For me, the mere mention of Ahmedabad brings on a barrage of memories –
Of waking up on the tennis court near Gujarat College hostel in summer,
Dusk at Makwana and Ratan’s kitlis where we hung around every evening,
NID – where I aspired to go but didn’t know how,
The M.J. Library where I spent most of my daytime and probably learnt everything in life from,
The drama college building, the tutorial building, the Library
And the tall trees in the campus of Gujarat College…
The steps outside University School of Languages,
Where I used to tease Ulka (my wife) and she’d run after me…
(Once she ran after me and I disappeared behind the bend, and as she ran after me, her dupatta flew and wrapped an innocent passer-by, as he turned around the building. The poor guy got so terrified, he froze on the spot!
How much we laughed!)
Chai and Maska-bun at Ruturaj outside the CEPT,
Open air theatre of Visual Art Centre where I did ‘freehearsals’
(The rehearsal space was free).
It was open air so our clothes used to get much soiled.
(In gujarati ‘melo’ means dirty. So I used to say this is literally ‘melodrama’)
Bun-Samosa outside IIM,
The first decent pastry joint – Upper Crust,
The first place for Internet surfing –Random Access
(Sooooooo expensive at a staggering 80 bucks / hour in 1995!),
Gujju-pizza at law garden
(‘pesal-pijja’ = same pizza with kaju-draksh on it),
Dabeli and Wada-Pao at Vijay Char Rasta,
Paranthas in the Ellis Bridge gully,
Thali at Gopi Dining Hall (was still pricey at 35 bucks!),
Softies at Dairy Den near Swastik Char Rasta,
Thick-shakes at Cheers…
Hawaiian Open Sandwich at Freezeland…
Thakorbhai, Jaishankar Sundari and Tagore halls,
Where every doorman knew me and I was allowed through the backstage door during any show)…
Countless studios and locations where I worked…
Inder Residency Hotel, where I worked in the front office for six months,
The office of Dawn Productions on C.G. Road, outside which,
I once danced for ten minutes, because for the first time someone gave me money to write (my first paid gig – a Gujarati TV serial on DD ‘Sangaath’)
All the Cinema halls –
Alankar, where I saw my first B/W movie,
Natraj, which had a circular, carpeted, ramp to Balcony
Roopali – had the best soft serve cone for 2 rupees,
Shree, Shiv, Ajanta and Ellora – all a stone’s throw from each other
Apsara & Aradhna, at Kankaria lake,
Maya – with the biggest screen I’ve seen,
Roopam, where upper stall was better than Balcony,
Relief, which spewed you out into the narrow gully after the film,
Lalita Mahal, where my Nanaji took me to see ‘Saudagar’,
Roshni, aptly named cause it was near the powerhouse,
And then there was Advance, my favorite movie theatre ever,
a small cubbyhole with 200 seats tucked away in a narrow alley, that exclusively played ‘Inglish pichhar’. Advance taught me more English than my entire convent education.
And yes, there also was that dingy Madhuram, which played adult movies.
I’m not listing all the theatres, there were just so many. It was the golden era of single screen cinemas and Ahmedabad, at one time had over 100 of them.
(Note to myself – must write a full blown article about this).
Coming back to aapnu amdavad.. Yes…
My first ‘own’ home – a rented flat near Doordarshan,
My first Luna – a second hand purchase, from a girl.
(I painted a skull on it to make it ‘macho’)
My first Bike, which I bought from my friend Jigar Patel,
who was moving to London and sold it to me because he was emotionally attached to the bike and didn’t want to sell it to anyone else.
My first accidents…
First love, first affair, first kiss…
Ahmedabad is where all happened…
I do visit Ahmedabad at least once a year. My family, my wife’s family – all the people that I’m really close to are there. But I refrain from meeting people in the media. It’s like coming home for me. It’s my family time and I wouldn’t like to have it otherwise. I recently came to Ahmedabad on 13th of January to celebrate Lohri with my parents and stayed to celebrate Uttran with my in-laws. I flew kites, even cut my palm – the loose skin between the thumb and the forefinger, (there’s a word for it but I can’t remember).
Ahmedabad looks radically different every time I come now (roads, cityscape everything’s changing so fast), yet, it still is my city and I can never get lost here. On my last trip, I was driving my parents around, my dad was going on about ‘take a right here’ ‘keep to left’ and I was like ‘Dad! I know where to go… I lived here, remember?’
My favourite Gujarati author, Chandrakant Baxi, has written somewhere that you live in a city but after a few years, the city starts living inside you… True story. I don’t live in Amdavad anymore, but Amdavad lives in me.
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