This month. Last year.
I thanked my stars that Ahmedabad was on the cards in the cooler months of October, rather than any time before in the year. It’s difficult to navigate the city and its slim lanes of the old part under the harsh hand of the summer sun. With the degrees complementing an exciting guidebook writing project that I was on, I planned my weeklong trip sitting at the most vantage spot in the city – Neelkanth Patang Restaurant – Ahmedabad’s oldest revolving restaurant, from where you can see the big-bellied Sabarmati River wind around the concrete labyrinth and its traffic-clogged bridges. As guidebook writing goes, there are plenty of essentials that needed to be covered but I wanted to add some sights, restaurants or experiences in Ahmedabad that would make the offbeat traveller smile.
‘Trin-Trin Green-Green’ (TT-GG) Project
Reserve a full day to see the sights of the capital city of the state. It lies only 26km from Ahmedabad. The Gandhinagar Urban Development Authority (GUDA) has about 10 kiosks in different locations of the city with 10 cycles each, ready to be used by travellers. Shell out only Rs.5 for hiring a bike for a full hour. The small parking sheds are open from 10am-10pm and is manned so you can ask more questions.
Pethapur Village – Ahmedabad
Servicing the textile industry, this small settlement off Gandhinagar has only a few families that are still involved in making teak wooden blocks for printing fabrics. The craft came almost three centuries ago when women dipped broken bangles in colours to make designs on fabrics. The masons of the region were inspired by this and began using wooden casts instead, giving birth to the block printing industry. The community also struck great business by offering their services to make Saudagiri fabrics, which were a rage in Siam (present Thailand). Get in touch with Mr. Dayabhai Prajapati to seek an invitation into his home, to see this ancient craft at close quarters.
9904035369; Behind Gram Panchayat, near bus stand; meet by appointment only 9am-12pm and 3-5pm
An unexpected slice of entertainment in the form of an open-air theatre (the largest cinema screen in Asia) lies in Ahmedabad. Cinemagoers have truly enjoyed this slice of heritage since 1973. More than 600 cars and 6000 people can be accommodated here. If you’re lazy to pack some snacks, the in-house food court dishes out ample things to munch.
079 27454600; www.sunsetdriveincinema.com; Drive-in Road; timings 7pm-am for two shows
Imam Manzil – Ahmedabad
Few travellers will turn their eye to this crumbling home right opposite the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram entrance. Enter through the gate to find photographs of Ram Ji Bhai Badhia, who walked along with Gandhi, during the Dandi March. His grandson keeps the legacy of the freedom fighter alive by a display of honey-coloured photographs. The apathetic set up apart, a trip to the yard is goosebumps-inducing – it is here that a young Badhia decided to join the Freedom Movement.
Ashram Road; 9am-5pm
Ravivari (Sunday Market) – Ahmedabad
Mounds of clothes, utensils, books, stationary, antiques, dumbbells, bikes, false hair, vegetables, fruits, luggage and anything you can imagine is available in the Ravivari or Gujari (Sunday Market) that sprawls along the Sabarmati for the entire day. The tradition of this weekly flea market has been kept alive since the 15th century.
Below Ellis Bridge, next to Lokmanya Tilak Garden, Lal Darwaza; 6am-6pm
Morarji Desai Memorial
Only a small plaque on a brick wall announces the blind spot on the Ashram Road. Enter the gate and walk down a cobblestone path to reach a sprawling garden with a memorial wedged in the middle. Dedicated to the late Prime Minister and Independence activist, the lack of focus on this memorial comes as an irony, especially when Ahmedabad is known for celebrating the Freedom Movement with great vigour.
A fine example of secularism in the Old City, the Teen Darwaza makes for a quick stop. Under the arch of a large gate is a small cove where an oil lamp for Goddess Lakshmi has not been extinguished for the last 600 years. The keeper of this tradition was a Muslim man, Jabbar Bhai, who passed by, leaving the responsibility in the hands of his son, Yunus and wife, Zainab Bibi. Everyone regardless of their religious identity bows down to the small lamp when passing through the gate.