His Life And His Message

Gandhi Ji

Gandhi Ji

Mahatma Gandhi’s abode from 1917 to 1930 turned into an Ashram on the banks of river Sabarmati  is a must visit place for any serious tourist or a Gandhian landing in Ahmedabad. This place was chosen by Gandhiji after his Kochrab Ashram built in the city in 1915 got affected by plague in 1917. Gandhi ji by that time after visiting whole of India on the advice of his political guru, G K Gokhale wanted a place where he could do constructive activities like farming, cow rearing and Khadi spinning and his other experiments with truth. He chose this place just outside the city of Ahmedabad, situated between a crematorium and a jail, which symbolically were very obvious places in times of freedom struggle in British Raj in India.

My visit to the ashram happened in 2012 and then again in Nov 2014. In my first visit while visiting various parts of Ashram I was very much influenced or struck by the topicality of various Gandhian thoughts showcased there on life size oil paintings and canvasses and big posters. The messages like, “my life is my message” and “if blood be shed, let it be our own”, and my favourite “be the change”, haunted me well after I had left the Ashram. The urge to revisit and see all of them again was too strong and therefore I was there again in Nov 14.

At Sabarmati

At Sabarmati

The Ashram is open to visitors all days of the week and sees almost 700000 tourists a year. It has preserved the original items used by Gandhi ji and placed them in Hriday-Kunj, the living place of Gandhiji. His house built around a courtyard exposed to sky, is small one and reflects appropriately his simplicity and frugal ways of his life. The rooms of Gandhi ji and Kasturba are built around this small courtyard and there is an opening at the back. Many utensils and other daily household item used by Gandhi ji have been placed as demonstrable in rooms. It gives you an obvious feel of the greatness of the simple man, Gandhi was. The front verandah of Hriday-Kunj has a room on one side where Gandhi ji used to meet visitors and on the other side, there is a functional charakha used by visitors to get some pictures clicked. I did not let me left behind either.

Spinning Charakha Photo Op

Spinning Charakha Photo Op

Just outside the Hriday-Kunj, there is a small room opening towards it which was used for many years by Meera Behen and Vinobha Bhave during their stay in Ahmedabad. Behind this room and up to the river there is an open area for prayers called as Upasana Mandir. This was used for prayers by Gandhiji along with his followers.

Upasana Mandir

Upasana Mandir

Besides that there is a museum or picture gallery which has no entry fee and which depicts through oil paintings the life and times and ideas and ideologies of Gandhiji. His journey to becoming Mahatma has been beautifully portrayed in the gallery. The various agitations like Champaran Satyagraha, Ahmedabad Mill strike, Non Cooperation movement, Chauri Chaura incidence and Salt Satyagraha etc have been portrayed there through pictures and dioramas. His most prominent thoughts and saying have also been presented very artistically and thoughtfully. His ideas on faith, human religion, communalism,khadi, search for truth, vegetarianism etc have been presented there. It’s very difficult to miss their impact on you as the man himself experimented and implemented all of them on himself.

The Thoughtful Vistors

The Thoughtful Visitors

His focus on ending untouchability was one of the principal tenets of his ideas and work there. He refused to compromise on this and did not mind letting his own siister leaving the Ashram after she complained about sharing space and kitchen with scheduled caste or untouchables. He fought for their rights so much that on many occasions the Ashram faced financial difficulties and he had to virtually beg from wealthy capitalists and industrialists of Ahmedabad to sail through. This was the place where he perfected his ideas on harmonious living be with respect to religion or be it with caste and creed. His idea of importance of physical labour and dignified living was also perfected here only and he clung to these ideas till his death in 1948. Likewise his unflinching faith in non violence is noticeable through paintings and pictures. A book shop selling books written by Gandhiji and by other authors on him and similar subjects is also in the same campus. There is a library also.

His message

His message

 

Gandhi ji lived in the Ashram for 13 years. On 12th March 1930 he launched his Daandi March(Salt Satyagrah) from here and vowed never to come back till he got freedom for India. Eventually the Ashram without Gandhi ji, became forlorn. Subsequently it was put under the management of ‘Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust’. The trust organised the activities of the Ashram and developed into a platform for publicising the life and ideals of Gandhi. The Sangrahalaya of the Ashram was shifted from the Gandhiji’s living area to the present day sangrahalaya in 1963. It was designed by Charles Correa and was inaugurated by Nehru ji, then prime minister of India.

I felt really satisfied by my second visit to the Ashram and I think my understanding about the father of nation  has improved for sure. Interestingly two important observations I want to share about the Ashram. One, is on my testimony of seeing mobile youth engrossed into mobiles even while sitting in the Ashram. I don’t know where from they had come and what were they doing there, but I found them just lost in their mobile phone world. This perhaps needs some understanding of the minds of present day youth. Please have a look at the picture below.

Mobile World inside Ashram

Mobile World inside Ashram

The second incidence is about the purse of my sister. She somehow dropped it at Gandhi Book shop inside the Ashram. Obviously, it had some money and papers. She realised it late and was feeling very sad. She had no hope of getting it back but just to do the formality went to ashram next day to ask about it. To her pleasant surprise, someone had deposited the purse at the office and she got it back after some time. Ideas of honesty are perhaps embedded in the soil of Sabarmati Ashram!

Gandhi is dead, long live Gandhi ji!.

 

Agashiye, the food paradise of Gujarat

Agashiye, House Of M G

Agashiye, House Of M G

The quest for food is the fundamental one and as a frequent traveler, I have been exposed to huge range of foods from many parts of India. Only a few of them have been as memorable as one I had at Agashiye. It is one of the restaurants of the heritage hotel House of M G, situated just opposite to world famous Sidi Saiyyad Mosque in the walled city of Ahmedabad. The restaurant is housed in 1924 built haveli of Seth Mangal Das Giridhar Das who was one of the wealthy supporter of Gandhi during freedom struggle. It has now been converted into an heritage hotel. The restaurant Agashiye on the terrace of this building serves authentic vegetarian Gujarati food, and it does that in style.

Last week while visiting Ahmedabad, I went there along with my sister’s family to have dinner. After paying at the counter on ground floor we were ushered by a topi clad boy in a lift to the terrace of the heritage hotel. As you step outside the lift you feel a charming fragrance of incense sticks (which are manufactured in house by them in two fragrances, Pakeezah and Tulasi). You then move to the left to reach at the welcome area where a statue of a lying Ganesh is placed besides a water body. To the left of this you notice few wooden park  benches where we were seated first.

Lying Ganesh at the Agashiye Courtyard

Lying Ganesh at the Agashiye Courtyard

My group of four included my niece, sister and Jijaji (my sister’s husband). We sat on the benches and were served with a refreshing sharbat first. It was made from cucumber, pudina and some salt and sugar. It is a traditional Gujarati welcome appetiser drink. The sharbat tasted good and rejuvenated us. Next we were served batata vada(stuffed potato filled in the gram flour coating) and some Dhokala type dish, with sweet and green chutneys. Feeling hungry we polished off some good portion of them quickly. After some time we were escorted to our next slot of food paradise. Here the food is prepared in all visible arena and you find a large number of boys and men in neat white kurtas and a Gandhi topi to serve you. We were seated at a wooden sofas with a table for four. The cloth napkins at the table were topped with a red rose each, which being desi (indigenous variety), were smelling sweetly.

Our hands were washed with lukewarm water being poured on them and chilamchi just below, gathered the used-water to be thrown away. The big plates were laid on the table and were silver coated. There were many small bowls and betel or paan leaf too. On being asked they told that the thalis are silver coated and since they served a many chutneys and pickles as part of Gujarati cuisine, the betel leaves were used to place chutneys and pickles on them to avoid spotting of thalis. This also enhanced the taste and presentation of food. It was really a nice thali view!.

gujarati-thali-agashiye-restaurant-ahmedabad

The Agashiye Thali

 

The serving boys soon came to our table and poured in many types of cooked vegetables in our big thalis. The katoris(bowls) were still empty. The next boy came up with his hand held multi-service bowls to fill all katoris with pulses and kadhi and sweet milk preparations. Our thali was full now but there was no respite and the boys kept on pouring papad, chutneys, pickles, halwa and what not. The last one came with ghee laden chapatis and bhakhari( the smallish chapatti made with coarse grain flour). These bhakhari were to be eaten with Lahsun(garlic) ki chutney and the fresh butter. After pondering for a while about wherefrom to start, I started with bhakharis first. It really tasted well and with spiced support of garlic ki chutney and with fresh butter, I felt the tinge and the flavour both. Then we moved on to polish of various vegetables and kadhi etc. The kadhi in Gujarati tradition was sweetened. As a person of North Indian food habits, I did not like sweetened Kadhi and moved on to relish halwa and other specialties of the day. The service boys were unrelenting in serving us all of the dishes in big proportions. In between we also tasted some great chutneys and papad etc. We were really in a food paradise.

The tables around us were too filled up with people and everybody was virtually engrossed in their respective food tasks. The variety was too huge to handle and there fore I reclined backward on my sofa cum chair to get some fresh air into my lungs, which were feeling a little out of breath. The service boy came again to help with with chhaachh or buttermilk and said that would take care of even over eating. But it was not just over eating, it was over stuffing actually like the passengers squeezed in Vaishali Express to Bihar. I gulped in one whole glass of buttermilk and decided to clear my thali. I did that in few minutes and then realized service boy was back to my table gain with Kichadi(preapred by mixing rice with pulses) to be eaten with dollops of Ghee! In nort India Khichadi in itself is a light meal and now here we were supposed to eat that after the meal. I took some portion of it after constant persuasion from the waiter and by the time it was finished, my tummy was almost bursting at its seam, wherever these seams are. However, there was no respite still as now a sweet dish in form of traditional Kesar-Pista ice cream, churned in an earthen pot for hours, was served to us. I finished it too so as to douse at least some stomach fire stoked by spicy Gujarati food.

The next to follow were many little glass bottles having digestives of various types like tamarind, zeera pills, ginger etc. I tasted few. The next in line was paan (betel leaves). These were locked with cloves and were served with amla (gooseberry). I was told that amla was digestive and coupled with paan leaves, it really benefited us a lot. I had it too. The taste of paan with many condiments in it was really good. The amla was half boiled in salted water and eaten just before paan (betel), helped to be a palate cleanser actually.

Paan with Gooseberry

Paan with Gooseberry

 

Still next in the menu was coffee, which I decided to give a miss, as so much had gone into stomach and in so many tastes and colours that I found it little too much un-justice to my poor stomach. I decided to leave before I was threatened by any more recipes. All of us left the place heavier by at least 2 kg each. There is little wonder that Gandhi ji in his eleven vratas for a meaningful and soulful life prescribed, aswad as one of important discipline, literally meaning only eating irrespective of taste as much as was required for the body. We broke the rule that day to enjoy the gastronomical delights of Agashiye and enjoyed every bit of it. It’s really worth it.

At Agashiye with my group

At Agashiye with my group