Startups That Should be Present in Ahmedabad But are Not

Startups That Should be Present in Ahmedabad But are Not

They say Ahmedabad is going rapidly and many startup accessory companies are lining up here but we still don’t have many success stories here. ZoomCar, a startup that rents cars for self-drive, kick-started in Ahmedabad some time last year, which is around 3-4 years late. Even some of the MNCs such as Starbucks haven’t entered in Ahmedabad yet.

From what I have noticed and how I see things today, these are the startups that should be there in Ahmedabad but are missing for one reason or the other:

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Caging of Kankaria: The End of an Era of Free Public Spaces

Caging of Kankaria: The End of an Era of Free Public Spaces

Having lived 25 years of my life in Ahmedabad (which is like all my life), especially close to Kankaria– the circular man-made lake- the heart of the East Ahmedabad- I have some fond memories of my childhood attached to the place. The loveliest part of evenings would be going to Kankaria with Papa, Mumma and Uncle, Aunty and Bhaiya. It was so full of life, I loved hopping around being looked at by different sorts of people.

There would be ice-cream shops, balloonwaala, horse rides, small merry-go-round (movable, managed by poor men), men moving with delicious snacks like bhutta-chana zor garam-mamra-sev puri, kulfi and the gola-waalas (I was not allowed to have gola until like college) these were the regulars.

Amongst the more aspirational (costly) ones were places like Bal Vatika (Fun Park for children with some rides, funny mirrors,etc), Aquarium and Nagina Vaadi (a small, linear island at one end of the Kankaria circle- but so small that it could be hardly 600 mtrs of a straight walk). Kankaria was our marine drive. Towards the end, I would cringe when they’d say, ‘Okay, let’s go home now?’

Interestingly, the same Kankaria would turn to be an absolutely different flavour in the morning. People with serious faces, walking like it was a part of their job, some coming just for fun, young men (including my father) touring the Gymkhana- doing some serious exercise- and then have a long (boring) chat over chai ki kitley nearby. This is how I can relate now when I see kids getting cranky around their parents talking infinitely over chai.

The morning Kankaria was not as much fun (from a child’s view) because of the compulsory exercise and running routine but still free, open, huge trees, natural breeze, lots of birds chirping (sometimes so loud that your voice could drown within it), noticing infinite kinds of people who had come to walk or the ones on the road already going to their offices- all strata, all colours, all shapes and sizes!

When Kankaria got Revamped

In 2008, Kankaria was revamped. I was still in school (12th grade) yet I was filled with the excitement of progress and the development it was going to bring. Your part of the city was being beautified; it felt special. When it was opened out to public, something about it was under-whelming. It was concrete, clean, organised (benches, lamp posts, trees at equal distances), people cleaning every now and then (especially in the morning), the fun park was the same, the nagina vadi was the same… What was different?

The cage, sorry, I mean the gates.

kankaria ahmedabad
Everything Beautiful Will Get Caged

Continue reading “Caging of Kankaria: The End of an Era of Free Public Spaces”

The Other Angle: Pee Story Part 1

It was 2PM in the afternoon and my bladder was about to burst. Initially, it was awkward to go and ask the driver to stop. We have always been taught to practice restraint when it comes to speaking about pee, poop, period, sex and rape; and even when it isn’t taught, there’s always some level of awkwardness that stays. So I practiced restraint and the fact that it was an AC bus was aggravating the situation. When it got uncontrollable, I walked up to him and stood there until he stops. It seemed like a relief but not for too long. Two-three women followed me and we entered with our noses covered only to discover a small cubicle, open to the sky with three open pee urinals and one doorless Indian latrine, full of shit and two blood stained pads. There was a bucket but there was no water. I had to do my thing.

 

This is a pee story and it doesn’t matter what place am I talking about. No city or state in our country can take pride for their toilets. Barring few political slogans, sanitation has never been a part of our idea of development. For a long time, I used to feel that ‘pay and use toilets’ are ultimate solutions for cleaner toilets for women. I was being selfish. A public toilet is such a basic necessity. It needs to be free. Clean toilets are just guilty dreams when you know so many women have to venture out in the open.

 

In 2011, when a woman from Mumbai, Mumtaz Shaikh started ‘Right to Pee’, a campaign to have more toilets for women, many people laughed, especially men. Through her long battle, she got the Indian government to set aside 50 million to build female toilets in Mumbai. In last one year, they built 96 free-to-use public toilets and it is growing.

 

How many times have you found a public toilet when you really needed one? Isn’t it about time for Ahmedabad, Gujarat to have a Right to Pee campaign of their own?

 

indian_toilet_best

 

(This post was first translated in Gujarati and published in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad in the 14 Feb 2016 edition. Liked it? Hated it? Let me know! Comment here or get in touch at rtnair91gmail.com)

 

The Other Angle: Amdavadi women and the phenomena of Dupatta replacing Helmets

I visited Jaipur last week and like young kids of our relatives from abroad get excited and surprised looking at monkeys, dogs and cows on our Indian roads; I beamed seeing that everyone wore a helmet: the rider and the pillion too, even females- aunty in a sari, college girl on a bike, even grandmas. In retrospect, I wonder how women in our city pretty much invented the idea of covering their face with a dupatta while traveling, which not only serves as an important safety defense mechanism while on roads but also restricts pollution. But as someone who wears a helmet, I do not understand why so few women (even fewer than men) wear helmets while driving in the city, or do we see our dupatta as a replacement to helmet.

hc_helmet.jpg

The most interesting things that happen to you is when you go to buy a helmet, especially if you are someone forgetful as me, you’ll have to go there more often; twice have I gone to a helmet place near commerce six roads, I have rifts with the person. He begins with showing be a ‘ladies helmet’, the cap like delicate thing which will be the first thing to break or come off, and it doesn’t cover your face and jaw. The thought process that went into its designing must be “Oh women are so delicate; we need to give them a delicate helmet.” Right. Once I tell the kaka, I don’t want this. He will say, ‘ben, aa enough che. Chokrio ne aatlu chali jashe. Koh toh biju batavu pan heavy lagshe.” (Listen, this is enough for girls. I can show you other ones but you’ll find them heavy.) I would stand there and nod left right, meaning no. Then he would show me a ‘Men’s helmet’. I buy it and leave.

But the most interesting thing is why most traffic cops don’t stop us without a helmet? “Beheno ne chaale, bukhani toh pehri che ne.” (Such helmets should be enough for women, they wear dupatta anyway.)

Perhaps we feel it will spoil our hair or our precious hairstyle, but then think, is your face more important or your brain. Also, it’s normal to feel the helmet to be heavy or uncomfortable, for the first five or six days, but it is a good problem to have. You will get used to it in no time and theirs no choice. It’s pretty much as essential as a bra.

If you are worried about your hairstyle, think, is it more important or your head?

A friend of mine, an American woman from the US who is a stunt woman over there had said in one of her research project trips to Ahmedabad, “I think driving a two wheeler in Ahmedabad is riskier than stunts in my films. I wouldn’t dare drive here!”

Adding to the original quote, ‘Driving liberates a woman’, I would add ‘and helmet saves her’. Also, don’t you think following traffic laws shall be better step towards equality?

(A shorter, crisper and nicely translated Gujarati version of this post was first published in my brand new column ‘Women City’ in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad. Show me some love or hate, tell me what you think about this- either here in the comments or mail or tweet!)