There are places you remember: some for serpentine, narrow lanes to the holy rivers; some for the mist, and the thousand night lights you see from atop hills. And there are places you remember for the people in them, for the shared memories of shared pasts.
Ahmedabad, is hardly a lonesome poet’s muse. But, there is a tug at your heart-strings because you grew up here— you smelt its smells, you spent your childhood in its nooks and crannies, and you saw it change in form and dimension. The one constant has been the ethos of the people here.
The Gujarati ethos has been a simple one—work and let work, and share a community life. People are unafraid to work hard, to make humble beginnings, and slowly build empires. So many current titans of corporate India started out on the simple bicycle in by-lanes of Ahmedabad. Some sold detergent, some cloth. People do not hesitate to do the most menial of tasks. That is greatness. That is the true Gandhian work ethic. The doors of industry here are open to all. A forlorn Oriya from nine hundred kilometres away can come here and build a decent life. That is acceptance.
Acceptance, not just in terms of work, but such that your psyche is woven into the rich social fabric and made its own. Neighbours help you right from the day you move into a new neighbourhood. They tend you in sickness, they mingle with you in health. They even do your dirty dishes for you when you need help. Concern, cooperation, communication, help—tough things to find in urban jungles. But you always found it here, irrespective of the neighbourhood you lived in. You were easily and naturally drawn into the garba nights, the laughter and camaraderie in making ghughris and mathiyas before Diwali, and the singing of wedding songs. The joie de vivre, the zest for life of the Gujarati is matchless—you find people out in the city, at night everywhere. From the kulfi carts at Manekchowk to the ambience of the mushrooming multiplexes, from Wankhede to Winchester, the Gujarati is everywhere.
For a girl there is no place like Ahmedabad to grow up in. Eve teasing? What is it? No one paws you furtively in crowded AMTS buses as in DTC or BEST buses. Where else can you go out alone at late hours of the night and not be stared at?
When the earth shook and fires burned, you saw the resilience of the Gujarati. These straws did not break their backs. They picked up the shattered pieces and mosaiced their lives. Bit by bit, and day by day. Normalcy came at a price but it always bounded in. Generosity poured in from all sides.
I grew up here happy and carefree. The singular song my heart sang and that is my signature memory is that it is love that makes the world go round.