Friday, February 08, 2008

Passage to India – Part V

Welcome to Ahmedabad. We took the night flight and arrived in Ahmedabad Thursday night. Relative to Delhi it was less crowded and the air seemed cleaner. Later I came to learn the city is actively taking steps including having all of the auto rickshaws running on compressed natural gas.

My in-laws live in very spacious split level flats. It was a layout I had not seen before, but it was very practical and we had our own “guest” room which was very quiet and comfortable.

Friday was our first real day in Gujarat and we of course started with shopping. Gujarat really is a textile power house and in addition to the boutiques and branded stores, the law garden offered plenty of shawls, stoles and embroidered items. In addition to gifts and wedding clothes, I did peruse the men’s garments looking for traditional shirts.

Saturday we took a rare excursion to see India’s answer to a weekend home away from it all. This 45 minute drive took us outside of Ahmedabad proper and out to the country where the atmosphere was clean and quiet and a community of charming bungalows on roughly 0.5 acre lots were set up. Kind of like a retreat in the Hamptons, most of the owners maintain a home as a second residence and are well to do. Dinner that night was at Sankalp, which is now a chain and features terrific dosas.

Sunday was the family gathering at the Karnavati club. A club is a combination recreation center, banquet hall, leisure center and restaurant all in one. Club memberships can be quite valuable and initiation fees have grown steadily over the years. One can spend the afternoon playing cards or table tennis followed by a leisurely lunch. Our day at the Karnavati club included meeting about 130 friends and family and having a very nice Gujarati plate lunch. The food and service was excellent. The hall itself large and well maintained, however we were competing with staff that was also supporting a wedding.

The next few days were low key. It was so nice to just spend time with family and truly unwind. The flat was located close enough to the main drag that I could venture out for walks. We were able to sleep in a few days. Also we enjoyed several excellent home cooked meals in addition to our excursions out. The Iskon mall and the Reliance mart are quite impressive as the American concept of mega-malls and super-stores have started popping up in India.

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