Travellers visiting Gujarat should be aware that the majority of food served in the state is vegetarian. In bigger places like Ahmedabad and Baroda, finding non-vegetarian food is less of a problem than in smaller places. If you visit Bhavnagar, the Nilambagh Palace Hotel serves very good food – both veg and non-veg. Many people hanker after Gujarati thalis, but I am not one of these people. Those who are not on the Gujarati meals can easily find well-prepared south Indian vegetarian food like dosas, idli, and vada. Pizzas are also widely available, often with excellent tomato sauce made with fresh tomatos.
Another thing to consider when planning your trip to Gujarat is that it is a dry state: alcohol is not served in any public places. It is possible to get a permit (I have no idea how) to be allowed alcohol ‘for medical purposes’ (!) Gujaratis and others desperate for booze can cross the border into either Daman or Diu, both of which were Portuguese colonies until 1961. Now they are administered not by the State of Gujarat, but by the Central Government of India – they are Union Territories. Alcohol is freely available at almost duty-free places in these tiny places, both of which are well-worth visiting.
If you are thirsty, there are plenty of soft drinks available including the refreshing watered down yoghurt drink chhas (also known as ‘buttermilk’). Tea is the prevalent hot drink. We found it hard to get decent coffee, let alone any coffee. Most Gujaratis in Kutch and Saurashtra seem to be keen tea drinkers.
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While we were visiting the city of BARODA (Vadodara):
“…we visited the main railway station because it has a post office. Visiting the station is like visiting an art gallery. The façade and staircases of the large relatively modern station (1954) are decorated with colourful modern paintings and bas-reliefs, including a trompe l’oeil fresco depicting a steam engine with a large ‘cowcatcher’ emerging from a tunnel. There are also several interesting sculptures on the raised pavement in front of the station entrances. One of them, which I liked most, shows a model train on railway tracks. The tracks with the carriages on them have been bent into a spiral with the old-fashioned engine in the centre of the spiral.
We drank tea in a café located along one of the station’s long platforms. Platforms in many Indian stations are lengthy to accommodate the great number of carriages in long-distance express trains. Shorter local trains appear dwarfed by these platforms. We entered the post office through a door on the platform, which was partially blocked by bags of mail and parcels. This door was, we realised later, for the use of postal personnel. We found ourselves in a sorting office. Ladies dressed in colourful salwar kameez with dupattas draped over their shoulders were manually sorting mail, placing it into small square wooden pigeon-holes labelled with the names of towns all over India.
We were directed to the customers’ desk. We wanted to send a birthday card to our daughter in London and were concerned that it would arrive in time. When we asked the assistant serving us how long the card would take to reach London, she said it would be a week or two, and then added ominously: “…if it reaches at all.”
When we asked her whether I could take a picture of the postal sorters working, she referred us to her supervisor, who said: “Go ahead and take the picture, but make sure that it does not go viral”
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In the Baroda Museum:
“There are two ‘memento mori’ on display. One is an Egyptian mummified corpse with exposed blackened feet, and the other is of more recent origin.
Unlike the painted container containing the age-old ‘mummy’, the other item concerned with the end of life is empty. It is a copper urn used to carry the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi to the Morli sangam at Chandod. Other urns, which contained some of the great man’s ashes, exist elsewhere. An article in the Guardian’s on-line newspaper, dated 31st of January 2008, says of another urn containing Gandhi’s ashes:
‘The vessel was one of dozens containing Gandhi’s cremated remains that were distributed around India in 1948.’
Close to the urn in Baroda, there is a letter of condolence written by Gandhi to a friend, who had just lost a daughter.
The letter, which was written on 19th of January 1948, includes the words:
‘Death is a true friend. It is only our ignorance that causes us grief. Sulochana’s spirit was yesterday, is today, will remain tomorrow”. Gandhi was assassinated eleven days after writing this. His spirit lives on.“