Travel partner Herb Leventon of Epic Photo Tours is presently in Gujarat scouting for our upcoming tour in Tribes of Gujarat, Jan 9 - 21, 2015. Here are his impressions of Ahemdabad during his first 8 hours there (pics to follow).
Great first day, didn't see another foreigner along the way. No english spoken, zero hassle factor. Great street photography; cattle on the streets, interesting architecture, henna on hands, ankle bracelets, nose piercings, friendly shop keepers…
Left the hotel at 7:30 am and drove directly to the ancient gated part of the city. Walked down narrow, winding paths where the 2 and 3 story crumbling wood and cement structures were connected and the windows and door frames had intricate carvings and wound up in a section where all of the women were washing their clothes in buckets and beating them on the pavement. Before I even entered the path I knew what the the sound was, clothing being slapped on the pavement. Other women were using straw hand brooms and sweeping the paths and then piled up the rubbish and made their way to the small dumpster truck. Smiles everywhere, everyone happy to get photographed. Stopped at a coffee stall and had a small cup of energy.
Continued walking and heard the sounds of women chanting. Followed the trail to a Jain temple. Men on one side, women on the other. About 100 smiling faces motioning me to sit down. Found a staircase and went up to shoot down on the crowd. The Jain's are as devout as they come in the Hindu world. No shoes, no possessions, don't eat root vegetables and the main Jain had a thin white cloth over his mouth when he spoke. That was to prevent him from swallowing a bug and engaging in violence.
From there made my way to a regular Hindu temple. Many of the men and women had cotton bags over their hands and were counting the chaka beads inside. I saw some really spiritual expressions on peoples faces. I wandered off and lost my local guide and tour operator so I made my way back to where I hoped the car and driver was.He was there but his english was minimal but we he knew enough to call th guide and find his coordinates and I jumped in a tuktuk and zoomed over to them.
The rest of the morning was spent walking through the "poles' which are the neighborhoods behind the houses built in courtyards. Then moved along to walk through the spice market, stationery and book market, and embroidery markets. Bought a white Ghandi cap for myself and my 70 year old local guide. Definitely a smile getter and ice breaker wearing that cap. Makes it easy to photograph people when they see me with the Ghandi "topi". My tour operator says that I don't look like an idiot with it on.
Sitting on a stoop were a few masculine looking women who my guide said were hajiras. They are transgender, eunuchs, and called the third sex in India. I took a few shots and then had my guide engage them with the idea that I could find out where their "akhra" community lives and I can do a photo shoot with them. They didn't really like him so I had my female tour operator work them and got a phone number so that I could visit them tomorrow.
By noon it hit 95 degrees and I was zoning out so we took a tuktuk to a possible hotel choice and had lunch. Labor centric India at its best and worst, I think we had about 8 waiters fussing over us. Checked out the rooms and decided that the location was really convenient so I will have the group stay there the first 3 days in Ahmedabad. Totally out of steam, we drove back to the hotel where we are staying at now. Really luxurious, I will save to for the last night of the trip as it is out of the way but will be a great place to end the trip.
Jeremy Woodhouse is a professional photographer and traveller. He leads photography trips to all corners of the globe