When you’ve got just a weekend to spend in a city or town, perhaps a break after a work trip or a quick visit to a friend, what do you do? My guess is you head to all the food joints, historical monuments and other places of note. The weekend is spent crossing items off the bucket list, and even the holiday brings a sense of achievement. But what if you were to put down that list and explore a city with a different approach?
I spent a few months in Ahmedabad, interning with a non-profit that uses media for social change. During my time there I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who approached life differently, and gave me a new perspective on recreation and entertainment. So when my mom and a few friends came to spend a weekend with me in Ahmedabad, at the end of my internship, we decided to skip the bucket list and plan our weekend around gratifying experiences. Here’s my list of the top 4 gratifying things to do in Ahmedabad.
Volunteer at Seva Café
Seva (service) Café started as an experiment in peer to peer generosity. The meals are cooked and served with love and offered to the guests as a gift. To complete the circle of giving and sustain the experiment, guests are encouraged to pay-it-forward, essentially paying for the person after them. So when you finish your meal, you don’t receive a bill, but a card with a message informing you that your meal is paid for, and encouraging you to pay from your heart.
A visit to Seva Café for a meal is quite a wonderful experience in itself, since the concept is unique and one can sense genuine warmth from all the volunteers. But take a step further and sign up as a volunteer. You might spend your evening doing dishes, chopping onions or putting the garnish on a plate of sevpuri (a local snack). But nothing can substitute the feeling of pure joy in preparing a meal for a complete stranger, and bonding over the same with new found friends.
Take a Ride in Udaybhai’s Rickshaw
Similar to the gift economy concept of Seva Café, Uday Bhai’s unique rickshaw meter always reads zero. (So you’ll never be arguing that it runs too fast!). Besides, he has a dustbin to prevent you from littering, a small fan to keep you cool in the Ahmedabad heat, and if you ask, hundreds of inspiring stories to share. Contact him in advance and he will show you around some historical monuments in and around Ahmedabad (wouldn’t want your bucket list to be completely empty). There’s no limit on the number of passengers, if you manage to squeeze into the rickshaw!
And if you’re lucky he might even share some treats made by his wife, like he did with us! We had a wonderful day visiting ‘Adalaj Ni Bawdi’ and ‘Trimandir’, where we were treated to a wholesome simple meal, followed by ice cream to beat the heat and mithai (sweets) to satisfy our (seemingly infinite) sweet cravings. By the end of the day Uday Bhai (The Rickshaw driver) had become a friend, suggesting ice cream flavours and mithais unique to Ahmedabad. When the time came to get off the rickshaw it was almost too awkward to make a monetary transaction. But we followed instructions, and paid from the heart!
Cook for Tyaag Nu Tiffin
‘Tyaag Nu Tiffin’ is an initiative that delivers meals to men and women living in the slums of Ahmedabad.
They are elderly folk who don’t have anyone to cook for them or take care of. Started by Raghubhai who passed away in a tragic accident in 2014, the initiative is continued by those who were close to him and believed in the project. Volunteers are invited to help out with distribution or even cook a meal and take it along to serve the women of the community.
Take a Tour of the Community Projects and Find one to Contribute Towards
All the initiatives mentioned above are part of a larger circle called, Moved by Love – a group dedicated to acts of radical generosity as they like to call it. The group has pioneered various gift giving projects, in an effort to further the spirit of love and generosity and shares their inspiring stories through their online portal. Get in touch with them to understand their various projects, visit project sites and contribute to one which resonates with you. They also host weekly meditation circles if you happen to be around on a Wednesday.
Though we ventured off the beaten path for the majority of the weekend, we did gorge on a lot of pani puri (a snack) in 6 different flavours, went for a beautiful heritage walk in old Ahmedabad and indulge in some street shopping!