Just as the school bells bade goodbye on the last day of school declaring the advent of the summer vacations, it was time to rejoice. It was also time to bid adieu to the ever sultry Mumbai weather and enter the red-hot broiling yet beautiful bailiwick of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat.
Summers were totally dedicated to my maternal grandparents and holidaying with them. They were (as they both – nanaji and naniji are no more) socialites, crazy about traveling, visiting new places, meeting new people and rubbing shoulders with the old ones as well. Since I was born with wings on my back and wheels on my feet, the travel-bug had hit me pretty much before I was born and I became a social traveling butterfly too. So, what better than spend the entire vacation with the travel-o-holic grandparents? Being the apple of their eye also helped, as they never traveled without me during vacations. So as they say, I hit a jackpot every summer.
We have a farm house and a couple of bungalows in Ahmedabad since some of my maternal side of the family live there. So Ahmedabad was a great choice for squandering away the vacations. Plus my grandparents liked the place too, since their kids (my aunt and uncle) lived there. It was time to get the four wheelers ready and zip zap zoom on the Maharashtra Gujarat highways straight to Ahmedabad. We believed in traveling by road much more than any other mode and it was always a pleasure drive. Since we were all used to road trips, with the family in tow, it was a joy ride which would never tire us. We would take pit stops on the way which would make the drive even more entertaining. The different types of cuisines on the way at the various dhabas (highway side food joints), a little bit of shopping here and there, great music and peppy conversations made every drive to Ahmedabad a drive to remember! Honestly, it never occurred to us that we were out in the scorching summers. Happy times spent with family does that, isn’t it?
On reaching Ahmedabad we would be greeted by the animals, birds, reptiles and the humans (errr…. family) at the door. Wonder why? Because the farm house was abounding with the many tamed and untamed species available on planet Earth. Yes, my folks love pets. You name them and we had them. Starting from a horse, to cats, dogs (every possible breed), rabbits, ducks, birds (how many species can you think of), tortoises, snakes to monkeys, the list is endless. The plants planted by my grandpa years back that had blossomed into magnificent trees also said hello when we walked past them. It was a grand welcome apt for royalty! Did I say fun times also got flagged off? 🙂
The riot would begin once the complete family gathered. Sometimes I think the place did not matter much because it was the togetherness that signified. Ofcourse, the fact that it was a huge farmhouse with a swimming pool, replete with flora and fauna that gave the feeling of vastness and open space, fresh air and beauty all around, did make a difference. The heat suddenly took a back seat because no one cared for it anymore. Everyone was busy with their bucket list of items to be ticked off one by one. Sleeping, chatting, eating, playing, shopping, going for long drives as well as mini vacations around the place were top priority!
I still remember the early days when the only drinking water available was salty water that came in the form of tap water. It was horrible but we would boil it before drinking and it would taste slightly better. The other alternative was to buy and store mineral water. Of course, that changed over the years. The days were usually spent indoors or under the massive trees in the garden and lawns. We would chat, play cards, carrom and eat! Though Ahmedabad isn’t a great place for mangoes, my uncle ensured that he hunted down the place to get the choicest of Alphonsoes available. Our vacations would be incomplete without them. By then our mango trees had also grown and we had our home grown mangoes to devour too. I think each day atleast three to four hours were spent talking about mangoes and eating them. Ahmedabad is also a great city to eat out. Since evenings would be cooler, we would venture out for fine dining at times or just junk food sometimes. The eateries in Ahmedabad are mind-blowing and that in itself is a reason to visit it.
Though we tried to ignore the heat, it wouldn’t really ignore us. Hence evenings were also time for a fun activity. We would hold the huge hose pipes and sprinkle water everywhere, on the lawns, terraces, outside the farm, on the driveway etc, so that the dust would settle and the water would help spread a little bit of cooling. It was great fun and that didn’t stop us from splashing water at each other, almost like a rain dance party. By the time the water activity was over, the gola wala would come over and we would all relish the choicest of golas available. By the end of it, we would have different coloured tongues to show off.
Ahmedabad is a super duper place to shop especially for a crazy girl like me who loves ethic wear and gear. My grandmother would buy me a couple of lehengas along with the matching junk jewellery and mojdis to wear for the dandiyas during Navratri. Sometimes I think the shopping also used to be a great pull factor to spend holidays out there. We would go to Law Garden – the evening and nigh market famous for the Gujarat handicrafts made by the locals. That was such a treat. I don’t think I can ever get bored of walking up and down Law Garden for umpteen times, even if meant just buying one small pair of jhumkis. I would look for ways to convince my grandmom and aunt to make a trip there. Shopping and I bond very well, the heat can take a walk.
We would also take two – three day long trips around the place. We’ve visited Ambaji, Mount Abu, Gandhinagar, Baroda, Valsad, Gandhidham, Palitana etc., during our trips to Ahmedabad. What do I say, each one deserves a blog post, and I could just go on and on. The road trips, singing, eating, dancing and the fun together made mini vacation a special one.
As the never ending summers approach us now and I sit back and think about the cherished summer vacations lavishly spent in Ahmedabad, the recollection of those lovely days brings a bright smile to my face.
“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” – George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
Image source: Flickr