Vadodara & I
I have walked the same streets as soldiers, industrialists, philanthropists, scientists, academicians, cricket stars, businessmen, and not a few celebrities.
I have taken small sips of steaming-hot tea in the footsteps of artistic giants, at the Fine Arts Faculty.
I have struggled with French in the shadow of India’s second largest unsupported dome at the Faculty of Arts (An ASI monument).
I have forever found friends on the ever-buzzing Fatehgunj roadside.
I have constantly wondered what lay behind the white-washed walls of the Fire temple on the opposite side.
I have driven with my windows down on National Expressway No. 1, from Baroda to Ahmedabad.
I have ridden with my collars up to Pavagadh & Champaner.
I have danced till the wee hours of the morning at world-famous garba venues.
I have partied without alcohol at terrace parties, surrounded only by friends, juices, and Bryan Adams.
I have genuflected at the feet of Dakshinamoorthy, under a temple dome made entirely of discarded aluminum airplane fuselages.
I remember the air fragrant with combined smell of flowers, incense and fire at the SiddhiVinayak temple.
And the cool-hot taste of the heavenly Pune Misal at Canara Coffee house, right after.
I remember Sur Sagar in the twilight. I remember Sayaji Baug in the dawn.
I remember when Sayaji Baug was still Kamati Baug.
I have enjoyed elephant-back rides at Kamati baug on the backs of the sisterhood of 3 – Gulabkali, Anarkali and Champakali.
I still regret not being able to ride the park’s famed toy train, because I had outgrown it by about 5 inches.
In a time when children didn’t wear watches, I have tried telling the time on the same park’s giant flower clock. While sitting on tea-cup shaped seats.
I have spent many a childhood afternoon staring in awe at my first whale skeleton, while inhaling the musty splendour of the Vadodara museum.
I have marvelled at the giant rhinoceros statue made of scrap iron from Sayaji Iron. And marvelled at a friend calling it a hippopotamus.
I have conquered my fear of men’s cycles (with the rod in the centre) on my mom’s office grounds at Sarabhai Chemicals.
I remember pushing-up and pulling-up, flexing and stretching, sweating and swearing in the Alembic Chemicals gymnasium.
I remember movies with my dad at the city’s only English movie theatre, Rupam, watching James Bond save the world and get the girl, time and again.
I remember sneak peeks at the grandeur of the awe-inspiring Laxmi Vilas Palace through iron fences.
I remember cycling hard to get to the top of the Shastri Bridge on the way to school and back. The cruise down was always too short.
I have forged life-long friendships in Maharaha Sayajirao University boys’ hostels. I have created life-long enemies in the girls’.
I have perfected my wooing-the-ladies routine with all credit to the venerated Sindhrot Bridge, the ever-dependable JK Florist, Kalyan’s cheap n tasty food, and the silver of Sejal’s handicrafts.
I have lived on the banks of the Vishwamitri, and grown, frolicking in its frequent floods.
I have ripened in its hot summer breezes, and blossomed in its gulaabi winters.
I have swung from the roots of Banyan trees, in the only city named after them.
Vadodara. I have lived in it.
Vadodara. It will always live in me.