Friday, April 22, 2011

Apno Amdavad

Ahmedabad is one city I was always curious about. Somehow, I always had very good vibes about the city. If you ask me to count reasons, there are many. Most of the top ones are ‘snakes’ (i.e. snacks) of course- available everywhere and consumed frequently – Khamman, Dhokla, Khandvi, Dabeli, Vada Pao, panipuri,  Bhel to name a few. To top them all , the city is truly the Ice cream capital of the country- Vadilal, Havmore, Dinshaw , Natural and not to miss AMUL . That itself raises it several notches in my opinion .

Then it is  a  vegetarian’s paradise….a foodie city , a city with culture, cuisine and  most importantly the pride.  Yes, the last one is important because in last few days I have come to realize that I cannot tolerate cynics  and in most parts of my country, cynicism is the prevalent disease. “kuch nahin ho sakta!!” is something I hate to hear. It was therefore, so heartening to find a place where people speak about present and future also with pride , hope and optimism. Where despite notoriety of communal politics- politics by and large is based on development initiatives . Where despite corruption, things move and get done .

There is something in the city that moves people. Make them react about it.  Sir Thomas Roe  described Ahmedabad as a "goodly city as large as London” and Emperor Jehangir sneered that Ahmedabad was actually Gardabad (The City of Dust). But one must also remember that the 17th century Muslim historian Muhammad Qasim Firishta said that it was on the whole, the handsomest city in  the Hindoostan.  According to legend, the main reason behind Ahmedabad coming into existence 600 years ago is a love story involving Ahmad Shah, the city's founder. Teja, the gorgeous daughter of Asha Bhil who became queen of Ahmad Shah, wanted to remain close to her parents' home, and thus soon after marrying her, the sultan again came to Ahmedabad to be with his beloved . Camping on the banks of Sabarmati, he was surprised to see some rabbits which were being chased by his hounds, turned around in defence and confronting their attackers. Sultan's spiritual advisor explained that it was the character of the land that it inspired courage to timid rabbits and advised the Sultan that the site would be auspicious for his new capital. And this is how   the Sultan, who had been looking for a place to build his new capital, decided to locate it in what was then a forested area close to the river bank . He called it Ahmedabad. The incident is popularly described in a one liner: "Jab kutte pe sassa aaya, tab Badshah ne shaher basaya". When the hare chased the dog, the emperor built the city.  The city however remembers its beloved old man much more than that empress . Gandhi is a trademark in the city and its newly designed cousin Gandhi-nagar . The city, however  seems to be in a dilemma to  decide what to do with this trademark. While in the heart of it- every Guajarati is a very simple, God fearing  person  – but in real  materialistic world the community has walked far ahead. The dichotomy is very visible in their humble appearance and yet massive wealth , their love for roadside snacks and their swanky malls, their entrepreneurship and their faith in God – their ability to go ahead and their ability to cheat in taxes  . Very understandably, the city dreams to be the next Manhattten  or Shanghai.

M.K. Gandhi-the old man who claimed that his life is his lesson- continues to be the biggest hero in this city . I , however , visited his  sabarmati ashram in most unsuitable company. Cynical bureaucrats and Rusted engineers could hardly appreciate the simplicity and beauty of the place . They posed and clicked pictures , collected brochure and walked away saying that the place was “ nothing much” . For them the place was not even a mediocre picnic place . For me it was an oasis of peace amidst the bustling city . A place where time is frozen since Bapu left it . Except for the river front- which was very ill kept, I loved the serenity of the place . The house where he lived for years was so bare, so austere that it is difficult not to be moved by it . Unfortunately he continues to be judged by his politics. And not always very kindly.
            While roaming around the campus of IIM- the ace business school of the country , I think of Gandhi, of Ahmedshah and also the Scientist founder of this place- Vikram Sarabhai. Space Research to snacks- Ahmedabad is indeed a city of multiple colours.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Pause

Louis MacNeice was an irish poet, a contemporary of W.H. Auden . I reproduce a poem written by him here as it gives me strength on those desparate moments when I feel that a cyclone of "life" is sucking me in its vortex.It helps me in realising that at the other side of all the despair, frustration and failures remains our only chance to redeem ourselves, to purify ourselves and to cleanse ourselves of our weaknesses. And we live this life with all our disappointments and despair, yet not lose our innate faith on ourselves. Every misfortune only makes us stronger, every grief steels our heart ever more and every battle we lose makes us more determined.
     The cynic would say that in the course of our journey, we only move from one frustration to another, from one despair to another, from one pain to another, from one sorrow to another, from one disappointment to another, from one hopelessness to another. Only for some fleeting moments, we are allowed to be happy – “Happiness” as Thomas Hardy said, after all “is an occasional episode in the general drama of pain”. But that does not mean that we take our frustrations and despair and disappointments for granted and resign ourselves to our fate, knowing fully well that
“Alike for those who for today prepare,
 and for those who after a tomorrow stare
A Muezzim cries from the tower of darkness
 Fools, your reward is neither here nor there.”

No, the strength and determination are certainly not for any imaginary victory over an imaginary foe, not even against ourselves. It is only to realise that despite everything, just to be living is an wonderful experience. So here I begin once again, heartbroken after one more disappointment...full of hope for the next assignment ; praying that they do not turn me into a stone....ever.


" I am not yet born; O hear me.

Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.

Otherwise kill me."