I had never been to India and an invitation to participate in a conference at IIT Gandhinagar in the Gujarat was too great an opportunity to pass by. Centred on Ahmedabad and the Gujarat’s capital city, Gandhinagar, attending the conference gave me a tiny window into the culturally and environmentally diverse country that is India. Sitting on the plane – the first leg of my journey home from a whirlwind trip to India – seems a perfect time to look back on my short few days there. The things that stuck with me are as diverse as the country itself.
Cows everywhere, sometimes in small herds, sometimes alone, sometimes by the side of the road with a person nearby, sometimes wandering down the road unaccompanied by anyone. Somehow it just seems to work.
Uncontrolled traffic (at least to me, as passenger, observer, and foreigner). Motorbikes, cars, trucks, buses veering around each other stopping, starting, snarling, but I saw no accidents and everyone appears to get where they’re going. There is no way I would ever drive there!
A camel pulling a wagon, a little boy peeing out of a tuktuk while it wove through traffic (his mum had a firm grip on to him), barefoot boys playing cricket in the dirt, people cutting up trees with handsaws, monkeys sitting on a fence, garbage and poverty.
And in amongst it all amazing architecture and history…
The Adalaj Stepwell – a beautiful 500 year old structure that goes into the ground for 5 levels in order to reach water. The story around the stepwell is wonderful. According to our guide, a Muslim leader conquered the area and wanted to marry the widowed queen who was Hindu. The queen agreed to marry him only after he built the well (which incorporates both Hindu and Muslim designs). Once the well was complete, rather than marry, the queen drowned herself in the well. Her body is buried at Stepwell.
An ancient Muslim temple and a beautiful Jain temple. Gandhi’s first ashram in India as well as the amazing museum about Gandhi.
Running through my experiences was the conference and the wonderful people who brought it all together with interesting sessions and workshops and great cultural evenings with dancing and traditional Gujarati meals. I learned a lot about libraries. But I also learned about Gujurati culture and food and experienced the warm welcome and kindness of the people of Gujarat.