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there’s a weird phenomenon occurring during monsoon season. the rivers are not very full. as in, you see more of the actual ground at the bottom of the bed then actual water. and apparently during the dry season, there’s absolutely no water in the river beds. so people just walk across them to get to the other side. but drive 50 km down the road & you see water on both sides of the road all the way to the horizon line. so after asking what’s the name of the lake, the response comes back with “uh, those are fields.” fields upon fields that are completely flooded with rain water. and the weirdest thing, the water isn’t still. but has tiny little waves like it wants to be the ocean. so you’re driving down this straight road that leads to infinity, completely surrounded by moving water. and if the world was flat, i swear i would have driven right off it. just like the pre-galileo people insisted i would.
my mother spent one exceptionally long car ride explaining to our driver the differences between the roads of india vs the US. chiefly how american highways are paved with lane markers. there are no cows, dogs, goats, camels, ox, or people roaming around on them. the grassy sides are not used as public toilets. the asphalt is not one big spittoon. and of all these mind boggling declarations, the one that boggled the driver’s mind the most was “no cows??? there are no cows on the streets of america?” uh no. the only way americans know cows exist is by the picture of one on their milk cartons.
oh & one of the aforementioned indian cows butt-butted my mother. butt-butted. as opposed to the more commonly witnessed head-butt. and yes, i laughed. really loudly. for a long time.
indians are fearless. while sitting in my idle car at the train tracks waiting for the train to pass, people just walked willy-nilly across the tracks. some pulled their goats. others carried their babies. all while the train was coming. not in the distance. but eminently. as in the headlight was a bright spotlight featuring the jay walkers. at first, i thought it was all sheer lunacy. but then i realized, i cross in front of speeding NYC cabs. indians cross in front of speeding trains. and really, what’s the difference? other than the sound of impact of an ill-timed jay walk?
oh & ps, turns out, peeing in a hole in the ground while on a moving train is not such a good idea.
During my 2006 visit to my home town Baroda/Vadodara, my father-in-law Shri Arvind Soni gave me a book to read - India 2020 by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. This book instilled hope and direction for me to be part of his vision of a developed India. I live in the Bay Area with my family and like many fellow Indians feel a need to do something to help India come out of its Third-world status. Dr. Kalam’s vision of Freedom, Development and Standing up to the World became a guiding light for what can be done. My subsequent visits to India from that point on became purposeful. Every conversation about existing challenges became an opportunity to change what is.
My trips to India were normally during February-March, November-December if I was traveling alone and during June-August while traveling with the family. As a family we were in Baroda in 2006 and 2009. It is a peak monsoon season and while I am nostalgic about spending monsoon’s in India, my girls consider it the most challenging time to be there. The roads are flooded and blocked, it is pouring all day long, water levels sometimes rising up to 3 to 4 feet high. We plan to take the girls on excursions around the city but stepping out of the home is a challenge. They have heard of the wonderful sights, palaces, gardens, step-wells, forts but rarely do we have a chance to explore them. Even when we have managed to go to a few of them, the sites are littered with garbage, red spit marks, termites, bee-hives, bats and its droppings. The city I love so much lacked in basic infrastructure to manage water ways and waste management. We are still developing and are far from being called developed. It is developing fast with golf courses, malls, higher literacy rates and higher per capita income for its work force. Unless there is an intervention to clean up the city like Surat before the plaque, Baroda seems to be heading towards disaster.
There is work cut out of everyone in the city to stop this from happening. Baroda needs to be a city that continues preserving the vision of Sayajirao Gaekward, the ruler who reformed the city to be a center for culture and learning.
“The golden period in the Maratha rule of Baroda was an era of great progress and constructive achievements in all fields. Maharaja Sayajirao III, who ruled from 1875 to 1939, did much to modernize Baroda, establishing compulsory primary education, a library system, a university, and model textile and tile factories, which helped to create Baroda’s image as a modern industrial hub. Modern Vadodara is a great and fitting memorial to Maharaja Sayajirao. It was the dream of this able administrator to make Baroda an educational, industrial and commercial center and he ensured that his dream would come true.” - Wikipedia on “Vadodara”
Mission: Planned growth while maintaining and leveraging cultural and creative resources
Strategy: Phased approach 1. Awareness - what does our continued growth look like in 2020 2. Activate - share vision with stakeholders 3. Plan - shared ownership 4. Implement - one step at a time with the vision as a direction
Objective: • Cultural Conservation • Inclusive Tourism • Sustained Growth • City Planning • Opportunities for Local Businesses