A very, very brief trip to Surat on Saturday. Some first impressions -
Change is a difficult thing to find.
A unique Surat speciality - ice paan. Which is regular paan filled with crushed ice. Have it on a hot afternoon and your whole head fills with this ice-cold liquid feeling, flavoured icy water trickling down your throat. Brain freeze. Numb gums. Chill tongue. Then as the water melts away, the paan flavor emerges... awesome.
Sosyo. A slightly spicy-flavored fizzy drink, and the only way you will be able to digest all the food you eat, because Surat, like the rest of Gujrat, is all about
Food. Everywhere. Anywhere. Anytime. All the time. Food stalls, line the streets, fill the malls, tempting treats, eat them all. I can't even begin the describe the sheer variety of Surat-specific snacks. Which also why you will find
Picnic Roads. Roads are meant, in the classic sense, to travel along, usually in a vehicle. In the Indian context, they can be places to set up business, do your business, eat, pray, live. In Surat, they're also picnic spots. Dividers become tables, railings become backrests, the baskets and tiffins are opened, and awash in the illumination of a thousand malls 'n stalls, the Surat citizens have a gala time sitting, eating, chatting, girlwatching, flirting, drinking, socializing, and connecting. It's a permanent food festival.
Traffic Rules. While the above is happening, what happens to regular traffic, you ask? The answer is not easy do describe without getting into quantum physics. Like purely theoretical particles, Surat cars and several quadrillion bikes can somehow occupy two places at the same time, pass through each other, affect each other's speed and position randomly, as they transport themselves and their passengers through the crowd in a chaotic Brownian Motion of zips, scrapes, near-misses, music and horns. Right of way is determined by speed, size, nerve, and horn volume, traffic lights are amusing entertainment at best, and helmets, seatbelts, and carrying capacity are the gentle suggestions made by snowflakes in hell.
And lastly, add the world-famous Garba. Being the last day of Navratri, Gujratis from Surat to Syracuse will be out on the street dressed to kill, a thousand floodlights blaze in every field, park, and society parking lot, and a million variations of Phalguni Pathak float in the evening air. It's awesome. The entire city is out, and unlike the Cal Pujos, it's not limited to specific localities with travelling in-between; the festival is literally everywhere.