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   Frankly, I do not know what is happening in Gujarat... (May 9, 1996)

Frankly, I do not know what is happening in Gujarat. Who is Vadhera and Vaghela, and what has happened to those CMs who were called Darzi and Solanki, and how is it that the BJP, which can get on with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, cannot get on with its own party members in Ahmedabad and Gandhi Nagar.

I am not very familiar with Gujarat, though it is next door to Maharashtra, an overnight journey by train to Ahmedabad, a population that speaks Gujarati, a language that I am more acquainted with than any other Indian language, except Marathi.

I have visited Ahmedabad twice, on both the occasions there was prohibition. Come to think, there is permanent prohibition in Gujarat. They say it is because it is Gandhiji's home state, but I do not believe that could be the reasons. Gujaratis are not particularly zealous about such things. Bengalis are. Just because Tagore is a Bengali, every Bengali has to be a poet.

Apart from prohibition, as a city Ahmedabad does not come up to much. Along with Kanpur, it is one of the two textile cities of India. Bombay also was, till Dr. Datta Samant killed it and ruined all the textile workers. If trade union leaders were madeto pay for harming their member-workers, then Dr. Samant would have a lot to pay for.

Anyway, the textile mills in Ahmedabad create a permanent pall of smoke over the city. The population is constantly wheezing and coughing, visitors more so. The city itself is quaint, walled in with several stone gates, narrow winding lanes, and houses with Gujarati houswives sitting on the doorsteps and exchanging notes on their BRI nephews and nieces in California.

There is a large Muslim population, and though there have been a few though there have been a few riots, generally the two communities live in close harmony, and, in fact, there is less of a ghetto atmosphere in Ahmedabad than in Mumbai. It is also thanks to the Muslim population, the city is not totally vegetarian.

However, vegetarian or otherwise, both the Ahmedabadis and Surtis are known for their love for food. The ghari of Surat and the some halva of Ahmedabad are justly famous, and the farsans of Gujarat have spread all over India, just as the idlis and dossas of the south. The food is spicy and sweet or salty and sweet, and the great breakfast treat is salty gathias, some green chillis and sweet jalebis, consumed together.

The second time I was in Ahmedabad, I visited the Sabarmati Ashram, which was Gandhiji's ashram, Vardha was Vinobha Bhave's. There is a museum, a couple of houses where Ghandhiji used to live and work, and where he was visited the Sabarmati Ashram, which was Gandhiji's ashram, Vardha was Vinobha Bhave's. There is a museum, a couple of houses where Gandhiji used to live and work, and where he was visited by all the Indian leaders, and some of his belongings, which were always very frugal and minimum. The Sabarmati flows gently under the ashram and peace resigns. Outside, Ahmedabad bustles along with its Vadheras and Vaghelas.

 
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