“Maja Ma?“ He asked when he met me in the lift. This means ‘Happy?’. I smiled at him to convey the answer in affirmative. This is the way how people greet here in Vadodara (or Gujarat). I never realized anything special about this, till my father pointed this out. Anywhere in this world you go, people ask questions like How are you? or What is the news? etc. This is the only place in the world where people know that you are happy and they ask just to confirm. Which proves that people here are content and happy always, and expect other to be the same. Some people ask “Shanti?” showing their palm towards us. Which means, they know we are in a peaceful state, just want confirmation. This was my first introduction to Vadodara culture. This is the first and foremost reason why I love this city.
I have very little knowledge about this great city but I love this city. I have lived in many cities of this country and visited couple of cities abroad as well. But could never like any other city as much as I loved Vadodara.
When I first came to Vadodara, I had hardly any expectation from this city. I was ignorant about the fact that there is one airport here. That is because I was searching as Baroda and was not able to find it. This is not the only city in this country which has gone through name changing process but I see nobody minds here if I call it as Baroda. People are fine with any name you choose to call this city. This is one more reason to love this city.
I reached here on 16th June, 2007 evening. I had my room booked at Express Hotel on R.C. Dutt Rod. The next day, I went on a city tour by walk. Walked till railway station in one side and race course in another side. I hardly found any traffic on road during my walkathon. I was still in the ‘Bangalore mode’, so seeing the thin traffic, I felt as if I am walking in a park while walking on the road. This is another reason I love this city.
Then I started searching for a rented accommodation so that I can bring my family. After few day’s search, I found a place/society where I chose to live. A place where I got the same feeling as I used to get when I was a kid. Although there was a big playground in the society but kids were playing everywhere, considering entire society as their own. One example is, some kids were hiding in somebody’s house while playing hide and seek, where neither the kids know the owner of the house nor the owner knows the kids. I could never imagine existence of this kind of environment in the cities at current times. This was one of the reasons I love this city.
When I brought my family here it was in the month of October. Navratri was going on. I went to see Garbha at ‘United Garbha Ground’. That was the first time I got the opportunity to witness Garbha. I was amazed to see groups of people consisting grand-parents of 80+ year old till grand children of 7- year old are in a group and dancing with the beautiful song that is played. What an amazing scene? Entire family dancing together. I also learnt that members of the family who stay abroad, come to the city during this festive season in order to celebrate together. I fell in love with this city again.
Then after watching Garbha at around 12:00 midnight we went to have dinner. There were shops open everywhere because of Navratri. After dinner we were coming back home. On the way I saw young girls wearing jewelries are walking on a deserted road.They were relaxed and busy talking to themselves. Which is a scary scene in any other city. This was not an isolated scene. I saw this several times and never heard of any untoward incidence. I fell in love with disbelief.
After a good night sleep when I woke up in the morning, I found several birds of different variety which I had never seen in my life on my verandah. They all were singing songs in various languages which I am not introduced to. I had not seen so many birds at our home in the cities where I lived before coming to Vadodara. This added another reason to my list why I love this city.
Then after few days, In order to get LPG connection I was needed to have a ration card. I enquired about it and found the place where I can get it. I went there and expected a chaotic, corrupt and inhuman office. But unlike my expectation, I saw a very professional, organized and modern office where I had to spent couple of hours to get the entire process done without any hassles. Don’t you think this is another reason to be added to the list ‘Why I love this city?’.
While on the road in my bike one day I had hit another bike. None were hurt but there were hundred reasons for the other person to shout at me. He looked at me and made a polite gesture “What is this?” and carried on. I was surprised and I carefully observed many other accidents. 80% of times the scene after accident is like this. I could not stop loving this city.
Then one morning went to buy some stuffs. I had a Rs 100 note and the bill was Rs 80. Shopkeeper did not have Rs 20 change. He said “Rs 20 Jama”. I could not understand. Then after lots of thought and his explanation I understood that he will keep the Rs 20 with him and will adjust in my next purchase. Such a strange thing for me. I had heard of ‘Baki’ but never heard of ‘Jama’ in my life till then. This is a way to ensure people will come back to that shop at least once to recover that Rs 20. What a beautiful way of business and this shows how people trust each other. Shopkeeper knows that I do not know him, but he still expected me to believe that he will return me Rs 20 next time. I loved this city.
My city is the one which gives me my space as well as considers me part of it. I am a Bengali. No doubt I have my Bengali circle, association and I celebrate Bengali festivals with my Bengali friends. Despite that, I never felt I am an outsider or nobody made me feel that I am an outsider. This city allows me to enjoy my space. When a culture is great by itself, there is no need to advertise and drag people towards it. Outsiders will come in to it without any efforts. The same happened to me as well. I can not stop participating in Navratri, Uttarayan and many other colorful festivals that are celebrated here. Then you tell me why should I not love this city.
The night before Uttarayan, I went with my wife and two kids to Old padra road to buy some kites.Then after Diwalipura Circle I had no way to ride my bike as there were hundreds of people walking on the road, buying stuffs and eat on the roadside stalls. I parked my bike and we all started walking on the street. After sometime, my daughter was tired so I made her sit on my shoulder and continues walk. I was walking, finding my way among hundreds of people. I felt the same as I had experienced when I was a kid, and my father took me on his shoulder to a famous fair called ‘Vyasa Sarovar Mela’ when we were living in Jajpur. This is nothing new, anybody would have experienced this in their childhood. What is special about this is, the street which is one of the major streets of Vadodara during the day, suddenly converted to a mela site in the evening. I need not take my kids to some far away place to show what a mela looks like. I loved that street and the city more than ever.
In the year 2004, my friend gifted me one electric FM Radio plus alarm clock when I was in another city. That did not have any provision to use batteries. I loved that so much but I could never use it because of frequent power cuts, every power cut used to reset the time in my alarm clock to 00:00. So every time after power cut I had to manually set correct time. Then finally I stopped using it. After coming to Vadodara I found my electrical instruments can be used when I need, not at electric departments mercy. Even if there is a power cut, I have a toll-free number which I can call to get it fixed in couple of minutes. The most surprising and impressive part is, the person who answers your call is more professional and customer focused than many private call centers. I can not stop loving this city.
I used to go to office at 9:00 AM and come back home at 11:00 PM earlier. Not because I was working for 12 hours at office. I was spending several hours cutting through the city traffic. After coming to Vadodara I spend a lot more time at home than I used to earlier. I could see my kids grow everyday and play with them every evening after coming back from office. The most interesting part is I could come home for lunch. This is not because I stay close to office, but because the traffic is thin in this city and city’s radius is smaller than any other cities Major cities. I can plan for a movie or shopping and reach destination in 15 minutes time. In any other cities I have to plan from morning or previous day for a movie. So, I get lots of family time here. It’s not only me, if you notice this entire city values family a lot. You can see many families going out for dinner or movie during weekdays after work. After living here I realized that I earn so that I can enjoy with my family. Isn’t it a beautiful reason to love this city?
When I came here first I thought life is all about process and procedures. You can get best out of everything by following defines processes. But after living here for 4 years I realized works are done better by personal relationships. Some may disagree with me but experience it once you will understand what I mean. Here EQ plays a greater role than IQ. Here human values and emotions play a greater role that rules.I gradually understood this and I am loving it now.
I love museums, cultural heritages, traditional music and anything that are deep rooted. This city gives me opportunity to enjoy these. Shouldn’t this be a reason to love this city?
People from other cities may think it is a small city but the fact is, this city has everything that you need. Every facility that you can find in any other major city is available here and on top of that you get many things here which you can not find in any other city.
I proudly say I belong to this city and this city is mine. Somebody said “You give me a piece of gold, I will spend it. You give me fistful sand and tell me it is mine, I will transform it to gold”. My love for this city is not due to technical reasons which I will evaluate time to time, it is because of these small emotional reasons, which I will cherish for ever.
Love you Vadodara!!!