the shoot was Law Garden market.  A short shoot at the traditional dress market and soon we left for the last location of the day, Sarkhej Roza.  But before leaving the legend didn't disappoint the huge crowd that had gathered at Law Garden to have just one glimpse of their superstar.  He waved to every part of the crowd and the response was a huge instant roar from the crowd.  

By late afternoon we had reached Sarkhej Roza and a huge crowd had already gathered to see their superstar. While the shot was getting ready, Mr. Bachchan was welcomed by a huge roar from the crowd. Soon he changed for the shoot and was ready.  It is here at Sarkhej Roza while shooting Palak and myself noticed what a perfectionist he is.  Two instances one when he asked for more smoke around the frame to give that spiritual effect and another one was during the next frame when even after the director had got his perfect shot, twice Mr. Bachchan requested to take another shot as he was not satisfied with the shot he gave.  And not to forget that the director was none another than Shoojit Sircar who has directed Vicky Donor and Madras Cafe.

Here also after the shoot Mr. Bachchan didn't miss to oblige his fans by waving at the crowd who had gathered just to have a glimpse of him from as close as possible.  Even the policemen who were around didn't miss a chance to capture his picture on their mobile phones.  I am totally thrilled to be around him on this shoot.  To experience the aura around a great personality, to see his humbleness, politeness, work perfection has been simply amazing.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Exploring BARCELONA - Day 1

My first morning in Barcelona, Friday the 5th of Sept.  I got ready with my host Silvia to visit the place which for an Indian can be nothing short of a shocker.  Just as a westerner getting a cultural shock when landing in any Indian metro city, this place in Barcelona too surely would give anyone from the Indian sub-continent a cultural shock.  "Marbella" beach in Barcelona is quiet famous as the nude beach.  And being nude at this beach is not at all uncommon here.  My host and friend Silvia had this thing in her mind since the time I told her that I'll be visiting Barcelona.  The thing was to take me to the nude beach where she has been quite a regular visitor.

The thought of visiting a nude beach with your host friend is not at all something that ignites the sexual part of yours.  For me it was something very overwhelming and I didn't think of it much before landing in Barcelona. Surely I had my set of anxious queries which were I must say, very well handled by Silvia.  We left in the morning so as to return by noon before it became too hot under the sun.  Silvia was really enjoying the part to know how an Indian would handle being on the nude beach.

We got down at the bus stop and after a 5 minute walk we reached the beach.  Silvia had explained me some basic rules when you are at a nude beach which were quite obvious.  The beach was starting to get crowded by the time we had reached.  People of all different ages, men, women, couples, singles were seen. Also there were some asian and african guys selling Cerveza (beer) on the beach.  Silvia had told me about them and to sell beer like this was illegal in Barcelona. The sight of Marbella beach was really really overwhelming for me.  And as I earlier mentioned there is nothing sexual about being at a nude beach. Rather it's a self liberating experience.  Of course one can't imagine in the wildest of dream to have such a place in India ;) or for that matter in most of the beaches in the world.  We left after a spending some nice few hours at the beach and by the time it got really crowded we left for home.

Tapas & Cerveza 
When we reached home we both were quiet hungry.  And as I had heard of 'Tapas' the very local and common stuff, I was quiet eager to try it. So we went to a nice restaurant nearby and not at all expensive.  Had my first Tapas (Bread with potatoes, cheese and mayonnaise) and Cerveza.

The dance troupe







Also I had received one invitation  to a flamenco dance show from a flamenco dancer (who also was a couch surfer and it was on that evening itself in a bar called 'Gracia Latina' in the area called 'Garcia'. How could I have missed a flamenco concert and that too when it was having free entry? ;)  No way.

The dancer
Silvia told me that Gracia was one area where the streets are so narrow that no buses go.  So we had to walk quite a bit which was ok. ;)  Wow I had never ever been to a flamenco concert and I was pretty eager to see it.  We were the first guests and so we had our seats right in front.  The troupe had 2 singers, 1 dancer and 1 anchor.  By the time the one hour concert which was fantastic, got over the bar was packed.  The flamenco dancer as for me       was extremely gracious and fabulous. The music was fantastic and I could say so as the crowd really cheered them and appreciated the dance a lot. The anchor was quite comic and he knew perfectly how to keep a grip on the audience. 

Day 1 was pretty exciting and in my next few days I was really getting more eager to explore more of Barcelona.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The evening I landed in Barcelona.

Oh Barcelona. My 2nd trip to Europe and I landed in Barcelona on 4th September.  My connection with Barcelona started even before I had landed.  I had met this lovely and vibrant person Gemma in Ahmedabad who belongs to Barcelona and she had already told me that I'm going to love it.  Also during my layover in Istanbul I met these 2 ladies from Barcelona, Rachel and her friend who were returning after their travels in India.  I had some very interesting conversations with them at the airport waiting for my flight to Barcelona.  I reached Barcelona in the evening and as my CouchSurfing friend and host Silvia's instructions, I boarded the airport transfer bus to another terminal and from there reached the metro station.  It was the cheapest option.

Against my expectations, the weather was quiet hot and trust me on this coz I was literally sweating as if I was in Ahmedabad.  Next to me was this spanish guy who had arrived from Denmark.  He too was feeling the heat.  I asked him for some directions and came to know that we both were headed to Passage de Gracia station.  He even helped me to get the metro ticket.  Choosing the best ticket while traveling in European cities is always a tricky thing, since you don't know how many trips you shall be making by the public transport and also when you are on an extremely tight budget.  Also when your country's currency gets depreciated by almost 20% just when your traveling days are near. Damn, it's always frustrating.

So I got down at 'Passeig de Gr├ácia' and as explained by my friend started looking for the street that would lead me to Plaza Catalunya.  I was going round and round looking for directions, asking people and finally I got the directions.  But than another problem, which bus stop I should go? Silvia had told me to look for a building named Bankia.  I just couldn't find it.  I called Silvia and she told me the same, to find the building Bankia. So now I asked a woman at a street side stall, where to catch bus no.68? The lady didn't speak English and I didn't understand her Spanish. :p Ooops. But she asked me with finger signs and I confirmed. She gave me the directions in Spanish and showed me the directions using her hands which I think I understood some 60% ? Well I followed what I understood and voila I was at the bus stop where bus no.68 stopped.  I waited for few minutes and bus no.67 arrived.  In few minutes bus no.68 also arrived.  I greeted the bus driver and asked him I want to go to 'Santal├│ 11'.  Surprisingly the the drivers of both the bus started discussing and what I understood from their conversation was they were discussing in which bus this foreigner should be made to sit.  Interesting, and I got little bit anxious now.  Finally they put me in bus no.67, which made me nervous as I was not following Silvia's advice, but still I was like I'm sure I'll make it.

As the bus started in few min. I got a SMS from Silvia, 'Where are you? Did you board the bus coz bus no.68 just passed from Santalo? Finally I got that I won't be getting down close to where Silvia had told me. After almost 30 min. the bus driver signaled me from his rear view mirror to get down at the stop called Fransesc Marcia.  Now I was kind of completely lost.  So I called Silvia and told her my location and she immediately understood where I was.  In 10 min. she was there to receive me and wow it was great to meet her after almost 8 months when she first surfed my couch in Ahmedabad just after the Kite Flying festival.  

She was renting a big house in a nice quiet neighborhood.  After dinner, the evening was spend chit-chatting about how we both have been doing all these months and to my big surprise the book she had just completed, got an award even before it was published.  I felt like wooow.  This is what meeting new people gives you in life.  Big surprises and the opportunity to meet amazing people like Silvia.  While she was in Ahmedabad we had very little time to know about each other.  But now here I was having like almost 5 days to know more about this wonderful lady.

Friday, 18 October 2013

'God' has announced his retirement.

Sounds very unusual or filmy, isn't it?  But its true.  Yes 'God' recently announced his retirement.  If you still haven't got any clue, let me clear the air.  The 'God' of cricket - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on 10th Oct. 2013. He still has 2 test matches to play against the West Indies. First one in Kolkatta and the second one in his home Mumbai which will be his 200th test match. A great achievement in itself and which shows the level of fitness he still has.  Starting to play international cricket at the age of 16 and than never look back.  He has remained the backbone of Team India's batting line up whether it's a one-day team of a test team.

Sachin when he made his debut
Wonder why he is referred as 'The God of Cricket'?  Well playing international cricket for almost a quarter of a century, carrying the pressure of a cricket crazy nation with more than a billion people, breaking most of the batting records, playing the game with utmost honesty & cricketing spirit, getting the respect of people across the entire cricketing world and still being one of the most humble sportsperson is definitely something that makes him the messiah of the game. 

I think I was just in primary school when Sachin made his debut in test and one-day international cricket against Pakistan in Karachi & Gujranwala.  The way he played in that series made even the best of the Pakistani fast bowlers to recognize his courage and commitment as a teenager to play them.  It was very soon known that the little prodigy is going to make big waves in world cricket. And here he is after 24 years of playing international cricket, just the thought that he won't be around with Team India anymore is just unbelievable.

He has played with and against 2 generations of cricketers from world over including some of the best fast bowlers, best batsmen and all-rounders like Waqar Yunis, Wasim Akram, Glenn Mcgrath, Courtney Walsh, Allan Donald, Kapil Dev, Craig Mcdermott, Steve Waugh, Gary Kirsten, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Shaun Pollock, Saurav Ganguly, Jacque Kallis and few others. But ask anyone and they'll be all praise for him and his ability.  I still remember the year when India and Australia test series and the triangular series in Sharjah were played and how Shane Warne the best leg spinner till date was plundered for runs all over the grounds.

The hammering Sachin gave to Shane Warne
Still remember Shane's statement how he had nightmare's of Sachin hammering him for runs.  None batsmen in the world has hammered Warne like Sachin did, which shows his class and why he is and probably will remain the best.

Growing up as a teenager I still remember how Team India's batting revolved all around Sachin. The moment Sachin got out I used to switch off my television in despair almost as if no other batsmen are going to play well.  If anyone did it was just a miracle.  The moment when Sachin used to walk up to the pitch and take his guard, spectators would expect miracles from him.  To score nothing less than a century was always expected from him.  And statistics say when he scored a century most of the time India had won the match.  Not only he shattered records with batting but in the prime of his career he even bowled and has combined test and one day tally of 199 wickets which is not a small number.

Carrying the huge expectations of a cricket frenzy nation of more than a billion people and playing in front of a home crowd whose cheering can almost make you go deaf and than shattering most of the batting records and creating some which I don't think no one in the near future might break it, definitely puts him in the league of the greatest of greats of all time in cricketing world.

The respect he has garnered from some of the greatest bowlers like Allan Donald, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and few others just shows how desperately they wanted to get his wicket while he was at the crease. And getting his priced wicket was something they would cherish for the entire series.  The 'Little Master' as he is called is a perfect example of all round technique and stroke play.  His hunger to better himself every time he goes out there to bat and to score runs is still seen on his face.
Sachin being carried all over the ground
after India won the 2011 WC

As every player goes through his ups and downs Sachin too went through them, only to come back more and more stronger.  The talks of his retirement time and again were always proved wrong by the master blaster and he showed his critics that only he and no one else will decide when he shall hang his boots.  He made his bat do the talking and that too in an emphatic way which every time silenced his critics.  Over the span of his career he was part of Team India that rose to No. 1 position in test match cricket and even won the world cup cricket.  His dream of winning the world cup for India was fulfilled in 2011 and in which he played a pivotal role at the top.  His greatness can be just imagined when his fellow team mates just with his presence in the dressing room were inspired to play to their full potential.

Today when he is just 2 test matches away from saying good bye to playing cricket, it seems as if an era of cricket for Team India will be closed.  Of course a new one has already begun.  But to see the dressing room without the 'God' will be very strange.  I'm sure he would want to stay attached with cricket in some way or the other, but only he knows what's coming next for him.

Sachin with one of the Great's
Sir Donald Bradman
To see him bat in the last 2 matches is going to be simply awesome.  His 200th test match and than the farewell that he is going to get is simply unimaginable. Of course when the 'God' retires, the farewell shall be even more glorious than the welcomes he used to get when he used to walk out in the middle as an opening batsmen or when he was batting at no. 4 in test matches.  The whole nation is going to miss him when Team India shall go out to play any test matches after he retires.  For one last time when the 'God' will be out there in front of his home crowd, Wankhede stadium, Mumbai is going to erupt shouting Sachinnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Sachinnnnnnnnn.

100 facts about Sachin Tendulkar
http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/cricket/sachin-tendulkar-retires-100-facts-763750

Friday, 16 August 2013

'Europe' - Here I come again

Last year on 22nd September, 2012 the MF's re-union was planned which eventually was decided to start exactly after year. Yes the 3rd weekend of September, 2013.  It was just a random facebook chat between Asta and myself.  Initially it was just floated as an idea that we all friends could just see if we could have this possibility of meeting once again all together in the middle of the world somewhere. (Though not exactly in the middle ;) )  So it was going to be Istanbul.  The invites were send and it seemed like an idea might just turn into reality.  But it was still a full year to go.  

From the beginning of Feb. till June 2013, I got damn busy with my work, that I had put all my short travel plans aside and just wanted to have a good 6 months of work which would satisfy myself and would allow me to travel for this wonderful re-union.  And along with that I thought, why not have another round of Euro-trip ? Come on as we all know "Yeh Dil Maange More" ;) As my work season came towards an end, the my thought of this trip grew more and more strong.  But I was extremely confused of where to start and which places to visit.  England and Scandinavia OR East Europe again ? Western Europe OR just the re-union in Turkey ?  It wasn't that easy as I have always wanted to travel to those places where I can meet my friends again.  You see I'm more of a people's person.  No matter what kind of place I visit, if I'm there in the good company of my friends, that place is the best for me. :)

With the idea from Asta to travel in Turkey for about a week, I finally got my itinerary right.  And finally I decided to start from Barcelona.  Than Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Prague and finish it it Turkey and return back.  But as they say when life gives you lemons, you better make lemonade from them for yourself. ;)  And I did just that. Luckily Croatia joined EU on the 1st July, 2013 and Spain granted me 45 days multiple entry visa ,on the basis of which I can visit Croatia too, which was on my travel list since long.  So with some changes here and there and finding the cheapest possible flight, and believe me I really got a cheap one, it was Barcelona - Paris - Berlin - Croatia - Turkey - Prague and back. From 4th September till 8th October.  Though this time I didn't had the chance to go unplanned and make plans when I reach Europe.  I booked all my flights as that was the cheapest I could get.  But that's OK.

Its 16th August today and with just a couple of days more than 2 weeks, I'll be heading for my another dream Europe trip and the best part of it shall be that I'll be meeting so many of my friends whom I met in the last couple of years in Ahmedabad.  It's been fun planning this trip and now its even more fun preparing for it too.  Though the depreciation of Rupee is going to make this trip of mine the most expensive and might shoot way over my budget, but its going to be great fun. :)  

So my friends, see you sooooooooooooon :)

Friday, 19 July 2013

10 major reasons why we "HONK" so much in Ahmedabad ?

Honking. A word heard very much if you are walking, standing or driving on the streets of Ahmedabad.  Its something very annoying that we all who drive a vehicle do. Something that disturbs the morning peace, that can make you irritated, can give you severe headaches and make driving on the roads horrible.  If one day the horn of my car or my bike goes off, I feel like a sort of handicap.  How am I suppose to drive now ? That was the first question that hit me.  Once even while on the highway the horn of my car suddenly went off and I was so nervous that I got a new one installed right at the first garage on the highway.

So why is honking so important for us while we are driving ? Well of course not everyone honks, but majority of the people who drive they do so.  Even I do that some times. :p 

So once again why do we honk ? Why why why ?  I was wondering on it and this is what I've observed over the last 2 decades of driving on the streets of Ahmedabad.

1)  First and foremost, we drive recklessly.  Most of us never follow the traffic rules and hence while we are driving recklessly others honk for that 'Being Safe' aspect.

2)  We never drive in a lane.  And if we do, we most of the time drive in the wrong lane ;)  So the person driving in the correct lane for that particular moment honks to yell "Hey you get off the fast lane.  You are way to slow and I'm in a hurry"

3)  We love driving on the wrong side.  And since the BRTS has come up, we became more lazy to go around and take a turn from the right junction.  So since the people driving on the wrong side feel its their birth right to drive on the wrong side, the people driving on their correct side have to honk at them.

4)  I've seen many many of the girls and women (don't take it personally and make it a gender issue) who drive their 2 wheeler and car never give a side while turning to the right. Never ever.  They simply turn when and where they want to as if there is no one behind them or as if the one driving behind them is going to have a dream that you are now going to take a right turn.

5)  We abruptly stop if we suddenly met some old friend or a relative on the road and start chatting as if the world is going to end, never giving a thought that there are vehicles coming from behind.

6)  We are so impatient.  We want to reach our destination earlier than the other person driving on the road. So to cross the road first at a cross road, we honk at others telling them, "Hey idiot wait.  I'm in a hurry".  And the same is done by the other person. ;)  So the war of horns begins till both the drivers come at a point in the middle of the cross road, where both brake just 2 inches away from each other and start a fight. First dialogue of the quarrel ? You got it right.  "Dekhatu nathi, andhalo che ?"  (Can't you see.  Are you blind ?)  Surprisingly both can see very well and that's why they stopped so close as if they want to kiss each other :p  

And so the vehicles behind them have to stop which makes them to honk too telling both the idiots to move aside and than carry on their quarrel, so that others can get on with their honking.  Ooops I meant driving ;)

7)  The ever so popular rickshaw drivers.  Can we ever ignore them while driving on the roads in Ahmedabad ? Never :)  They drive as if the rules don't exist for them. They break all the possible rules that exist in the traffic rule book.  They park where they want to creating big obstructions on narrow roads and on major cross roads. Never give a signal while taking a turn.  Most of them will drive in the middle of the road, so if you wish to over take again you have to honk at them.

8)  Teenagers on motor bikes.  One of the biggest menace on the roads.  When the adrenaline flows through their blood, they get a kick to drive fast and just to tell others that hey we are arriving, they start to honk and that too pretty loud and continuous.  Its so horrible that many times new drivers or senior citizens driving on the roads can get a scare and that might even cause accidents.

9)  Pedestrians.  They cross a major road from any point where they wish to.  Never paying heed that they have to cross it where there is zebra crossing.  So when you are driving on the road and someone just shows up from no where, what you do ? You honk to tell that bugger, get off the road.

10)  The most important one being, the RTO (Regional Traffic Office).  They never train anyone for traffic signs and rules.  They don't care or dare to increase the fines to a level where the public is scared to break traffic rules and pay heavy fines.  They have not tried enough to force the culture of following traffic rules on the public.  Never made enough efforts to collaborate with schools and colleges to impart traffic education to the kids and teenagers.

As a result of above, people selling horns of different sounds and decibels are doing good business ;)  Also doctors like ENT's and to some extent psychologist's might also do good business.  

Now come on Amdavadi's, we need to stop honking and follow traffic rules :)

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Can India really change for the better ?


Its been few months that I remained away from writing in but, all this time I was wondering a lot. About my country and my countrymen and my life in India as an Indian.  A lot and when I say that, it really means a lot have happened in India in the last 6 months.  And all of it that has snatched the limelight has been on the wrong side. In fact on the worst side.  Right from 2G specturm scam, CWG scam, Coal scam, brutal rapes, child molestation, corruption at the highest level in the government, border tensions with neighboring countries, high food inflation, slow growth, Italian marine case and what not.

One evening while talking with a German friend who last year traveled in India for few months, my high hopes and optimism about India as a country changing for the better in this decade and the next one took a deep plunge.  For once I felt that today's India looks like a totally fucked up country with a government that doesn't care a shit except just plundering the people in the most blatant manner.  Over the last few years I've known at least one thing, that the situation that my country is in today is not because of the people in the government, but its we the people of this country.  Our carefree and careless attitude, way of living, lack of willingness to change, extreme greed, religious extremism, gender & caste inequality, dishonesty, racism and ever eroding patriotism to a large extent have brought us where we are today.

India - the most diverse democracy of the world today in fact lives fragmented to a large extent unless it comes to cricket and bollywood.  Each and every corner of this huge country has extreme diversity in itself. You travel just 400 kms and sometimes even less than that and one can see that the language, clothing, food and to an extent the culture too gets changed.  Now in such a diverse scenario is it possible to find a common or a near similar path of thinking ? Is it possible that a hugely diverse nation can keep this diversity behind and come together for a social revolution ? I was quiet hopeful on this till I had this discussion with my friend and now I have my own reservations.

More than half the population of India is living in villages and has huge difference in cultures and the way they think from the population that is living in the cities.  This difference though diluted, can be even seen between the big metro's like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.  Also one can easily notice the diversity in culture, way of living, social thoughts and perspective between the tier I and tier II cities.  As a collective of states, the North, South, West and East regions also are vastly diverse from each other.  The gender inequality, the perspective towards the girl child, the social responsibility for the economically and socially underprivileged, cultural hypocrisy, individual freedom, political apathy, high levels of individual corruption are some of the biggest hurdles that India as a country faces today and which kind of is becoming highly frustrating.

If one travels the length and breath of the country, one can easily notice that people no matter of which age differ a lot on many major social and cultural issues faced by India.  Men and women both from different regions of India and belonging to different social and economic strata differ on their views.  The conservative thinking can be easily seen and no one hardly bothers to think logically about any of the age old customs still being followed in the name of tradition and culture.  It can either be the careless attitude or the fear of the society or lack of education or all together.

Post independence and particularly after the reforms of 1990 the major economic development that India has seen has been limited to the metro's and few other cities. Cities grew bigger and got more populated.  This economic development instead of reaching the villages remained largely in and around the cities leading to huge urban migration resulting into large slums and clashing of 2 different lifestyles.  We lost our way even in educating the kids especially girls.  Still today only one state is 100 % literate and other parts of the country struggling to educate its citizens and even the new generation.  If even basic education is not imparted when are we as a nation going to think about imparting more specialized education throughout the entire country ?

The economic boom instead of creating wealth for every strata of the society created wealth for the rich.  The rich grew more rich and the poor remained poor.  So poor, that today almost 30% of the population doesn't get even 2 times of proper meal, leave aside a proper shelter to live in.  Shockingly while we have one of the highest percentage of poor people, the world's costliest house recently got erected in Mumbai.

Our dishonest and corrupt ways of dealing with things has even led to formation of corrupt governments that actually pocketed the tax payers money that were supposed to be meant to uplift the socially and economically backward people.  And eventually the present scenario is that, the current government has shattered all records of corruption and bad governance.  It is the most corrupt government till now in the history of Indian democracy.  And of course it was elected by us, we the people of India.  The people in the government and the bureaucracy are all our people.  Not some guys who descended from some alien planet just to ruin our country.  And all of them are from among us.  A nation gets a government that is actually the reflection of its society.  Unless the society gets itself clean and honest, its a waste to expect honest and sincere people representing the nation.

Socially also no matter how hard we have tried to get rid of the centuries old superstitions and wrongly practiced caste differentiation which has strangulated this country, still today it requires a herculean effort to get rid of such practices in any particular region.  And we have a huge country to make it free from such evil practices.  Ever wondered how long it would take if we still continue following blindly like the herd of sheep and never use our brains ?

The way we Indians have so far dealt with our major social, economic and cultural issues in the post independence era it has today led to a situation, where desperate measures are needed to overhaul the way we Indians think, deal and live our life. Today the difference in the way people live in the cities, towns and villages has grown so wide apart that unless the developments of the cities reach the villages fast enough and our villages grow, this vast socio-economic difference shall create a major social chaos and social anarchy.  The way the outburst of social crimes against women and children has happened all over the country just shows how lacking socially we as a nation were and still are and God knows for how many more years.

In this current scenario if by any chance a major social change should happen, I don't think its going to happen in the next few years.  May be in the next few decades and that too only the young generation of this country comes together and sheds the inhibitions of challenging the age old rusted malpractices in the name of religion, caste and culture.  Only if the greed for infinite monetary gains can seize and an inclusive development from the cities to the villages happen, India might change for the better. Or else once again this great country shall be bonded and this time in the social shackles of its own.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

What to do ?

What to do ?

Yes, yes .......

What to do when you want to put things right, but you're not allowed ?

What to do when you want to explain the right things, but you're not understood
at all ?

What to do when you want to get out of something, but you can't ?

What to do when the you try to untangle the strings, but they get more and more entangled ?

What to do when you want to be good, but you're forced to be bad ?

What to do when you want to remain calm, but you can't ?

What to do when you are true, but you're made to look like a liar ?

What to do if you are different, but you're forced to be like everyone else ?

What to do when you can't explain compatibility problem to the one with whom you are non-compatible ?

What to do when you care, but  you are labelled as selfish ?

What to do when you don't wanna argue, but you're forced to by putting fingers in your mouth ?

What to do when one has so many What to do's ? :(




Monday, 31 December 2012

Travel Photos - GOA (My fav. destination)

Beach huts @ Agonda Beach


On way to Agonda Beach
Evening on Colva beach

A beautiful stretch between Colva and Benaulim


Palolem Beach
View from the left end of Palolem Beach
The king of good times




One of the rivers on way to Dudhsagar falls


An evening @ Palolem Beach



At the foot of Dudhsagar falls

The 2 Portuguese tunnels on way to Dudhsagar falls
Dudhsagar railway station lashed with heavy rains
The beautiful Dudhsagar water falls
A passenger train passing 
The bottom part of Dudhsagar falls
That's ME




Farm workers sowing paddy crop on way to Kulem Station

Vaishnodevi - Jai Mata Di (My first chopper ride)

2nd Dec. to 7th Dec. was booked almost 2 months in advance for my trip to Vaishnodevi and Ludhiana.  One of the company's whom I represent in Gujarat had sponsored this entire trip for all the distributors and few dealers who had completed the sale targets.  And but of course I had to go with all of them, no choice given... ;)  We were in total 54 people including the sales team and all the clients.  To visit Vaishnodevi was an unanimous choice with everyone and along with it the factory visit at Ludhiana was arranged.  

The schedule was a pretty tight one with a 32 hrs. train right from Ahmedabad to Jammu and another 22 hrs. train right from Ludhiana to Ahmedabad.  In between there were 2 bus rides too.  One was of 2 hrs. from Jammu to Katra and 2nd one was of 6 hrs from Katra to Ludhiana.

Everyone coming  from different corners of Gujarat assembled on platform # 2 @ Kalupur Railway Station and after greeting each other we all boarded the train and left at 11:15 am by Jammu Tavi Express.  The next few hours went in allotting the seat nos. to everyone and due to some last moment cancellations and some tickets in waiting list it was ultimately revealed that we were 2 berths short.  So finally we had to resort to the same old very Indian thing called #JUGAAD... ;)  

@ Ferozpur Cantt. railway station
The very thought of clients from all corners of Gujarat meeting and traveling together for the next 5 days together was very exciting to me.  Men of different ages, speaking different dialects and with different mentality, all together was surely exciting for me.  I kept moving in and between 2 coaches and kept on conversing with different groups.  Few had already started playing cards and few others did the same but with bets.  While some were discussing their business and some were just relaxing some were introducing themselves as they were meeting the others for the first time. Recently in the last few years this has been kind of a sales trend followed by many companies to take distributors and dealers on travel trips on successful completion of sales targets.

Our train stopped as someone had died on the track.
The journey went on without any problems and the high point of it was when I tempted a group of my generally shy distributors to share their views on relationships (marriage) between a guy and a girl and also the ways of upbringing a male and female child and why this country has so many social problems since long.  And but of course everyone had their own opinions on the coming elections too.  The discussion became so intense that many others left their place to join us and to express their views also.  The discussion went on for few hours with some telling their own situations at home and few others jokingly describing how scared they are of their wives.... ;)  Of course it comes out of respect but still its funny many Indian husbands fear or just find it too hot to handle their wives sarcasm.

View of the hill at night.
Anyways next day evening we reached Jammu station and 2 buses were waiting along with the company team to take us to Katra.  A bus drive of about 2 hours and we reached our hotel. It had a perfect location from where the view of the Vaishno devi hill was majestic.  After allocating the rooms to all, we gathered for dinner and discussed the next days climb along with the tour organizers.

A group of around 15, had decided to climb the hill at 23:00 hrs. so as to return by next day noon and rest for the whole evening.  While most of the others wanted to sleep and after having breakfast the next day were going to climb. We had some elders above 50 and some with weight problems and hence in the morning it was decided to hire some ponies.  While rest went on foot.  The walk to the Vaishno devi bhawan is 12 kms which includes a steep walk for the first 6 kms which is the most hard part and the rest 6 kms is a mixture of some walk and climb.  I had decided to stay back as I was not sure how my weak back would respond to the climb.  I'm as such for the time being advised by the doctor not to walk for long distances.  

Chopper ferrying pilgrims To & Fro
from Katra to Sanjichat

By noon my uncle arrived and the company had arranged one chopper ride for two persons.  So we decided to take it and come back on foot.  This chopper rides are always packed and get booked many weeks before but again after some JUGAAD the company had managed it for us.  So first after taking the token and paying the price of Rs. 699/- per person for one way, we finally checked in. There are 2 companies operating, Pawan Hans and Global Vectra.  Before boarding one has to check in just as we do it for flights.  There was a waiting for about 15 min. and then our turn came.  The capacity of the chopper is 5 - 6 people excluding the pilot and the people are selected as per the weight.  Once on the helipad one guy explains all where to sit and which direction to walk towards the chopper and after the chopper lands.

Luckily I was told to sit in the front next to the pilot and instructed not to touch the two control pedals in front and to walk from the front of the chopper after getting out.  The chopper finally arrived and 6 of us boarded within 30 secs. and in less than 45 secs. the chopper was up.  The initial lift send tickles in my tummy and I could see the ground from the transparent floor.  Slowly the chopper went up and up and the view around was simply majestic.  Snow clad mountain ranges could be seen at far distance and Katra town was looking beautiful.  The ride lasted for around 7 min. and finally we landed on the helipad which was like 3 kms away from the bhawan.  The walk to the bhawan was pretty easy as there was no climbing or steep slope.

What I found surprising was that entire place was absolutely clean with proper garbage handling arrangements.  Food stalls and drink stalls were in abundance and the quality and price was good.  There were enough places to stay overnight also.  While entering the bhawan, no one is allowed to carry anything except a coconut and a piece of red cloth (Mata ki chunni) which are to be offered.  Not even a pen is allowed inside.  And one more thing, no leather shoes or belt or wallet is even allowed inside.  After getting checked and frisked at 3 points finally I was in the queue to enter the tunnel leading to the actual place of worship.  Luckily the queue was not very long and in 10 - 15 min. I was seeking blessings from the Goddess.  This queue normally is very very long and sometimes it can take 2 - 3 hours before one can actually enter the bhawan.  You are allowed to just stand there for few seconds and the security than immediately tells you to move ahead for others to come and pray.

So then begins the descend. All the way up just for few seconds ? Yes that's how it is.  We grabbed our stuff kept in the locker and started walking back.  It was around 16:00 or 16:30 and the sun was shining enough to keep us warm. We just kept on walking and walking covering km by km.  There were lots of people who were climbing and I thought they would reach by night.  Many were climbing with luggage which indicated that they would stay in some guest house and go for the prayers early in the morning.

View from the hotel of Himalayas.
Well after walking few kms I was really thirsty and stopped for few min. for some water.  I didn't had a 5 rupee change and so the guy gave me a chocolate.  I was holding it in one hand and suddenly from somewhere a kid came up to me and poked me.  I was like hey what do you want.  He again poked me and asked for the chocolate.  I was so surprised that I didn't know what to do and I just handed over the chocolate to him.  Well the chocolate I guess had his name written on it ;) .  The sun had now started to go down.  We had just covered the flat part of 6 kms and the steep slope was about to start.  I could still see the valley from the top which was by now entirely covered by a thick layer of mist.  I cursed myself that why did I leave my camera in the hotel.  The view was just breath taking and I could have clicked hundreds of pics.  We kept on walking and enjoying the beautiful sunset and after a few kms walk when I looked the sun was now perfectly orange and its golden rays had turned the white mist into light yellow.  I was just stunned on seeing this scene.

By now the pathways were looking dark and soon the lights came on.  The number of people who were walking up had increased and also now we were walking pass the steep slope.  The walkway was now divided into two.  One part was for people who were walking and the other part was for the ponies carrying people on them.  I could people of all different ages.  Kids from the age of 5 - 6 years to elders who were barely able to walk with the support of a stick.  There was one guy who was climbing in sleeping position.  Now that was shocking.  I had even heard that there are thousands of followers who climb right up there in different ways.  Some climb bare foot.  Some climb by touching there nose till the top.  Some carry their infants in their hands all the way up.  Just make me wonder, how strong their belief is in this particular place of pilgrimage.

By now we had covered almost 9 kms and the last few kms were left.  My back had given up and it was paining.  My calf muscles were indicating me to take some rest.  My feet were paining.  But I knew if I sat even for few min. I'll be done and I won't be able to walk continuously.  Even my uncle was of the same opinion.  So we kept on walking and to reach down quickly we took the short path of around 500 - 600 steps which were broad and quite high.  Those steps made us more tired and the walk after the steps were over became more difficult, but say around 21:00 hrs finally we reached the foot of the hill and took a rickshaw back to the hotel.  OMG what a way down it was.  My back, my feet, my calf muscles, my shoulders all were in pain and the first thing came to my mind was a hot shower.

It was a memorable trip.  Somehow I still feel the spiritual power as the people say made me visit the top and come back.  A trip which I was not willing to do got over and was truly wonderful with some new experience.

JAI MATA DI------

Thursday, 15 November 2012

One evening at IGI - T3 terminal

So I landed in Delhi on 9th evening of November and I was staying at my CouchSurfing friend Ranjana's place.  It was the 2nd time at her place for me and this time it was at her newly constructed house.  Just one night but we had some interested conversations bout each other's life and stuff.  After lunch I left for the market and after a quick visit to Chandni Chowk to have the delicious Samosa and Kachori with Alu Subzi I headed to the IGI -T3 terminal to receive my friend Dorota who was arriving from Nepal along with a group of tourists from Poland.  

Her flight was delayed by 2 hours.  But still since I had nothing to do, I left the market at around 18:30 on a Pedal Rickshaw and decided to take the metro from Ram Krishna Ashram metro station.  The pedal rickshaw drive started to become like an ever lasting one since there was a huge traffic jam at the Sardar Bazaar cross roads.  Pedal rickshaws bumping into each other, hand lorries everywhere and pedestrian's finding just about any spaces to walk past.  Finally after managing the traffic, the streets filled with garbage and pot holes, I reached the metro station after 45 min. and soon boarded the metro for Dwarka sector 10.  Luckily the metro was not very crowded and I even got a seat to sit.  

I got down at Dwarka sector 10 in about 30 - 35 min. and asked the Pedal rickshaw guy to take me to a place from where I can get an auto rickshaw for T3 terminal.  And he readily agreed for Rs. 20/-.  So we headed for the main road and unfortunately there were no rickshaw's there as since last few days Delhi roads were filled with traffic jams.  So I thought why not call for a radio cab.  I called one Quick Cab and explained them my location that I'm at the cross road between sector 9 and sector 10, but the representative asked me to give an exact location.  Alright so now I went to one building and told that guy my location.  The rep. goes on for 5 min. explaining the rules and then asks me to wait for one confirmation SMS.  Fuckers.  The moment I go back to the main road I spotted one rickshaw, stopped it and luckily it was empty.  He agreed to take me to T3 but asked for 200 Rs.  Everyone in this country is opportunistic, I said to myself.  Even the pedal rickshaw guy said it was too much.  After a bargain the guy agreed for Rs. 130/-.  

So now my 3rd journey to the T3 terminal began.  The pedal rickshaw guy had explained the auto rickshaw guy some way through a small village where he believed there won't be any traffic jams.  So after another 30 min. drive the rickshaw dropped me at the T3 shuttle service where I just saw the shuttle bus leave.  So now a wait of another 20 min.  Finally boarded the shuttle bus at 21:00 and reached the arrival terminal of T3.  Its quiet a huge terminal from outside and very impressive too.  But it definitely lacks some facilities and also the glamour factor.  There are just couple of coffee outlets and Lays stands.  Nothing else if you are hungry.  So till the flight arrives I had around almost an hour to wait.

I grabbed one seat on those steel arrangements with a cup of cappuccino and 2 samosa's.  So here's the first impression.

  • Seating arrangement  :  Not comfortable.
  • Food outlets              :  Not enough outlets and variety
  • Taxi arrangement       :  Excellent 
  • Spacious                   :  Very much   

I was having my delicious samosa's with not that good cappuccino and there were passengers arriving with sets of Samsung and Sony LED and LCD televisions.  Not a single one below 32 inches which suggested flights from Bangkok have arrived.  Its very common this days to come back from Bangkok with big LED televisions which are at least 40 % cheaper than in India.  A family somewhere from the African continent had landed for some treatment with Apollo hospitals.  The representative from Apollo was wandering why just one family landed when he had information for two.

Cabin crews from Indigo, Thai Airways, Jet Airways, Air India, Emirates were coming out.  Never understood the fact that why Air India recruits cabin crews that are above 40 years old when all over the world the cabin crews are of much much less age.  They definitely need some lessons on glamour.   Many passengers were in such a hurry to catch a cab that instead of taking the ramp to get on to the road, they were just pushing their baggage trolleys down and there went down all bags.  It was not just one passenger, but many did the same thing.  Some while talking on their mobiles tried to get the trolley down with one hand and the result was the same.  One lady seemed to be talking with her family member, asking for the transport tried it and all her 3 bags went down along with her phone.  One of the taxi driver helped her to put the luggage back on the trolley, while surprisingly she still was trying to put her phone together,  not even bothering to say THANKS to the guy who helped her.

Two passengers while waiting for the cab, one of them asks the other - you've got some cigarettes ? The other one asks, is it allowed to smoke here ?

Finally I got tired of sitting and took a stroll on the terminal and came back to take my position right at the front of the arrival gate no. 6.  One family was standing there waiting for someone to come to receive them.  Parents and 2 daughters.  The younger one was playing around and enjoying.  The elder one was way busy throwing tantrums at her parents.  One of them was, Mommmmmyyyy when will get my iphone ? And both mom and dad looked at each other pretty much shocked.  Shocked or surprised.  Well only they know it better... ;)  The next the girl shouts at her mom, what sort of clothes you have made me wear ?  Its so hot.

Suddenly a foreign girl waiting to receive someone jumps the bars and decide's to wait right next to the exit.  Guess she was tired behind the bars ? ;)  Well if an Indian would have done that the security would have send him back immediately.  So why this discrimination ?  Is the Indian security intimidated or overwhelmed by foreigners ?

And finally my wait got over as my friend came out waving and it was great to see her again after almost a year... :)

Friday, 26 October 2012

CS Ahmedabad's NAVRATRI event 2012

After the grand success of organizing the UTTARAYAN festival in January 2012, CS Ahmedabad and the CS'ers who organized it, decided to organize a CouchSurfing event for the world's longest night folk dancing festival :) .  Its called NAVRATRI means nine nights.  This year the festival commenced on 16th Oct. and ends on 23rd Oct. with 24th Oct. being celebrated as Dusshera (the day when Lord Rama killed the demon Ravana).  The dates for this festival falls as per Hindu Calendar.  This year the 3rd and 4th day of the festival got merged and hence it will be held for 8 days only.

There is a very famous legend of Navratri that relates it to the Hindu epic Ramayana.  It goes that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga in nine aspects, for nine days in order to gather strength and power to kill the demon Ravana in the final battle to release his wife Sita from the clutches of the demon king Ravana, who had abducted her.  Those nine nights became to be known as Navratri and the 10th day, on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, came to be called Dusshera or Vijayadashmi, signigying Rama's (good) triumph over Ravana (evil).

In entire India, Navratri festival is best celebrated in Ahmedabad with full enthusiasm and tradition.  The folk dance that's played during this nine nights of dance is called Raas & Garba.  While Garba is more popular this days, Raas is limited to a very few places.  Garba dance has evolved over the decades and the steps are mixed and modified every year to give it a new flavor.  While Raas is played with two sticks and with a partner.  Men, women and kids all dress up in traditional wear which are extremely diverse and beautiful.

The organizers of our CS event Rahul, Piyush, Amit and myself after brainstorming for few days on facebook group chat decided to make it a 2 day event for Sunday 21st and Monday 22nd.   Since last few years the Gandhinagar Cultural Forum has been organizing one of the best and Piyush being in its organizing committee, Gandhinagar - the capital of Gujarat was decided as the venue to play Raas-Garba.  Also for all those CS'ers coming for the event we kept a one day city tour of Ahmedabad outskirts, instead of the old city (which is nominated for
UNESCO's world heritage city).  


We decided to take the CS'ers for a visit to Mahatma Gandhi Ashram, Step well of Adalaj and Sarkhej Roza (tomb & mosque of Ahmad Khattu, a sufi saint).  For the evening the plan was to take them to the Navratri traditional dress market and end up with traditional Gujarati dinner.  Gujarat being very famous all over India for its variety and delicious vegetarian food. So each and every festival or celebration is never completed without including the different delicacies.  If you meet up any traveler who has traveled to Gujarat, ask them and you shall every time get just one answer, be it the street food or the authentic Gujarati dish, the food is just awesome over here... ;)


Finally on the evening of Monday all CS’ers gathered on S.G. Highway at 19:00 and started for Gandhinagar with Gandhinagar Cultural Forum Garba being the venue for the night.  Everyone came wearing traditional gujarati dress which many had purchased at the last moment and were all excited and geared up to play garba.  Whether they knew how to play or not, but everyone was willing to give it a shot.  The CS’ers from Germany, Greenland & Hungary bought the traditional dress just for this event and I’m sure they might never wear them again back in their country.  But they were looking absolutely amazing in the gujarati traditional wear.  
We entered the playing ground at GCF after buying the tickets.  Every day the rounds of garba commences after a prayer and offering to the Goddess Durga.  The orchestra started off with melodious & slow garba songs and soon the people dancing, were matching the steps with the rhythm.   The venue had more than 2000 people dancing in the centre with more than 5000 people watching them from the outside.  People were dancing with different steps and styles and they kept on changing.  More and more people kept pouring in the venue.  Our CouchSurfing group was joined by others and everyone was having a ball of a time dancing to the garba songs.  We were all drenched in sweat, some had blisters under their toe but the mood was so high and the energy levels not coming down the dancing went on for couple of hours.  Every face was smiling and people from different nationalities who had come at the venue all were mixing with the local people and danced their hearts out.  Our CouchSurfing group was even photographed by the local media and few of the traveler’s photos got printed even in the local newspaper.  
Must watch video of the Maha-aarti with 15000 oil lamps


After the garba got over over it was time for the Maha-Aarti (Grand prayer) which is a major attraction of this venue.  All the approx. 2000 people inside the playing arena were given candles, lights of the entire venue was switched off and the maha-aarti was offered to the Goddess Durga after lighting the candles.  It was a mesmerizing experience.  A formation was made of an oil lamp and with the singers singing the prayer and getting support from the crowd, made the whole atmosphere extremely spiritual.  The garba finally got over with the end of the maha-aarti.  We all gathered once again for some pictures and to say goodbye to everyone.  We the organizers were extremely content to get the appreciation from the guests and were more than happy to see that everyone had a great time and an unique experience.  This is what CouchSurfing does with CS travelers and the local CS’ers.  Many friendships may have formed in all such events which actually spread’s the spirit of CouchSurfing.  

It was good to have help from Ahmedabad CS'ers but personally I cherished a lot those moments when Rahul, Amit, Piyush, Palak, Virag and myself were online on FB group chat everyday to discuss the arrangements for hosting so many guests, their transportation and also what to show them in Ahmedabad that they would like in this non-touristic city.  But the appreciation showed by the guests and the smiles and joy on their faces while they were dancing showed that our event was a success.