April 19, 2008


This Indian city is as famous for its diamonds n garments industry as it is infamous for the plague epidemic that struck it not too many years ago!

I’d to make my maiden trip to this city all alone, because my bro had some exam to give! B-U-T…it was worth going alone…right from the word ‘go’!!!

Since the ticket wasn’t confirmed, I went to check the reservation chart when it was being put up. And…I didn’t know how to check that chart! So I asked the officer putting up the chart “how does one check the status?” and he very politely looked it up for me told me my confirmed seat and bogie no.!

When the train arrived I went and took my seat. The next two people to take seat were ladies. And by the time the train reached its second station in Mumbai, the other seats in that side of 6 seats were all occupied by ladies. So, I jovially commented to the co-passenger next to me… “hey! All the 6 seats are of ladies!!!” She smiled and replied that these were the ladies quota seats! All of us positioned ourselves very conveniently. I caught up on much needed forty winks. After some time, one of them pulled up the middle seat to sleep on it. So this beautiful lady next to me says…now u can lie down straight…and we shared a good laugh on it!!!

Later, we all got talking. One of them was a Psychology graduate from KC College-1994. the other one was from Sophia’s~ Socio-history and currently working with SOTC. She was going to Surat to her fiancé’s home for Holi. Basically, all of us were making a ‘HOLI’ visit to the city and no one was a native!

I felt so happy being in the midst of these ladies. It makes you realize that all this talk of ‘women empowerment’ is not a bluff, or restricted to the upper crust. There are ordinary women, going out there in the [ahem!] big bad world, using their education, skills and talent…and living it up!

SURAT has all the trappings of a tier-I city. THAT is a simple corollary of having high disposable incomes. As the service providers get a whiff of moolah, they come rushing to tap into this lucrative region. So, we get to see everything from a Pizza Hut to Gold’s Gym, from McDonald’s to Kaya Skin Clinic!!!!!

But, the Gujju’s inherent sedentary nature means that life still goes on at a very relaxed pace! I got to see a glimpse of many parts of this country in that city. From the Nagpur feel to Calcutta roads to Jamnagar by-lanes…it has a heady mix of all! Now, here’s what, makes Surat
a typical tier-II city…one that is in no hurry to don the metropolis feel!...

  • - roads are broad and well-paved.
  • - traffic signals that don’t work [no..they really don’t! the only saving grace is that during peak hours… some of the busier junctions~ where the chances of accidents are higher~ have a traffic cop stationed there.]
  • -rest of the traffic moves on mutual understanding!
  • -lot of two-wheelers… mainly the non-gear ones.
  • -loads of female drivers…with their typical covering of the face and neck area with a duppatta…leaving only the eyes bare, that too covered by glares!
  • -the city sleeps too early for any business hotspot. But then, considering the gujjus’ fetish for sleep…the shops shut quite early!
  • - shopping centers are another characteristic feature of tier-II cities that are ubiquitous in Surat too. These, of course, are a more like desi malls, with all kinds of outlets and affordable prices!

Here’s the brief on what ‘I’ did out there. I reached in the afternoon of 21st march n left for Mumbai on 24th early morning. Now, I’m somebody who doesn’t do pillion-riding as a principle. But there, I’d no option. And I had both my cousins [a bro n a sis] taking me around on their TVS Pleasure for most part of my stay! In fact, on 23rd when we got out in the noon, I tied my bandana to cover my face eyes downwards and sported shades, because of the terrible heat!

By 21st noon the HOLI mood had set in. and there were youngsters throwing water balloons at passer-bys from their homes. In daytime when we went out, no water balloon was aimed at us. But in the evening, I was actually in the mood to get hit. And twice, the balloons almost hit us…since we were riding on the scooty…hence it missed the aim. But, when we were about to reach home…someone’s balloon got it right and hit me on the thighs…so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

On the main day…ie HOLI- 22nd…I had LOADSA fun!!! In fact, for the first time I actually danced on Holi, coz I’d never really got a chance to do that before. Then, my cousin sis drove me to their old residence to play with her friends. But, they were already done with it and the building compound had just 3-4 men and a lady in the holi colours. I’m someone who never resists while being applied colour…so I let one of the men put as much colour as he wanted to. But, I guess, he put some weird dark colour, because when we were driving out…one of the kids around looked at us…got surprised…and I THINK he said ‘bhoot’!!!! we also drew a lot of stares on our ride back home. A little before we were about to reach our compound…two guys on a scooty, on the other side of the road threw what I thought was a water balloon at us. But it missed the shot and hit the ground…n then I looked back n saw….it was a coloured egg!!!!!!! So I shouted to them… “BAD LUCK GUYS!!!!!!!!!!”

After all this dhamaal…when I finally took a bath…the colour didn’t go entirely. And I was very surprised, ‘coz I’d taken appropriate precautions before going out to play. I don’t mind colours…but that time…I actually looked like a terrorist! There were a few purple spots on the left cheek, right side of the face was a shade of red and a part of the neck was shaded in green!!! Thanks to mom’s solution on the phone, when I left Surat on Monday…there weren’t any holi colours left!

On holi evening, when we went out to my uncle’s family friend’s place…I wore a saree that was peach-coloured with silver appliqué work and in a flowing fabric. The best part of it…was the blouse…which had a deep cut on the back-side. This was the first time I wore a blouse with that deep a neckline and it felt so sexy with the hair brushing on the back!!!!!

23rd evening, my cousins took me out for a movie. I’d fixed up a meeting with an e-pal after the movie. But then…my cell phone balance was really low. There was no recharge available around…coz all those shops had closed! Adding to our woes was the fact that my cousin couldn’t start the scooty…and later…she said there was no petrol! Also…my e-pal had not yet arrived. Balance was miserable and no recharge in sight. One of the medical store guys tried to be helpful by calling up some phone retailer for recharge. He took my no. but didn’t get the recharge done. Instead…I’ve had him calling me up [quite often] after I reached Mumbai. Though, I’ve been sensible enough to not take those calls!

Well, I finally did meet my e-pal…fun guy…as I already knew. next …I wanted to go to this one specific sweet-shop and none other. The problem was that none of us knew where the shop was! And I didn’t have enough balance to call up my uncle and ask for directions. Here, this e-pal was REALLY helpful. In the meanwhile that my cousin got her scooty filled…this guy called up one of his friends’ and got some hint on the shop’s location. He offered to come along to locate the shop, but I politely refused. He still persisted [gujju hospitality!] and ultimately had us guiding to the place his friend had told him of. In between he stopped to ask for further directions at a mall and then started ahead. But, as they say, when misery comes…it comes by dozens! after my cousin stopped behind my friend at the mall…she couldn’t start the vehicle!!!! There were people around who tried starting and even they couldn’t. I frantically tried my friend’s no. but, obviously, he wouldn’t pick up because he was riding his bike! Ultimately he did pick up and worriedly asked about our whereabouts. I managed to tell him the scene and asked him to come back. THAT WAS IT…my balance was over…can’t make any calls or send msgs!!!!! He came back and with a lot of difficulty got my cousin’s vehicle started. Not far ahead was the sweet shop. We reached and he said…this is it. I said…but this shop is closed. He was shocked…coz it was open 2 min.s back!!!!!!!! I stood perplexed for a min. and then ran towards the back door of the shop!!! I requested those guys to let me in … “I’m from Bombay and m leaving tomo!!!” so…there I was…making a back door entry!!!! I picked up my favourite sweets, profusely thanked the guys and made a hasty exit! Outside, my e-pal rode along till a point and then said that he’d be taking the other turn. I expressed my gratitude, pulled his leg for one of our inimitable jokes and parted ways.

THIS was one eventful trip. At the end of it, I decided I’m gonna go to a different place every year for holi!

Though, the sad part is that on my way back my health started getting bad. And by the time I reach hostel…I was really sick. Ultimately, I had very high fever…and was in bed for ONE entire week! Huh! as mom pointed out, i'd had to fall sick! i plunged into frenetic activity after my exams ..without much care for health. the surat heat and all that water juz compounded the scene and i got bed-ridden. it was the FIRST time i was properly 'sick'...and that's a bad thing to happen!!!

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