The last time we chatted, I was down in Diu living the good life. Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and mine ended with a nasty respiratory flu that took hold during a "sleeper" (notice quotations) bus trip up to A-town, and held on like Tuff Hedeman for a couple of weeks-- the combination of weather switchups, tailpipe sucking, and dust storms of Biblical proportions conspired to give me the seven-decades-of-smoking cough for about a week, until Lalit at the Shri Ganesh guesthouse in Mt Abu gave me a tip on the Ayurvedic home remedy for dry hack: raw ginger root chopped up and sweetened with honey before bedtime. I'm here to tell you it really works.
But I'm getting ahead of the storyline here and focusing on all the worst aspects of my health, which for anyone who knows me is the typical state of affairs for Tim Brown. But enough about my body, my self...
All my travels in the north had radiated from Ahmedabad, making it a fact o' life to spend a little time there on three separate occasions. I developed a curious love/hate relationship with this city for both reasons germane to the city itself and for entirely coincidental bad luck.
Fact: The first two days I was there the city was all but shut down: the first time, the national Diwali holiday, the second, the government asked all merchants to shut down to protest an indictment of a "seer" who later confessed to being an accessory to a murder he was being charged for! Sounds pretty wacky? I thought so to, but I don't pretend to know the nuances of the Indian political landscape. All I know is that I hadn't eaten in two days and had a hell of a time getting anything to eat. It caused an existential breakdown of sorts that caused me to yell into the void, "WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS?" I thought traveling had cured me of this little annoying habit, but I thought wrong.
Counter Fact: The same day, I met Garaung, aka Gary, at the Kathiawadi food stand. He sat down next to me after it seemed nobody wanted to (I had actually made a little boy cry moments earlier) and told me he had moved to Pittsburgh from Ahmedabad to become a regional manager for Walmart. He asked, "Do you want to see my Ahmedabad?" and took me whizzing around on the back of his motorbike all afternoon, taking me for Ice Cream ("Ahmedabad is the Ice Cream Capitol of India," he told me with a straight face), touring the University of Gujarat Campus, worshiping at his Temple, the Swami Narayan Temple in Central A-town (a person told me before afternoon prayer "God is waking up!"), a lesson in eating paan (more later), and finally a drop off at the Internet Cafe. In other words, a perfect tour guide for a lost afternoon.
Fact: I have been hit on by more gay men in my 72 hours in Ahmedabad than I have in my entire life, and much more graphically. "Do you like homo-sex?" was my overture as I was stumbling off an overnight train at 5 a.m., and "What's your size?" was the romantic cadence I heard in the park from a horny mustache later that same day. Easy-going acceptance of a person's sexual orientation translates to tacit approval for the Gay Indian, it seems. Gals, I feel your pain.
Counter Fact: Like I explained earlier, I have never, nor do I ever, expect to receive money from total strangers ever, ever again. Anywhere. Period.
Fact: A miscreant hit me on the back with a rock my first morning there, then flew me the bird when I turned around to see what had happened. The little turd was all of six years old.
Counter Fact: I had a most pleasant bus ride from Mt. Abu back to Ahmedabad with Sumta, a Londoner going to visit family in rural Gujarat. We did some girly gift shopping at the Night Market in which she was most helpful, and ended the evening with a top five Gujarati Thali at the Gopi Dining Hall. All told, a relaxing and final five hours there.
With such a mixed bag of emotions and experiences, how could I not write about it? After all, the bad experiences make for better post-travel stories, but the good ones are what you actually travel for. Rarely has a town given me so much of both.