My visit to Gujarat, India between 21st NOV and 24th Dec, 2010.

Posted on January 19, 2011

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MY TRIP TO INDIA 21ST Nov-24th Dec, 2010
I was surprised rather unexpectedly when the BA checking personal in Terminal 5 of the Heathrow airport upgraded me to business class. He showed me the direction to access the club facilities and booked my seat and suggested that I would get a priority boarding after the first class passengers. I thanked him and headed for the club. On entering the place, I was met by a courteous receptionist who showed me the way to an area where I could use my computer and have some refreshments. It was peaceful area in which some customers were busy looking down onto the keyboards of their computers. I selected a croissant and coffee and sat on a high chair near a table where I could use my notebook computer. After about an hour, I headed for the boarding towards the nearby gate. I was welcomed by a flight crew as I entered the plane. My seat number 11k was not far from the main entrance. It was a spacious area where I soon settled down. One of the charming hostesses offered me the choice of a news paper. I selected The Times paper. Soon another hostess came with variety of drinks. I took water.
The commander of the BA 777 flight 139 to Mumbai announced that Mumbai airport was rather busy and had not given clearance for takeoff from the Heathrow airport. Half an hour later, the aircraft engines slowly began to turn making noisy and vibrating start. The plane slowly crawled towards the starting point of the runway. On arrival near the place, it took a while before making the run for the take off. The engines began to turn smoothly and powerfully then. Silence prevailed inside the cabin. The takeoff, after what appeared to be a long run, was exciting and thrilling and as soon as the craft lifted, I felt tremendous surge of power that lifted the plane to the height of 22000 feet at 380 miles per hour speed. After a few minutes of constant level of flying, the engines raved up further to accelerate the plane to a new height of 33000 feet with the progressive increase in the rate of speed the craft was travelling. When the craft was taking off the runway, I leaned forward to see the white marking on the nose of the nearest engine to see the differences in speed of rotation. Each time the craft nose was pointed at 30 or 40 degree angle, the engine speeds increased significantly. Dinner was served at 33000 feet. My special vegetarian meal consisted of Jira rice, terka dal and south Indian potato curry, all of which I found too hot chilli wise.. I ate a little bread roll and a bit of salad leaves. A berry jam cake and semi sweet rice cake were served as desserts. I didn’t like either of them. Decaffeinated coffee was nearly cold.
The flight route selected was to go over Belgium, Germany, Turkey and Iran and then heading straight for Mumbai bypassing Karachi. Just before the sunset. I saw fast moving, ring shaped, miles wide white clouds spinning at high speed with to and fro oscillation. The commander seemed to manoeuvre the plane in synch with the to and fro movement of the clouds to avoid flying through the cloud ring. Despite this clever game, we were subjected to turbulences; at one time the cloud ring came so near my side of the plane that I got worried thinking what could happen if the craft was engulfed by the ring. The golden sunshine spread over high clouds slowly turned into a pink hue before the disappearance of the sun. Only the white flashing light at the far end of giant wing of the craft remained visible in the sea of darkness outside the window near my seat.
An immigration officer looked at my passport first and then stared at me briefly before stamping on passport. After collecting my bags, I walked through the Noting to Declare green channel of the customs. I was met by a nephew outside the terminal 2 building. I noticed great changes made in the external face of the terminals. A six seater Toyota car that the nephew drove was comfortable and spacious. With air-condition on, I felt relaxed throughout the 259 kilometre journey on the National Highway to the village Amadpore. The two lanes highway was being expanded to three lanes due to significant expansion in commercial transportation of goods. The increased volume of truck traffic was blocking private drivers move forward and making driving dangerous as the car drivers overtook from all sides. The truck drivers drove ponderously at a crawling speed on the fast lane. Each vehicle driver expects a driver behind to warn him/her by giving a high beam light or by hooting before overtaking.
We arrived in the village at 7:30 am. Ajit, my cousin opened the house doors and welcome me first. Soon my uncle Nana came out to greet me; as I bowed to his feet, he put his arms over my shoulders and said,
“Come on in, hope you arrived safely here”
“Yes Nana.”
An egoistic powerful rich person named Nimesh Desai, resident of the village, buys the favours of younger generation by offering them alcoholic drinks and addictive chewing tobacco. He buys land from small land holders at a cheap price and employs them to work on his farms at a wage below going rate. He enforces his own rules on the traffic passing on the village road, for example, trucks, cars and motor bikes are stopped and drivers are told to stop driving on the road; he orders his henchmen to destroy vehicle’s front screen and damage the body and beat the drivers who refuse to obey his orders. He drinks a lot and chews tobacco all the time. He has paint manufacturing factory in the nearby city. He lives in a large modern house with air conditioned master bedrooms and a lift. He has small museums containing old motor cars, motor bikes, guns and swords. There is an original car used in Bollywood’s famous film maker late Rajkapoor’s film.
He invests his number two black money in the village’s agricultural land to avoid paying tax; the farmers are exempted from paying tax on agricultural land. He secretly holds parties in his luxurious house for influential businessmen and friends to entertain them by furnishing generously wine, spirits, food and women at late nights. The village folks turn blind eyes to his activities as they are frightened of his power. He controls the village temple and its activities by nominating the village priest to run the duties of the temple.
The only person who opposes his policies is a well known award winning mango and sugar producing resident farmer named Ajit. He interferes with Nimesh’s policy only when its overall result adversely affects lives of all the village people. When Nimesh realises the opposition he tries to reconcile.
My cousin Bhanu decided to have a free lunch offered by Jain (spiritual sec) temple located on the other side of the river Purna that runs between Amadpore village and the nearby city of Navsari. Bhanu wore short pants which are not permitted when visiting the temple. An official woman told him rudely,
“Are you here to picnic or loitering in garden?”
Bhanu had no idea as to the meaning of it. He asked,
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you know that you are here to eat at Jain facility wearing short pants?”
Bhanu informed her that the door keeper said nothing about the rule and he had paid already for the lunch. He then added,
“You are rude when you say if I was on a tour just because I wear pants.”
The official realised her mistake. He was allowed to have the lunch! In India, lot of people assume many things and talk back like the woman officer at the temple.
Once Bhanu travelled by train from Mumbai to Navsari, He was asked to produce his train ticket by an inspector. When he submitted his ticket, the inspector asked him to produce his ID. The inspector kept staring at him. One of the four Bhanu’s friends had purchased four tickets. His friend showed his ID but the inspector didn’t want to know that. He demanded Bhanu’s ID. Bhanu said that he was travelling for the first time and had no idea that an ID was required having come from overseas recently. The inspector kept staring at him. His friends realised the meaning of the stare. The officer wanted money. Bhanu refused and in the end the inspector went away.
On another occasion, Bhanu was approached by four policemen on the train who wanted to inspect his baggage. Bhanu asked for a reason for suspicion. He was told that for security reasons.
“Why me? Is it because I am wearing short pants and look like a bomb carrier to you? If my looks make you think that way, then check this man sitting opposite me. He looks a suspect terrorist to me” It was clear that the policemen were after obtaining bribe money. The soon gave up and left the compartment.
On 9/12/10, I met the head principal Mr. Gautam at Vidya Kunj School in Navsari regarding acceptance and publication of my novel Spirit Of Love. I was introduced to him by my cousin Jayanti who knew him well. I briefed the principal about my story and he recommended a printer in Navsari. I spoke to Mr Dharmesh in charge of printing books. I asked him to give me some ideas on my interest. He suggested that as he looks after printing of books only; he could work for me in producing the book in top quality after I present him with details of format and number of words etc. I got his business card and agreed that I would write to him in future.
A week later, I was introduced by cousin Jayanti to the honorary chairman Mr.V K Purohit of the famous eye hospital in Navsari. After brief introduction of my story, he immediately wanted a synopsis and the first three chapters of the story. He added that his learned and retired friend, who is a professor of English, undertook editing and assessment work written in English for him to print a book. I sent him the required information two days ago and now await his response. It sounded a good promise.
I was invited to an evening dinner arranged by MR Mohanlal and his wife, resident of the UK on holidays in India. They decided to treat some 200 relatives and friends to the dinner party. A neighbouring empty land was used to sit the guests for dinner. I could see mosquitoes and crows flying around and noticed also the presence of dogs in the dining area. The food items were pakoras, papadoms, rice, yoghurt curry, split beans dry curry, aubergine and potato curry, full of oil and red chilli, small spiced and fried puries with sweetmeat made of curd yoghurt and saffron. I observed that some of these items were served by boys with their bare hands. Many guests twice lapped up generous helping of food. I ate puries and sweetmeat only. After finishing the dinner, people walked away towards another area and soon went to their respective places of residencies. As the late evening darkness increased the area was full of mosquitoes and crows.
I had a great time staying in the modern house of my uncle Nana. Once upon a time, he ran a fruit and grocery shop in then known as Lourenco Marques (Now renamed as Maputo), the capital city of Mozambique. He was the captain of the cricket club of Indians in the city and had played one day test match with the South African team. On his permanent return to India in early 60s, he took interest in farming. In 1970, his son Ajit joined him from the USA when Nana was had bowel cancer. Nana was operated successfully and still lives admirably at his age 90 in Amadpore, the place where I was brought up till my age 17 by my grandparents. Ajit developed the farming on a large scale by planting mango and Chicu (fruit similar in look to the New Zealand’s Kiwi fruit) trees in thousands and now commands great income by leasing the fruit crops to wholesalers. He grows sugar cane on a fairly large scale too.
It was fabulous to eat daily home cooked varieties of food. All the vegetables were home grown. I ate guava, local berries, sugar cane, various home prepared sweets and home grown sweet mango pulp. People of the village were friendly. Some of the older residents told me stories about my late mother and aunts. Nana gave account of how my father had died of prostate cancer in Lourenco Marques at the age of 44. My grandparents had four sons. My father was the eldest and Nana is the youngest.
I had the benefit of using Bhanu’s internet router. I spent few hour daily keeping in touch with my son in England, friends and relatives in Santa Cruz and LA in the USA, video club friends in the UK, and making notes of daily interesting events that you read here. My return date was fixed on 23RD but it was cancelled due to snow in the UK. I flew back to Heathrow in the evening of 24TH December.
Ramanlal Morarjee© 02/01/2011. Words:-2274.

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