Even people who know me very well are shocked to know that I was born in Ahmadabad of all places. Me a pure tamilian (MuKa may not agree) with no relatives currently living there. Interestingly 2 maternal uncles of mine lived in Ahmadabad for a short period of time and so my mother went to Ahmadabad for child birth. From what i hear from her or my uncle and cousins they had a pleasant time there when Congress was in power. Not that there was the complete absence of riots.
I moved out of Gujarat as a 40 day old child. God’s way of punishing the world, may be. Few days later Ahmadabad saw one of the worst riots known for a long time. No Narendra Modi was not in power. For a long time i used to fantasize that i was a Gujarati and there was a baby switch in the hospital. This feeling was much stronger whenever my mother was angry with me (every alternate day – the other day she would have been too busy to notice me). All my childhood i had practiced singing the family song of my estranged family (influence of movies, obviously), a song i could recollect from memory without apparently having heard it. The only Gujarati sing i knew. Whenever we played Monopoly I would ensure that i buy all the Gujarati dominated areas in the Bombay version that was popular then. Honestly i have never played the Madras version. Below my Gujarati pride.And my joy knew no bound when i joined a Gujarati college in madras.
The first blow to that pride of mine was when i heard the prayer on day 1 – Vaishnava Jana tho. it suddenly dawned on me that i had heard this song a few hundred times subconsciously on AIR / DD whenever they went into mourning and was not because of any (imagined) umbilical connection to Gujarat. The college had a sizable Gujarati crowd who used to prefer commerce and were all bunched in one section. I was also in that section. The constant chewing of Mawaa put me off but my loyalty to my imagined homeland diminished only a bit. It was actually so bad that most students would go to the window and spit out if the professor asked them any question. For two of the three years i was in that college we had a class room in the third floor. But all this was ok because Narendra Modi was not in power.
During my CA days, i tried my best to visit Ahmadabad at the cost of a large commercial vehicle manufacturer who was our major client. As luck would have it in a short period of 3 years i went to the Western region at least 7 times. Each time i was obliged to visit a Sales office and i would start with Ahmadabad but every time i was told there were riots in Gujarat and i was given the option of going to Pune or Silvassa or other uninviting towns. My uncle who had studied in a Baroda Engineering college in late seventies and early eighties explained to me how riots used to take place. But then we took it lightly because it was not Modi at the helm.
For a long time later i was involved in a chemical unit and our main competitors and few customers were Gujarati. They were looked down upon as serial offenders on economic laws and more so on pollution. Vapi and Ankleshwar were known for their enterprising offenders. When the Central Government said small scale units till now exempt from Central Excise would have to send their details by Registered Post, we were told, the Gujarati entrepreneurs sent in posts with blank papers. When asked by the officials, they showed the proof of having sent the post and asked the officials to check their files. But then it was not NaMo at helm. But by then my fascination for Gujarat had mellowed a lot.
Then Godhra and the subsequent carnage happened. And in a short time i went into personal problems. Gujarat and NaMo were rarely in my mind. It was nearly 5 years later that i started looking at the world around me. NaMo was firmly entrenched and the world as i saw it was split into two. Either you were against NaMo or with him. The first category looked down on anything to do with Gujarat and the second found good in all and sundry.
As i searched for the most polluted place in India for a reference I found the town where i lived the previous 12 years had gone from bad to worse while Vapi and Ankleshwar which had been much worse had improved dramatically. Surat had improved beyond recognition after the plague scare. And i got an opportunity to work in Ahmadabad and i grabbed it with both hands – only to be cheated at the last moment. I was posted to the opposite corner of India, Kolkata. And not surprisingly my CEO, an outspoken lady took every opportunity to belittle NaMo. But then somewhere along the line the tide turned. An ardent fan of didi and pariborton she now swears by Modi and the state of Gujarat. The same person who when offered additional charge of the Ahmedabad unit told me she will not take it up because of Modi.
But then my appetite for Gujarat is dead – too much of hatred – give me the dravidians any day with their faux brahmin hatred. On rare occasions i steal a look at my passport which is a silent witness to my place of birth – Ahmadabad – a place i have never been to. As i keep saying – I have never been to Gujarat I only came out of it.