A bustling market, trendy restaurants and gleaming marts welcome me as I step outside the Maninagar railway station in Ahmedabad, home turf of Gujarat's controversial chief minister Narendra Modi.
At first glance Maninagar, located in southern Ahmedabad, is no different from up-market areas in Delhi or Mumbai. But a few kilometres away hovels line the roads, stray cattle roam the alleys and little boys in rags chase runaway kites.
I have been hearing a lot about "vibrant" Gujarat and how Modi has brought development to its people.
Yes, there are Reliance Marts but I am not impressed.
Except maybe by the electricity situation here. It amazes me that there are no power cuts here - till I am told power has been privatised.
I am on one of my rare visits to Ahmedabad, the city of my birth - where my Malayalee grandfather had migrated in the early half of the 20th century. No, I am not conversant in Gujarati - my parents shifted lock, stock and barrel to New Delhi when I was five years old.
And the nursing home where I was born no longer exists, apparently burned down in one of the frequent communal clashes that hold the city and the state in a deathly grasp.
"It's good Modi has been re-elected," says my cousin wryly. "Christians and Muslims will be left alone for another five years."
I make my way to the market at Lal Darwaza, to a section populated mostly by Muslims. It's here that you get quality stuff - the best bedsheets are invariably found in shops owned by a Khan, Salim or Mohammad.
Shops here are burned and looted during riots, then re-built and re-stocked. Hiccups may come and go but life goes on as usual.
I hear shouts behind me and I turn to look - but it's only a bunch of unruly kids fighting over kites. It's Uttarayan festival here, the time when the Ahmedabad sky is replete with kites.
Kites in all possible hues are everywhere and Modi smiles at me from several of them. A little boy in a skull cap is happy wresting a Modi kite - I guess he doesn't care his prize catch flaunts the face of a man hated by most Muslims in the country.
As night falls, I walk down the main Maninagar street. And am surprised to see several women riding scooters even at 10 pm. It's like committing hara-kiri for a woman to go out alone in Delhi or Mumbai but my young cousins have no qualms venturing into deserted lanes at night.
Well, cases of rape and molestation (except during riots) may be fewer in Gujarat but it doesn't really mean the men here are saints.
"There are lechers around but they would think twice before molesting a headstrong Gujarati woman," explains my cousin.
But the autowalas here are really nice. They ply by the meter. Whether it's actually honesty or morals kept in check by local residents, I may never know.
And what of prohibition in the land of Mahatma Gandhi? Downing liquor in Gujarat is illegal and I was indeed impressed - until I saw a tramp walk home drunk.
Click here for the Richard Gere - Shilpa Shetty kissing controversy Which racist comment on Shilpa irked you the most? And why? DAILY HIGHL...
A waiter accidentally spilled five glasses of beer down Angela Merkel’s back last week. I empathise with the German Chancellor because I k...
I don't believe in stereotypes but some of the things in the following 'forwarded email' do ring true. If you are Bengali , you ...
The adorable school teacher from the TV sitcom " Mike and Molly " was destined to be an audience charmer. Remember Melissa McCart...
Movie Review: Shuddh Desi Romance - never before has an Indian rom-com snubbed marriage so effectivelyThere is nothing shuddh (pure) or desi (Indian) about the romance in Shuddh Desi Romance so don’t go expecting a stereotypical Bollywood ...
Close your eyes and let your thoughts take you away from the city where you live. Your destination is a nondescript village deep in the I...
A weekend trip to Sariska and Bhangarh near Alwar, Rajasthan didn't really go as planned. The Sariska Tiger Camp was comfortable...
Well, sort of. She doesn't really kill people. She kills mosquitos. Each evening, armed with an electronic mosquito-killing racket, she...
I'd heard so much about Manu Joseph's comic prowess that the unexpectedly dark "The Illicit Happiness of Other People&qu...
I watched " Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani " today. Finally. It's been a month since the latest package from the Karan Johar as...