Yesterday I caught the midday train from Vadodara to Ahmedabad the journey took just over two hours and included a very nice lunch in my ticket price of 490 rupees (£7) first class, well its nice to spoil myself every now and again. I found quite a nice hotel near the town centre. Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat though small by Indian standards as it only has a population of 5 million!! It used to be the capital city of Gujarat but due to political problems and a bit of the old rioting it was decided to build a new capital 32 kms north called Gandhinagar named after Mahatma Gandhi who for many years during the freedom struggle against the British Occupiers was based at an Ashram just outside Ahmedabad. Once I checked into my hotel I set about trying to solve the problems with my computer and camera, it would appear that I picked up a virus via my memory stick from the Internet café in Vadodara and this then also spread to my camera. I can report that I still have some hair left (and a “Boily”) and things seem to be working. On the “Boily” front I must say I don’t think I have ever had one before and hope never to have one again, it seems to have taken a bit of a shine to me. After taking all the pills I picked up in Matheran it still seems to be there but has shrunk and does not seem so painful so will see what happens over the next few days.
First thing today I went down to the station to buy a ticket to get back to Mumbai, unfortunately I was unable to buy on the internet as there were long waiting lists and as I return to the UK in one week I would like to spend a few days in Mumbai. So I decided for the second time to go to the station and buy my ticket from the tourist allocation. I am now booked on a train for Saturday night giving me four days in Mumbai as my flight leaves at 2am on Thursday 8th April.
Next I decided to have a walk round the old walled city of Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad was for many years a Muslim city so much of its history and buildings date back to this period. I did find some quite interesting looking buildings but as there is nothing much about the city in the guide book I don’t have a clue what they are. It was very pleasant walking round and I was stopped a number of times by the locals to find out who I was and what I was doing, seems they don’t see many ageing Hippies in short trousers (yes I am still wearing shorts during the day!!) wandering round town.
I walked down to the river that divides the old and new part of the city and was very saddened to see a quite large Slum area that reminded me of what a divided country India is between the haves and the have not. As India grows into a major economic power (and very pleased I am that she is) the divide between the rich and poor grows. The main problem at present is that inflation here is at 8.5% but the basic commodities such as rice, sugar and vegetables the main ingredients for the poor are rising at an annual rate of 18% so the poor are really struggling.
The government recently bought in subsidies for the basic commodities but this seems to make little difference. Seeing this slum reminded me of how lucky I have been but it did bring some tears to my eyes. I just wish there was something I could do but I do realise that I can’t save these people on my own it requires a big helping hand from the richer Indians, the Indian Government and the rest of the richer nations. Hopefully as the Indian economy grows this will create a lot more jobs.
One piece of recent good news today is that the Indian government has passed the RTE Act (Right to Education) this has now become part of the constitution and means that all children between the ages of 6 – 14 have the right to a free education and private schools have to make 25% of there places available to those who can not afford to pay. The act also says that no one will have to pay for a school uniform, meals or text books as is the case now in state run schools. Hopefully this will be a start to giving the very poor an education and levelling the playing field.