Ahmedabad is not a tourist destination. It is a working class city which used to be called the Manchester (UK) of India due to the many fabric mills. It could also be dubbed the Boston of India because of the 42 institutions of higher learning in or around Ahmedabad. None of my India American friends had been to Ahmedabad. Ironically, it was voted the most livable city in India for the year 2012. Mr. Modi, who is the minister for Gujarat, is being courted to run for Prime Minister in 2014 because of his success here. Modi was elected Prime minster and is currently serving in 2016.)
None of us were prepared for the reception we received when we arrived. Everywhere we walked, people smiled, said hello, and asked to have a picture taken with some or all of us. This wasn’t just the “twenty-somethings”, but David and me as well. They would motion for us to remove our sunglasses to check eye color. If it was blue, we were rewarded with a huge smile. Two students were particularly popular for pictures. Tyler, a redhead with blue eyes, a towering 6’ frame, and a gregarious personality, makes friends everywhere he goes. Erin has golden curls and deep blue eyes. She has had repeated proposals of marriage, to which she sweetly smiles and acknowledges with a polite “No, thank you.”
From these experiences as well as watching Bollywood videos and commercials on TV for skin lightening products, it is evident that light skin is considered desirable. There are people of all ages with a certain shade of red hair which I image is a result of trying to lighten their hair. I guess it is the human condition that makes people long for something different; such as Westerners working hard to darken their skin even to the extinct of endangering their health in tanning beds. (2016 update. The reddish orange hair color is worn as a badge of honor by followers of Islam who have made their Hajji to Mecca, which I know now. )
The pictures: 9th graders and me at the Modhera Sun Temple
Stepwell near Ahmedabad , ( Adalaj Stepwell 2016) David and I are on the steps. Pictures by Shane. This is a site which is 500 years old but due to its beauty, a lovely site for wedding pictures.
My favorite picture is of the mother who had handed me her baby son so un-expectantly. I know now, that she wanted me to touch the top of his head in a blessing. Mothers’ love is universal!
Many thanks to the gentle, friendly, welcoming Indians of Ahmedabad!