Underrated and Unexpected Highlights of India

Though arguably low on the radar of “Top 10 things to do in India”, Ahmedabad has proven to be a favourite of mine. Hosting a plethora of culture, history and youth, this city has proven to be a favourite of mine as a result. We started off our adventures in Ahmedabad with free time, featuring Nic, Abby, and I jumping in an autorickshaw and zooming across the city; the intended ‘rest’ time chucked out the window. We found ourselves at one of the quietest ‘touristy’ spots we had ever been to; a seemingly ‘small,’ though five stories deep, stepwell.

Stepwells, as the name implies, are a form of well that often is lined by corridors and stairs; the water is used for drinking and bathing. The particular stepwell we had reached was one of the most marvellous things I had ever seen. Though tentative to enter at the start, a friendly local offered to take us down (with a rather forcible tip at the bottom of the stepwell), and we climbed and jumped around the bottom of the stepwell. It felt a lot like scenes from the video game ‘Unchartered’, exploring hidden ruins with nobody to stop us.

Following this, we went to the mosque attached to the stepwell, learning more about who created the stepwell and the temple itself. The Imman showed us around his temple, pointing out the best places to take photos and discussing in very limited English the history of both the mosque and stepwell. I am constantly amazed by the dedication and pride people within India hold in terms of telling others about their culture and religion. It is something so distinctively different from New Zealand. As we turned to leave, the Imman gave us a recommendation on where to go next, sending us on our way to a marvellous Jain temple, once again proving the plurality and cultural awareness seen within India.

Though finding our Uber autorickshaw was difficult, we eventually made it to the Jain temple and followed the local worshipers throughout the temple, learning the various customs.

Religion aside, we met some of the most amazing students at Ahmedabad university, a rising university in India; the majority of its campus has been developed over the past five years. We toured the campus with our new friends (shout-out to Surya and Niki) and learnt about what made this university so special. All the students we met were so well-rounded and worked with so many NGOs and organisations, demonstrating what the future leaders of this world could be.

Finally, we were able to visit Manav Sadhana, a centre providing aid to the underprivileged communities of Ahmedabad. They provided free schooling, religious acceptance, food and support as needed to the communities around Ahmedabad, the values linking service to worship. Manav Sadhana’s home base was located within Gandhi’s ashram, many of its goals being linked to the five values of Gandhi (truth, aspiration, love, beauty, and hope). These were all beautiful concepts that matched nicely with the beautiful background, these being moments I’ll never forget.

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