Vikas ka Prateek Gujarat! #Girly RoadTrip Day 1

After the divine Parsi breakfast, so unexpected in the Maharashtrian countryside, I took the wheel next and we crossed over into Gujarat driving past towns like Vapi, Salvav and Pardi, more familiar names like Valsad and Navsari and bypassing Surat via Kamrej. This was the stretch where we saw the most interesting stuff being carried on trucks and where our nostrils filled with strange smells at some of the industrial areas we passed by (a post on trucks will be contingent on Nupur supplying me the pictures!). A large number of rivulets, tributaries of the mighty Tapi river, criss-cross through this part of Gujarat heading down to meet the Arabian Sea not far out to our left and it was fun reading out their names.

But it was the Narmada at Bharuch that really halted us in our tracks. Mighty and magnificent, we were fascinated by these waters as we crossed the long bride over it. We spotted some ghats (steps) and impulsively turned in their direction. I have to mention that on this trip, impulsiveness was as much a reward as planning. We found ourselves in a temple on the banks of the Narmada. A few families were there, including one all the way from Bengal, engrossed in rituals and filling up on the holy waters. We sat on the ghats, watching some young men fish, some cattle wandering past and an old lady staring into the water.

This was a spiritual experience of sorts, just watching this massive body of water flow by us. It was hot and still and life seemed to simply stop. There are so many legends around holy rivers in India. You need to find a spot like this next to one and take the moments off to appreciate why!

The Narmada at Bharuch, an impromptu stop that clicked!

The Narmada at Bharuch, an impromptu stop that clicked!

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A spot ideal for contemplation

A spot ideal for contemplation

Spotless clean except for the few discarded garlands in the foreground and even some locals fishing!

Spotless clean except for the few discarded garlands in the foreground and even some locals fishing!

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Taking a 3-way selfie! Hilarious moment! Nupur's capture was really good, while mine was a disaster. This is hers

Taking a 3-way selfie! Hilarious moment! Nupur’s capture was really good, while mine was a disaster. This is hers

Nupur was driver next. A short halt at a nondescript Café Coffee Day to rehydrate, grab a bite and empty the bladder and we were on our way to Amdavad, where we planned to halt for the night. An aside on the bladder issue: I was anticipating finding decent places to relieve ourselves to be the biggest issue on the trip, but we got lucky with this aspect, finding halfway decent toilets most places.

The Vadodara to Amdavad highway is a dream run in many ways and perhaps the most enjoyable section of the trip. Sadly, I slept through some of this. What makes it work are good design (verges, exits, landscape, all much better than he standard NHAI format), excellent road surface (we saw them repair it and they don’t do patchwork but actually take off and relay the surfaces that need attention) and the lush green landscape. I was pleasantly surprised to see neither Vadodara not Amdavad sprawling endlessly along the highway and neither Anand nor Nadiad that fall on the way made their presence overtly felt as we drove past. A new experience indeed!

Our divided political views were what made the Gujarat stretch particularly interesting. I am no Modi supporter, nor is Nupur, but Rachna is of the view that he is a doer and deserves a chance. We’ve ended up arguing about this once before, but I think we all decided to leave the issue aside for this road trip. Driving through Gujarat though, it’s hard to ignore the obvious signs of development—industrialisation, managed urban growth, agricultural prosperity all stare you in the face. Finding fault was a task and terms like vikas and prateek were being bandied about. At one point, Rachna asked me why I was so taken in by these two men? And I answered, “That’s because I am a men’s lady (inverse of ladies’ man). That’s the sort of ridiculous humour that marked this leg of the trip, intertwined with more serious observations and the twitter hash tag #vikaskaprateek was thus born!

The tag took on a slightly sarcastic tone as we crossed the vast slums of Narol on our way into Amdavad city. Congested and unsanitary, I could see this was a Muslim majority stretch, another sensitive topic we avoided. Conflagrations weren’t on the menu for the trip!

Endless fields on the superb drive from Vadodara to Amdavad

Endless fields on the superb drive from Vadodara to Amdavad

Entering Amdavad at the Narol end. The fixation with NaMo is unmissable

Entering Amdavad at the Narol end. The fixation with NaMo is unmissable

'Chhappan inch ka seena': Another way to look at it!

‘Chhappan inch ka seena’: Another way to look at it!

One of the more successful implementations of Bus Rapid Transit in India, so I hear. The Narol BRT stop

One of the more successful implementations of Bus Rapid Transit in India, so I hear. The Narol BRT stop

I see #housing wherever I go! Tenement housing in Narol

I see #housing wherever I go! Tenement housing in Narol

And the squatters all along the road here. The contrast between the informal and beautified parts of Amdavad are stark

And the squatters all along the road here. The contrast between the informal and beautified parts of Amdavad are stark

Google Aunty got us right to Pappu mama’s doorstep.  Nilay Kapoor is Rachna’s mama (mother’s brother) and we call him Pappu mama. A figure from our schooldays,  he works for India’s large public sector rural bank NABARD. I remember him as one of the most intelligent people I knew outside of my parent’s medical community back in the Lucknow days. He was always urging us towards academic excellence and I had fond memories of Pooja mami, his wife, who was a pretty young mother back in school!

An evening of family fun ensued. Amid chai, nashta, nostalgia and chitter chatter, Pappu mama offered nuggets from his own visits to rural India, on other postings and here in Gujarat. An unapologetic fan of Narendra Modi, I was impressed by his neutrality as he discussed Gujarat’s struggle with education and malnutrition and praised its co-operative movements and community feeling. Kejriwal, not one to be left out of any discussion on politics today, was also on the menu, as was shopping and the delectable Gujarati thali at Sasuji on CG road. I was, of course, tickled to find that idli sambar had now officially become a part of the Gujarati thali here! Another example of the myriad manifestations of cultural exchange in our country that make life very interesting.IMG_5398

Do not ever miss this experience if you in Gujarat!

Do not ever miss this experience if you in Gujarat!

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on March 13, 2014, in Travel & Experiences and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Sali!!! mai tujh pe case karne wala hoo. Yaha hum Laptop ke aage Bandar bane hue hai aur tum jahan bhar ke maaze le rahi ho. Pardon the first word but there is no justice in this world.

    • Hemant,
      Who’s stopping you? Do what you want to do, man! And I want to roam the world!

      • There are but 2 regrets in Life one is not to get your wish the other is to get it. Chalo will speak to you some time over a cup of green tea. But you are blessed by God (to able to do your wishes) so don’t feel shy in asking more from him.

        Cheers and keep writing and don’t mind if we feel JEALOUS!!!!

  2. Vaise if I told Chidambaram to put a special tax on your travel we would not have a budget deficit.

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