On the Road in India Part Three: Gujarat
We were nine days into our trip and Bruce the rickshaw was struggling. He was making some concerning noises and, after another long day of driving, stopped functioning in low gears. We made through most of the journey by revving the shit out of him on the highway but low speeds were problematic, and idling was out of the question. So, naturally, as soon as we reached the city of Ahmedabad we found ourselves stuck in a slow-moving traffic jam.
There were technically 3 lanes, but the cars, trucks, rickshaws and motorbikes were at least 5 deep around us. We were right in the middle and Bruce wasn't going anywhere. There was only one thing for it; we were going to have to get out and push. Being white and female in an Indian city that rarely sees tourists has some advantages: we were a curiosity and everyone wanted to find out what the hell we were doing.
So as we pushed our three-wheeled, glorified-lawnmower of a vehicle diagonally across 5 lanes of traffic, we got more waves and selfies than horns and shouts. We negotiated Brucie to a clear stretch of road and revved our way to a mechanic.
In less than two hours they had:
Fixed the carburettor
- Oiled the gears and replaced some cables
Fed us chai and biscuits in their air conditioned offices
Topped up our phone data
Driven Brucie around the block as a road-test
Given us the boss' personal mobile number in case we ran into trouble
Taken a group photo
Friended us on facebook, and
Refused to let us pay them a cent
After such a big day we desperately needed a stiff drink, however, Ahmedabad is in Gujarat which is a dry state (whyyyy) so instead we settled for the next best thing: an enormous meal.
Gujarati's pride themselves on their thalis and with good reason. For those not in the know, a thali is a dish where you get rice, at least one kind of bread and a variety of curries, pickles, and chutney. Generally there's a small bowl of lentil dhal, a vegetable curry, a salad and some kind of curd but after that it really depends on where you are. You might have up to 6 or 8 different dishes offered to you, sometimes with a sweet at the end. I loved trying all the different accompaniments: sweet mango chutney, bitter pickled lime, creamy buttermilk. The restaurant manager hovered over our table giving us instructions; mix those together, have a bit of this with that. Do you need some more bread? Eat this last, it's sweet. The thali in Ahmedabad was one of the finest we ate on our trip. My favourite dish was a lentil dhal with peanuts and spiced with cloves.
Gujarati thalis are also seemingly endless: servers wander the restaurant with pots ready to top up any dishes that you have finished, or even half finished. Inevitably you end up with far more food that one person can reasonably be expected to eat and you will have to beg the staff to PLEASE stop feeding you. Much like our experience at the mechanic, we got much more than we'd expected.
Indian hospitality gives and gives.
I'm planning one more post for this 'On The Road' series so keep an eye out for it next week.