Surat is known for diamonds. I see that it is a developed city. It is also known for the plague. I see that it is congested. Traffic is a mess. Crossing a road is a nightware and I walk on the chaotic streets with my heart in my mouth.
While most of Gujarat is just great for travelling, Surat is almost an eyesore. Even Ahmedabad and Vadodra are fairly well kept. For the first time in Gujarat, I see slums in Surat. The long journey from Bhavnagar to Surat is made longer by traffic jams as we approach Surat. I have lost of most of today on the road.
There is nothing particulary touristy about Surat. I had a vague idea that I would visit a Parsee temple.
‘Non-Parsees are not allowed to enter the temples,’ tells an old man on the bus to Surat.
‘Is that so?’ I ask a little surprised.
‘Yes. It is a closed community,’ he confirms.
Not only that, Parsees do not marry outside their fold. They believe in the purity of blood and lineage. It is no wonder that many generations of inbreeding has weakened their gene pool and resistance to the complexities of the modern world. Anything that’s too isolated for long cannot survive the demands of today. The Parsee community is facing a tough challenge ahead.
So what else is there to do at Surat? At twilight I see a few boys on a terrace attempting to fly a kite. The kite simply would not leave ground. There is no wind today. It is said that the people of Surat go crazy at the time of Uttarayan, a festival that celebrates the entry of the sun into the Northern Hemisphere as it crosses the Tropic of Cancer. Boys and even grown up men buy kites in bundles of 10 or 20. It is common for a single person to buy a hundred kites to be flown in a single day. On this day the skies witness another form of traffic jam as if there weren’t enough jams already in Surat.
The threads are coated with manja which is a paste mixed with glass pieces. A kite is generally lost within few minutes of flight. Conquest of other people’s kites is called ‘lootna’. Such kites are flown on the next day. The festival keeps boys busy on terraces and open fields for most of the day. They know no sleep or hunger during this festival. It is still two more weeks to the festival and I have places to go. I cannot linger around to catch this kite fever.
I spend sometime updating my blog. It’s been almost ten days since my last update. I have had a tough time finding cyber cafes in Gujarat. I have a good dinner, a Punjabi thali meal. I return to my room, a narrow box on a terrace from where I get a good view of the entire city. Neon lights and billboards crowd the view for attention. There is no particular beauty here. Even the stars above are dimmed in the flashing lights of Surat.