Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baroda-ly speaking

With completely innocent and reader-friendly intentions, I had planned on calling this post “Broadly speaking” because you will find many of my prejudices/biases/opinions/brilliant observations about some not so recent experiences listed here(I know I left gujarat a long time back...but the scars have stayed for good). However, when I realised that some of those oh-so-ignorant meanderers who chance across my super-awesome blog might make a connection with a certain female who is rather an inseperable part of my life I decided to ditch the idea and be my usual punny self.

So, dear reader, please do not read any further if:

a) You belong to Gujarat.

b) You are one of Narendra Modi’s cronies.

c) You are one those prudish folks with upturned noses, who look down upon opinionated folks.

d) You have no appreciation for brilliant writing. (Ha, still reading eh?)

Ok then, I spent almost 3 years in this strange land called ‘Gujarat’. It’s a land of anachronisms – a land of strange paradoxes. On one hand, you see expressways drastically shrinking the distances between places, and factories mushrooming overnight. (That’s when you say, “Wow, the development in this state is fantastic,” and rattle of growth rates and comparative charts and statistics, if you are from that much maligned breed of capitalists MBAs/MBA students.)

On the other hand, you see farmlands being acquired for building factories, with no sustainable income sources for farmers and companies making a beeline to set up shop in Gujarat, to take advantage of the cheap labour and government freebies. (That’s when you lean back on your recliner, take a swig of imported malt whiskey, run a hand through your lush hair slicked with gel, adjust your Aviator glasses, adjust the temperature of the AC and say, “Sheesh, what exploitation! Stop destroying our planet! Down with capitalism! Long live imperialism.” Then, you fish out your latest Blackberry, and with your nicely manicured finger, dial the number of your press contact, giving him/her the details of your next protest march/candle-lit vigil/rath yatra to mobilise support (and funds!) against all this.)

Anyway, I digress from the main point here. So yes, Gujarat is a land of diversity and the average newcomer is likely to be lost or even bewildered for the first few weeks. Hence, a brief guide is being published here to help such newbies. (I thought “Gujarat for dummies” was too lame a title, and moreover even dummies don’t like to admit that they are what they are.)

1) Do not offer a Gujarati any medicines for cold/cough, by way of misplaced concern. When you think they are sneezing, they might simply be talking of arriving soon. (Aaoon Chhoon = Atchoo!)

2) Gujaratis seem to be fond of painting, especially spray painting. In fact, many of them practise this fine art all day long. The Gujarati technique of spray painting involves chewing a mix of different shades and colours, till it attains consistency, and then using the ‘point-and-shoot’ interface. You may stop to admire this artwork on walls and even on road surfaces. If lucky, you might even catch a master artist at work. However, do not touch the paintings for it may spoil them.

3) I’m not quite sure of this one, but it seems that this state lacks some of the basic camaraderie that we experience in the North. For example, there is no back-thumping, effusive greeting with references being made to your (female side of the) family among friends. So much so, no expletives are exchanged among friends to express warmth. Weird! (This trend completely negates Karan’s law of friendship: The strength of a friendship bond between two persons is directly proportional to the frequency and intensity of the swear words used, per unit conversation.)

4) Non-vegetarians, please bring along a basket of eggs and an incubator to hatch them in. This state is extremely unfriendly to all of you. Apparently, Gujarat is supposed to have the highest number of vegetarians in India. Bah!! (Ahmedabad’s claim to fame: The first city to have an all-veg Pizza Hut in India. POOH!!)

5) Either the people, or the cops in this state are extremely lazy. Reportedly, the crime rate in Gujarat is the lowest in India. For the record, Gujarat is a dry state but I have seen people carrying liquor bottles being waved through a police check post at 5 am. (Don’t ask me what I was doing at that unearthly hour!)

6) The capital of Gujarat is Gandhinagar. Officially, yes. Unofficially, Ahmedabad is THE capital for all practical and business purposes. Gandhinagar is green and clean, and has wide roads. But, for buying books, watching a movie, hanging out, visiting a market, Ahmedabad is the best place.

7) All men are ‘bhai’ and all women are ‘ben’. (‘Ben’ is pronounced as ‘bane’. For example, Shantaben would be pronounced as ‘Shantabane’. I wonder, why ‘bane’? ) Please do not be astonished by names like ‘Rameshbhai Bhailalbhai Parmar’ or ‘Nathiben Nathabhai Raval’. (These are actual examples, not concocted ones.)

8) Prof. Kakani, who teaches Finance (and the art of walking around like an undead zombie without bumping into things/people) was right about the Gujju bhais. Apparently, 35% of our stock market wealth in India is owned by Gujjus. (Theory: Khakra sharpens the brain and stimulates neurons. Note to self: Buy 1 kg of khakra tomorrow.)

I guess all those pointers should get you started. The rest, you will either figure out or will be spoonfed to you through this blog. So, don’t worry. There is no Dantesque inscription at the Gates of Gujarat: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”. (That inscription has been copyrighted by my employers, for use on their gates.)

Eat. Pray. Love. But most of all, P.R.A.Y. (No reference to any individual with a similar sounding name)

P.S. No references to Baroda, you say. Well, only because no other puns with city names struck me.

P.P.S. I did warn you to stop reading. If after reading, you dislike my views, your problem. HMPH!!