If cities had split personalities, Ahmedabad would be among the afflicted, especially the campus I live in. There are two campuses- one in the summers and the other in the rest of the year. In the summers you will find the campus mostly deserted to aid loneliness, shops closed adding to food woes, hot rooms inducing sweat and insomnia, occupied libraries with A/C to aid sleeping and dogs running helter-skelter in search of shade and water. I have had the experience of three summers here now and it is safe to say that if you are the kind of person who cannot make plan beforehand and get stuck, you are in for some experience.
Not that everything is bad about it. One does get time to spend alone which has become a costly commodity nowadays. Sometimes the breeze in the night feels so sweet, you want to sleep on the grass. I am reminded of the NCC camp we had during our college days where in the midst of all the discipline and physical work, a biscuit of 5 rupee pack of Parle-G had attained a value of mythical proportions. People fought for it, made and broke friendships for it. But the wind here shows up only intermittently. It knows the value of scarcity, it seems.
On top of it a friend of mine who stays on campus works on Climate Change. I told him once that he has come at the right place to do this kind of research. Necessity is the mother of all inventions after all. Where else one can find the need to reduce temperatures if not in Ahmedabad! My friend is a funny guy. He replied that the challenge is the same on the other side, which is to make all efforts to thwart any research on this topic and let the temperatures soar. In this respect it may not be a good idea to stay here, he said. I found him struggling in his work for some days, maybe he was right. This seemed to be a head on collision until my friend ran away to Northeast of India one fine day.
Another bad thing about summers here is that the addictive fluids which we would normally enjoy become useless and in fact bothersome. I am talking about tea and coffee here. Alcohol is banned in the state of Gujarat if you were having other ideas. Mentally, people like us are addicted to drinking tea at dhabas but at a temperature of 47 degrees how can one drink a hot liquid! Still the struggle goes on; we keep drinking tea hoping that the gods may have some mercy. This is similar to some of my bachelor friends who are single and extremely reluctant to change their attitudes and habits. Chalta hai chalne do, kuchh na kuchh ho jayega.
Contrast this to the other personality of the campus. There are people all around; there is movement, rain, football, food and a sense of chaos.
My friend who ran away to Northeast came back recently. He described to me his journey on the scenic roads from Kolkata to Siliguri, the metropolis of Guwahati, quasi western Shillong, the peace of small town of Bongaigaon and the incessant rains at Cherapunji. At one place between Cherapunji and Siliguri he was reminded, amid the green mountains, mist ridden clouds and a noisy river flowing beneath, of the abode of gods. At Cherapunji he said he did not come out of his car even once for the fear of getting wet, what a joke! The only time he came out was to visit a cave called the Mawsmai Cave which was a nice experience.
The best thing he said, apart from the sunny weather were the rides. Lonely roads, picturesque surroundings and temporary halts on roadside tea stall with close friends. On top of that the driver, like many drivers was an interesting man in himself. I think there is something in the profession of driving that makes you interesting, probably the act of sitting close and tolerating strangers every day. He laughed at their jokes, cracked his own and urged my friend to go to Bhutan someday. They also passed the village famous for Bodo killings amid the keen eyes of the security personnel.
At the main market square of Shillong where they stayed, the shops, the people in their latest trendy outfits and a couple giving sermons of Jesus Christ on loudspeaker to a group of people gave it a western feeling. I asked him if he bought anything, he said he bought a bhutta (roasted corn) to eat. He said that under such weather, he had a sudden urge of having one. They also passed a signboard of IIM Shillong and in a matter of youthful fascination, all his friends decided to come one day as faculty members of this institute. Sometimes how much of our decisions are driven by factors unknown to the mind, only known to the heart! It’s not that I am asserting these people would come back but one does feel the power the surroundings can have.
It’s raining in Mumbai and we are waiting for rains. Who knows the weather in Ahmedabad might win our hearts once again!