Gujarat, Ahmedabad, Tarnetar Mela Three names to pronounce them in more than 2 years later still gives me creeps. Every traveler, even the most experienced, has a black page in his CV. Mine, to date, is without doubt represented by this meta!
Before leaving for any trip, I always prepare a rough itinerary which is often related to the festivities typical of the country that I’m going to visit with Tarnetar Mela has happened just like that, I was on the other side of India, in Calcutta, but making an exception to the rule I decide to take a domestic flight to Ahmedabad (capital of Gujarat) where I then reached Rajkot, the place where this takes place “incredible” festival.
when I arrived at the airport, the whole room is lined with posters advertising the event complete with phone numbers of the Gujarat Tourism Office, I decided to call to get information and incredibly fulfilling all my needs: timetables bus, costs, points of origin ….. you see that are organized to receive many tourists I thought!
I take a taxi to the center (200 rupees), having not booked anything I do leave near the Sidi Saiyad Mosque Masjid, after a few steps a young girl traveling with me gets a grope on the ass, and we do ignore it thinking it was a case isolated and continue around the city.
We met a nice old man holding a large ring binder in which there is evidence of travelers from around the world who have stayed at his home. Thinking that this may have been a great way to sleep in a cheaper place and make the most of the Indian experience, we decided to follow him, his house is just over 1 km from the mosque.
We make a few hundred meters and a new groping, our guide notices and stops the guy who was trying to escape but visibly drunk he can not do many meters. I witness a scene that I would have gladly spared, the harasser is kicked, punched and beaten, and our attempts to stop the beating will be useless. Everything ends only when on his knees, his face swollen and bleeding, the guy will kiss the feet of the girl in a sign of apology. I ask for an explanation from the old to the exaggeration of the reaction and he explains that by all means they should discourage the use of alcohol, if people began to drink, having nothing, the situation could degenerate into town uncontrollably; he denies it is religious conviction (Ahmedabad is in the majority, almost all, Muslim).
Obviously in shock I reach the “home” of the guide and understand immediately that I am not a traveler so adventurous. Tin roofs, dirt floors and mice that run from one room to another. No, sorry, can not do it right, it will just stress the past, will be 40 days behind on trains, buses and tuk tuk but kindly decline the offer and I headed back toward the center. I will be staying at the Hotel Volga (http://www.hotelvolga.in/), really good, for location, price, quality of the rooms and the service (if someone will still want to go there after my story, I would absolutely recommend).
The next day I’m going to take the bus where I had been told by telephone from the tourist office, the place is exact and it is impossible to go wrong: there will be at least 500 people in line. Buses for the festival depart every 30 minutes (80 rupees), I do a quick count and the result is a wait of at least 4 hours. Absurd, but there is no ‘other way, I’m in line and buses in the distance really appear like a mirage!
After less than 1 hour queue, however, the stroke of luck! An employee of the tourism office notice me (not that it was difficult, I was the only one from europe, it seems not even believe it, and he looks at me his face as though to say “excuse me, but what the hell are you doing here ? “, I watch it and on my face he could read:” believe me, I dont know ‘not even me. “He takes my hand and makes me ‘jump the whole row, I embarked, and after about 2 hours of travel arrival at the festival, the luck was finally turning on my side! I get off the bus, I look up and I understand that: No, luck is not yet definitely turned my! A sea of nearly 70,000 people and, at the center a Ferris wheel rusty. Stop.
I tell myself that it is not possible, which can not ‘be all there. And the amazing images I had seen on the web? vague, try to understand, nothing happens. Time passes and nothing happens. People eat, dirty ground, shouting, singing, but it does not happen absolutely nothing of what ‘I had seen and read. I feel like a caged animal, all faces look at me with questions and I can not give them answers. I’m going back to the hotel, the next day the same procedure, bus, festival, nothing happens. Total depression. On the fourth day I decided to take a train and go to Mumbai.
At the station I met a gentleman in a suit and tie, he realizes that my tearful face. We talk a lot, tells me of Gujarat, the people who inhabit it, the backwardness of his land. Speak with a bit ‘of melancholy, as if he did not feel to belong entirely to the place where he was born. Before leaving he gave me a box of milk sweets, typical of Gujarat and telling me, while smiling, that in Gujarat there is something good. Nothing is more true, the best thing I’ve tasted during the whole trip!
To conclude, I do not like to speak ill of all the places I have been, this too in his way, he left me something, definitely enriched me as well (and perhaps especially) the negative experiences they can do. I do not have pictures to show you of this adventure, and that says a lot about the situation I experienced. To make you understand the proportion between what I expected and what I found ….. I was expecting this: