Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Culture shock: Ahmedabad and Bangalore blues :)

There's a famous saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." One always takes things for granted back home-such as good food at home or in restaurants, multiplexes where one can watch a variety of movies, other hang-out spots and above all, the security, comforts and conveniences of home(as opposed to a hostel) and Mother's love (Yes Papa, you too!). Only when one moves away does one realize how much one misses them-small things, but magnified in importance with time. Truly, home is where the heart is.
The city you are born or brought up in will assume prime importance,as it tends to grow on you. Moving to another place is bound to result in culture shock, as people do not act the same everywhere. Habits such as food, clothing, tastes in music and literature, vary from place to place as a manifestation of cultural differences.Culture shock may occur because of differences between expectations and reality as well; for an alien, a new place is not the same as what it looks like on TV or in books. Experience is the best teacher one can get. I did experience culture shock when I moved from Ahmedabad to Vellore in 2008, for pursuing a five year integrated Master's degree after school. Though I am a Tamilian, I have a special affinity for Gujarat rather than Tamil Nadu. I prefer vada pav, farsan and aamras to idli sambar and lemon rice! You can say I am a 'Gujaratified' Tamilian. But I didn't feel like that earlier. It's surprising to note that my favorite city was Madras(sorry, I have a fondness for old names of cities) before I went to study in VIT Vellore. I took everything in Ahmedabad for granted. I never liked it when I was living there, thinking Madras was great while Ahmedabad was hot, dusty and polluted, a medieval city of crumbling monuments, congested streets,pols and nothing more. One year in Vellore changed that opinion: Ahmedabad became my favorite city all of a sudden, and I started liking Bangalore more than Madras too. I probably thought Madras was a bigger version of Vellore.

Ahmedabad is a major city of India. It's a gourmet's paradise, a hub for gastronomy.People are fond of eating and are willing to experiment with different cuisines. They celebrate with food-it's more than just for nutrition or filling the belly. Seasons change and so do food items available to eat. Dalwada is for the rains, Aamras for summer, fafda-jalebi for Dusshera, and oondiya or sev-tamatar for winter. On the other hand, Vellore is a small town, merely known for its private university-VIT, missionary hospital-CMC, and for being the hottest place in Tamil Nadu :) I know it's stupid comparing the two, which are as different as apples and oranges, but let's see what Vellore needs to learn from bigger cities like Ahmedabad and Bangalore. I have been to many states in India, but Gujarat offers the most mind-boggling variety of food, at least in terms of vegetarian items. It's easy to get the food of Tamil Nadu(like dosas and idlies) in Gujarat, but the converse is not true. Try getting vada pav, dabeli, gota, buffvada, other farsan items and aamras in Tamil Nadu. You may not get them anywhere in Tamil Nadu, and even if you do, they'll be ridiculously overpriced! A dabeli costs Rs 10 in Ahmedabad, while it's available for Rs 75 (gasp!) at a high-end mall in Madras. Ahmedabad offers a better variety of ice-creams too. There's more than just vanilla, strawberry, mango, chocolate or pineapple available at any ice-cream joint in Ahmedabad. Arun is a poor equivalent of Vadilal,Havmor or Amul.  A glass of soda is available at any branch of Gandhi Soda Shop for just Rs 5. Served under hygienic conditions, many flavors are available, apart from ice-cream soda for just Rs 15. 
RK or Jay Bhavani vada pav, Karnavati dabeli, Dakor gota, farali buff vada, Honest bhaji pav,Continental/Indian/Chinese food at Choice, Havmor ice-creams, juice and snacks at Shambhu's Coffee Bar, Gandhi soda, Astodia/Raipur/Sabarmati jail bhajia and the exquisite Gujarati thalis served at Vishala, Rajwadu and Gordhan Thal-these are a few of my favorite items I can't resist having when in Ahmedabad and which I miss in Vellore. Not the best of Vellore food served at Darling and Baby (these are funny names of so-called top-notch restaurants in Vellore) can appease my taste buds. I have also noticed that food in Vellore is a tad too spicy for comfort (cooks in Vellore have a habit of adding red chillies to everything.) That's probably because people in Ahmedabad love food which tends to be on the sweeter side; Gujarati food is known for its sweetness.  
If one needs to watch a movie in Ahmedabad, one is spoilt for choice in terms of multiplexes-PVR, Cinepolis, Cinemax, Big Cinemas, Wide Angle, City Pulse, City Gold and more. Vellore, on the other hand, struggles with single screen cinema halls like Raghavendra. It's rare to see English films being shown in Vellore without being dubbed in Tamil. One may have to go all the way to Madras to watch the latest one. Moreover, Vellore does not have a single outlet of McDonalds, Dominos, US Pizza or Pizza Hut, which we take for granted elsewhere. I hope it gets at least one of them soon.

 Another city I like a lot is Bangalore, the city I was born in. People generally don't like the dosas of darshinis served with sweet sambar, but I think otherwise. Masala dosas served at Shanti Sagar, MTR (Lalbagh Road), Adigas or Chalukya (Race Course Road) seem to taste better than the same served at Saravana Bhavan or Sangeeta. I probably prefer the Karnataka (Udupi) style to the Tamil Nadu style dosas because I want them golden-brown, thick, crispy and served with sweet sambar. The Tamil Nadu style sambar's a bit too insipid for my liking.

I don't hate Vellore, but I just can't like it as much as Ahmedabad or Bangalore. People may consider this blog post to be 'Vellore bashing' but whatever has been mentioned is straight from the heart. I hope I like a city more than Ahmedabad or Bangalore in the future. By the way, it's time for me to go to Vastrapur lake and have my evening quota of vada pav and Gandhi soda! Aavjo (Goodbye)! :)


  1. totally agree mate..let the world say anything but the cuisine of these two places are at their best and cheapest there only..hats off to a'bad and b'lore and various food joints tht give the city its due credit!!

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