Time To Rise Above Differences: Diary of Day 1, Vadodara
By Faridoon Shahryar
My friend Atiq treated me to a scrumptious dinner at regal hotel, near Vadodara station a short while back. Chicken tikka and chicken legs hung in the open air as smoke swelled out. Nearby there were buzzing-with-excitement shops of Vegetarian Gujarati Thali. I didn't find anything amiss. All was well. Eating preferences can surely co exist if one ignores the vulture politicians who prey on the sentiments of ordinary people who have far bigger issues in life rather than worrying about what the neighbour is eating.
Vadodara was one of the worst affected cities in Gujarat during the 2002 communal riots. It was split in two. Many years have passed. It will be impractical to say that the after effects are still not around. I am sure they must be there. I travelled on the back seat of Atiq's scooter and saw a decent amount of the big city today. I saw a nice co existence of the business establishments of both the communities. I genuinely hope that people gather sense and work towards bridging gaps between hearts. It is for everyone's own good. Strife, hatred, discord doesn't help anyone. Politicians will run out of business if their hate factory shuts shop. Personally I don't look at differences because I supremely believe in the secular ethos of India. And that is the beauty of India...its diversity!
The cool fresh breeze here in Vadodara is a welcome departure from the clogged Mumbai. I am staying at Maharaja Sayajirao University Guest House. I have stayed at best of hotels in India and abroad but a university guest house has a very special place in my heart. My parents were professors at AMU, Aligarh and eminent writers, academicians and artists came and stayed at the multiple University Guest Houses that were there at AMU. I have often accompanied my parents to meet such eminent people at the guest house premises. The MS University Guest House is a very fine building, with lots of greenery all around. Vice Chancellors lodge is nearby and one of the biggest attractions of Vadodara, Sayaji Baug is right in front. Atiq took me to the historic Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad's Lalit Vilas Palace. It is a truly majestic sight. It is a heritage building with a hotel adjacent to it. There's a sprawling golf course as well. Peacocks loitered around in their laidback splendour. I ate famous Gujarati specialities Bakharwadi, Lilwani Kachodi and Sev Khamni in the evening. Bakharwadi and Lilwani Kachodi were simply heavenly. I really appreciated the owner of the restaurant who insisted that the Lilwani Kachodi ought to be warmed properly by his staff before we start eating it.
I shall be taking two lectures tomorrow. The students of the Engineerng Faculty met me in the evening today. Extremely cultured and well behaved. I was told that I shall be the Chief Guest for the closing ceremony tomorrow at Paramarsh 2015 and I shall share the stage with the honourable Vice Chancellor. Well it is a big honour. Hope I live up to their and my own expectations tomorrow. The day will start early and it is time for me to hit the bed. Wish me luck. Good night. :-)