Providing for pigeons

In London pigeons are regarded as a nuisance, as pests. A previous Lord Mayor of the city once described them as “flying rats”. Now, feeding them is frowned upon. Gone are the days when you could buy corn to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

During our long journey through Gujarat in western India, we saw many places dedicated to feeding pigeons. In Bhavnagar, for example, I saw a man scattering seeds, which were being avidly consumed by a large crowd of grey pigeons. The grain was strewn over a large area in which there were several large bowls of water to quench the birds’ thirst.

In Ahmedabad, we saw a fenced off area supplied with drinking bowls as already described. This special feeding area was well supplied with grain scattered on the ground. In that same city, we saw a huge pigeon ‘hostel’. This consisted of a matrix of niches or pigeon holes in which the creatures resided. Feeding facilities were adjacent to the niches. This giant pigeon coop was next to a mosque or dargah close to the Nehru Bridge over the River Sabarmati.

In Rajkot, we spotted a cylindrical concrete pigeon coop mounted on a tall concrete pillar. And, in Porbandar a large area close to the beach is used to feed pigeons and other birds at the end of an afternoon.

During our very recent visit to the metropolis of Hyderabad in Telengana State, we have driven past pigeon feeding areas. On one of the bridges crossing the river, one of these feeding places occupied the whole length of one side of the bridge.

When wandering around the many bookshops in the Koti district of Hyderabad, we found a square surrounded by buildings. The centre of the square is a fenced open space where thousands of pigeons collect to feed on the copious amounts of grain on the floor. This area is overlooked by a cylindrical pigeon coop, which is illustrated above. The area is maintained by The Pigeon Welfare Association of Telengana.

The Lalbagh Gardens in Bangalore have at least one fine large cylindrical pigeon coop. I do not know how many other places in India care for pigeons as I the places I have mentioned, but from what I have seen so far, I can say that India is not devoid of popular concern for avian wellbeing.

An architect in Ahmedabad

There are many elegant moderns buildings in Ahmedabad designed by the architect BV Doshi. He worked with Le Corbusier in Paris. I feel that his buildings bear the sculptural influence of the famous French-Swiss architect, but they are far more user-friendly. We visited Doshi’s studio, Sangath Studio, in Ahmedabad in late March 2018…

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The air temperature had exceeded 40 degrees Celsius when we arrived at the Sangath Studio, the offices of the architect’s firm led by BV Doshi. It is open for the public to view on guided tours conducted at 1.30 pm during the company’s lunch break. We were guided around the buildings by a young intern, not a trained architect. She explained to us that Doshi was influenced by what sounded to us like: “Lecobu and Lukhan”. What she meant was ‘Le Corbusier’ and ‘Louis Kahn’, whose buildings in Ahmedabad help make the city a ‘Mecca’ for enthusiasts of 20th century modernist architecture.

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There were many architecture students and architects from other firms on our tour around Doshi’s studio. The students and architects asked no questions but made copious detailed notes. The architectural offices are set in a lovely luxuriant garden with piped music playing. The offices are beneath long white hemi-cylindrical concrete roofs, covered with irregularly-shaped white mosaic pieces like those on the outer surface of the Gufa, a man-made cave which he designed in Ahmedabad. The offices are below ground but lit from windows in the hemi-circular ends of the roofs. Unlike the Gufa, which is only suitable for artistic enjoyment, Doshi’s subterranean offices and studios are beautifully functional. Like Le Corbusier, Doshi designs using modular systems. This is exemplified by a conference room lined with cupboards and drawers whose dimensions vary according to a strict ratio. Doshi also plays with light and shade. Brightly lit rooms are separated by shady ones. The idea being that those who work and design with Doshi should be constantly aware of the importance of light and shade. Sangath Studios provides a visually intriguing and practical environment in which to work.

 

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Statue of Unity: larger than life!

The Indian Government has just ‘unveiled’ the world’s largest statue, the Statue of Unity. It is 182 metres high and stands in Gujarat between Baroda and Ahmedabad. It is a memorial to Sardar Vallabhai Patel (1875-1950), who was born in Gujarat.

UNITY
Source: Wikipedia

A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Patel was a great fighter for India’s independence. When the British finally relinquished their hold over India on the 15th of August 1947, the territory of India was a complex mix of formerly British territory and the so-called Princely States, which were self-governing.

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Map at Patel Memorial Museum in Ahmedabad. The yellow parts of the map show the parts of India occupied by Princely States

There were well over 500 Princely States embedded within the boundaries of what is now India. Over 200 of these were within the Saurashtra (Kathiawad) district of Gujarat. India in 1947 was a jigsaw puzzle of independent states each with their own ruler. These states were contained within a matrix that was formerly the part of India under direct British rule. After Independence, the rulers of the Princely States were given the choice of becoming part of India or joining the newly formed Pakistan.

Had the Princely States maintained their autonomy after Independence, the Indian subcontinent would have been as complex, if not more so, than the Balkans, and maybe as troublesome. Some of the states like Hyderabad and Junagadh, both large and far from Pakistan, had leanings towards joining with the new Islamic State of Pakistan. Others like Kashmir were not sure with whom to ally. 

It was the great skill and statesmanship of Sardar Vallabhai Patel that persuaded the Princely States to join India. Even Junagadh and Hyderabad were eventually incorporated into India. The unification of India was achieved under the leadership of Patel and his colleagues. So, it is fitting that the enormous new statue should be called The Statue of Unity.

 

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A modest memorial to Sardar Vallabhai Patel in central Ahmedabad

Whether Patel would have approved of the enormous expense involved in creating his latest monument, we will never know!

 

 

Le Corbusier in Gujarat

A famous Swiss-French architect, artist, and writer designed several fine buildings in Gujarat. They are worthy of a visit.

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Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (1887 1965), better known as ‘Le Corbusier’ is amongst my favourite 20th century architects. Over the years, I have visited many of his buildings in France, my favourite being his organic, sculptural Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp. Le Corbusier is well-known in India, which he visited regularly (starting in 1951). In India, he is best-known for designing the city of Chandigarh in northern India.

Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat is home to four notable buildings designed by Le Corbusier. They were built at various dates between 1951 and ’56.

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During my recent visit to Ahmedabad, I managed to see two of them. The Sanskar Kendra Museum (1951-56) and Mill Owners’Association Building (1951). Sadly, I was only able to see their fine exteriors, but they confirmed my admiration for their famous architect.

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Le Corbusier enjoyed India and her architecture. After visiting the extensive 15th century royal complex at Sarkhej Rauza (on the edge of Ahmedabad), wrote: “You don’t need to travel to the Acropolis. You have everything here.”

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Lovers of Le Corbusier’s architecture and of other adventurous 20th century architecture would be well-advised to visit Ahmedabad because many notable modern architects, both Indian and foreign, have designed buildings that now help to adorn the city. I will write about some of these in the future.

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Some views of Diu

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The island of DIU is on the south coast of the Saurashtra peninsular in the Indian state of Gujarat.

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Diu was a Portuguese colony from the 15th century until 1961, when it was ‘liberated’ by Indian armed forces.

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The island is rich in arrchitecture dating back to the golden age of Portugal

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We could only find one newspaper seller in Diu. He opened for a few hours of the day only. Diu is a sleepy place.

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The extensive fort of Diu was built by the Portuguese. Part of it is now used as a local jail.

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Many fishing vessels moor alongside the city of Diu.

 

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Bird-spotters can enjoy standing by the wateride, looking for various different species.

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A long road bridge connects Diu Island to Ghoghla on  the mainland. Beyong Goghla, there is a frontier post between the Union Territory of Diu and the State of Gujarat. The Gujarati policemen are on the look-out for alcohol being smuggled into thier teetotal state from Diu, where ‘booze’ is permitted.

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You can learn more about DIU in “TRAVELS THROUGH GUJARAT, DAMAN, AND DIU” by Adam Yamey.

It is available from lulu.com, bookdepository.com, amazon, and on Kindle

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Going vegetarian in Gujarat

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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. 

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Gujarati thali

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.

 

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A mug of chhas

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.

 

Discover more about journeying through Gujarat in Adam Yamey’s new book:

GUJ LULU PIC
Paperback available from lulu.com, Amazon, bookepository.com, Kindle, or order it from your bookshop [ISBN: 978-0244407988]

A village in Kutch

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When the land dried up

and the crops failed,

 prosperity left Durgapur

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The village of Durgapur is 5 kilometres northwest of Mandvi. In the past, when the water table was higher, the land around this place was very fertile. The farmers who lived in Durgapur became quite affluent. Nowadays, the ground is unproductive, but the elegant, richly decorated houses of the village attest to its inhabitants’ former prosperity. Many of the houses have first floor balconies which project over the roadways. These balconies have lovely carved wooden balustrades and are shaded by canopies supported by carved wooden pillars and fringed by delicately carved strips of wood. Many of the older houses have crafted stone window frames and intricately decorated wooden entrance doors.

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Today, many houses in the village have been bought by wealthy folk from Bombay, who have also built new homes there. Recently, a large new health centre has been built by members of the Jain community for their own use.

 

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The author and his book…

ADAM GUJU BOOK

“Travels through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu” by Adam Yamey is a personal introduction to a part of western India far less well-known than its neighbour Rajasthan.

First, a bit about the author:

Adam Yamey is the author of several books, including: Albania on my Mind, From Albania to Sicily, Exodus to Africa, Rediscovering Albania, Aliwal, City on the Hooghly, Buried in Bangalore, Bangalore Revealed, and A Boer in Bangalore.

Born in 1952 in London, son of South African parents, he attended Highgate School, and then University College London. After a doctorate in mammalian physiology, he became an undergraduate once more and qualified as a dental surgeon. After 35 years in general dental practice in Kent and London, he retired in September 2017.

Amongst his many achievements, he has been Chairman of both the Maidstone Recorded Music Club and the Medway Association of Dentists. In August 2008, he gave an Independence Day speech to pupils of a school in northern Kerala. Some years later, he gave a presentation at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore. More recently, he has been editing the newsletter of the Anglo-Albanian Association.

Adam married Lopa, from India, in 1994, and, since then, has been visiting her native land very frequently. India has become his second home. He is a keen traveller. The periods between his journeys are usefully and enjoyably employed with: family, cooking, writing, editing a newsletter, theatre, and exploring the many delights that London has to offer.

 

Here is the list of the contents of this profusely illustrated travel book:

The Firozpur Janta Express (‘p.’ = page. 7)

DAMAN: (p. 11) A Portuguese fort; Cutting chai; In jail

BOMBAY: (p. 28) A shortage of vultures

KUTCH MANDVI: (p. 31) Kutchi beer; Highgate in the heat; Marriage in Mandvi; Dhows

BHUJ: (p. 51) Palace of mirrors; The dairyman; Leaving Kutch

RAJKOT: (p. 65) Gandhi lived here; A famous pupil; Reserved for ladies

GONDAL and VIRPUR: (p. 80) The Buddhist caves

JUNAGADH: (p. 88) A lively bazaar; Fantastic tombs; The citadel; The Nawab’s dogs

PORBANDAR: (p. 108) City by the sea; Gandhi’s birthplace; Something fishy; A floating stone; Another bus

SOMNATH: (p. 136) The Queen’s temple; Krishna stood here

DIU: (p. 150) A border crossing; Portuguese traces; The Governor’s grandson; Towers of silence; Four bangles; A Governor’s insanity; Laxmi Park; The fire temple

BHAVNAGAR: (p. 193) A silver bracelet; A royal encounter; Constructing a cobra; Graveyard for ships

Leaving Saurashtra (p. 219)

BARODA: (p. 222) A market; Floors of glass; A deserted city; A voice from the depths; A military base

AHMEDABAD: (p. 257) Tree of Life; Lunch in a graveyard; Before the Taj Mahal; Books under a bridge; Gandhi and Le Corbusier; The heat of the day; Music at sunset

Epilogue (p. 297)

Glossary  (p. 299)

Potted history of Gujarat (p. 304)

Books consulted (p. 306)

Acknowledgements (p. 308)

Index (p. 310)

The book is available from on-line stores such as:

Amazon, bookdepository.com, & lulu.com

There is also a Kindle version called:

“Travelling through Gujarat, Daman, and Diu”