Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 310 - 312 Vadodara

I enjoyed the fact that the only hotel room I could find was an AC room: most of my first morning in Vadodara I spent just laying on bed and letting the AC on full power cool me down. Profoundly refreshed I cycled on that new flyover on Jetalpur Road (that's the southern parallel road to R.C.Dutt) into old town. While in Alkapuri a lot has changed, in the old town everything looked pretty much the same as 9 years ago. I had 3 missions: finding a replacement back brake for my wonderful Indian Atlas Royal bicycle back home, finding a new stylish saddle for same and finding a tailor. On this day I only managed to complete the first mission. I still knew where to find the bicycle shop street in the old town. There I found the brakes. But there was no way to find the kind of saddle I wanted - all through India everyone was riding on very fancy retro-style leather (or fake-leather) saddles, but in Vadodara everyone seemed to have rather modern ones, even on oldschool bicycles. As for the tailor I was trying to find the one where I had some stuff done back in 2003, but I simply couldn't find the street in the chaos of old city. Well, I guess one successful mission per day should be enough. In the evening I met up with Nency, who I knew from Auroville - who is very remarkable: probably the only girl I know who doesn't like chocolate! But I do! The next morning I went to a stylish new restaurant called the Chocolate room. Mmmmhhhh, fantastic place for cyclists. Later I went to one of the fancy new tailors in Alkapuri to get some business attire custom-tailored (at my size more or less the only way to get this stuff). In the afternoon I met again with Piyush who took me for a scooter ride around town. First we went to university which has a small Buddhism-in-Gujarat museum - only open if you know someone from the department, which Piyush did. The department even has some original relics of Buddha! Next stop: chai at the park entrance (close but not exactly at our old chai-place). I also learned that Nilkanth Lassi place still exists, but its location has changed - now I just have to find out where-to. Yesterdays unfinished missions proved to be much easier with Piyush's help. On the way for an hour of yoga at his ashram we stopped at a roadside dealer of bicycle-seats-only. He had something similar to what I wanted, but in a very bad condition. After yoga we went to the bicycle shop street where after asking at a couple of shops I finally found my saddle - very close to where I had been looking the day before but impossible to find without Piyushs help. In the evening we had a walk through the park and shared our memories and future plans. Then we went to meet some of the trainees at one of the Trainee houses (of which Piyush is landlord). All the trainee houses of 2003 have been closed inbetween, but there are new ones now and to me trainee life seemed to be just as I know it (though Piyush says, that there isn't that big community-feeling anymore, people tend to only hang around with their housemates now).
The next morning I went to try on the still unfinished suit and later had lunch at Piyushs place - I feel like a very rich person having friends at whose doorstep you can appear after nearly a decade and still get such an incredibly warm welcome. I jokingly tried to convince Piyush to join me on my small bicycle trip to Palitana and back, but he would always refuse. In the afternoon I did some much needed bicycle cleaning. Cycling felt a bit strange lately - as if there was some sand somewhere in the system. I hoped this would only be due to the dirty chain and wheels, but even after cleaning and oiling it still feels strange - now there are only 2 places where it could come from: the bottom bracket or from inside the Rohloff gearbox. I hope it is not the latter. During the cleaning I also discovered a puncture in the front wheel - yet another thorn. It was repaired with great help of the hotel staff and a nearby tire guy - who even refused to get paid! In the evening I collected my new business attire: very nice suit, 2 shirts that I like a lot and 2 more colourful shirts I am not so sure about (the tailor staff had tasked me into trying that fabrics). Now I only have to make up my mind if I want to take it all home on my bicycle or if I will mail it.
Throughout this 3 days I was thinking about what changed and what stayed the same in Vadodara: There are no pigs in the city anymore. There are many fancy new buildings on R.C.Dutt, Racecourse circle and especially on Jetalpur road which even got a brandnew flyover over the railway. Many of the fancy new buildings are occupied by fastfood joints, hotels, fancy shops (jewellery and stuff). There even is a Dominos pizza on the corner when leaving racecourse circle for Ellora 5 or Galaxy. The train station looks very new (though this is mainly due to a lot of white paint). But the old city looks just the same. And between all the fancy new buildings there is still a lot of rubble on the street and everywhere around. Noone drives his two-wheeler with a helmet (though there is some gossip about police trying to enforce that). And there are still trainees around and Piyush is still helping them in every way possible.

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