The travel time was longer than anticipated due to a strike happening with Air India, but that did not stop the 9 of us that showed up on Sunday. We arrived in Ahmedabad tired and excited, not sure what was about to happen. Our drivers met us at the door and 4 of us jumped into a van and took one of the most interesting rides of my life. For one, in India they drive on the left side of the road, and I don’t think there are any rules. There were street- lights but none of them were on and people basically drove into each other and then swerved at the last second. The most interesting part was that the horn was used for everything. In America we think it is rude to just honk your horn if not for a good reason, but in India you honk to let people know you are coming, to get people out of your way, and to move dogs, cows, and pigs to the side of the road. Trucks have beautifully painted signs that say HONK PLEASE— OK, and every truck and van is colorful and has adornments hanging from the windshield. Cows were on highways walking in any direction. Goats and pigs were hanging out on the side of the road eating the scraps people left for them.
After 2 hours we reached Dhrangadhra and the roads became smaller and the animals became more plentiful. I have been on a farm in my life and have even milked a cow, but walking next to such large cows on the street was an experience I may never forget. There was a slight twinge of hesitation being so close to a cow, but I realized rather quickly that these animals were just like the people on the street. They did not care that I was there nor did they pay any attention to me. Many were sitting in the shade to stay out of the hot sun and others were chowing down on food they had found in an alley. Dogs were the same way; they walked along and were more surprised when you called out to them than if you just ignored them.
The people of Dhrangadhra believe that every creature is equal, and the town is vegetarian, which shows how much they respect all the creatures that live among them. Every morning we were told to feed the ants some grains and sugar because by feeding them we are saving thousands of lives.
I do not think I have ever truly understood vegetarianism until today. Not that I didn’t understand why my friends are vegetarians, but more because I have never seen so much respect for an animal before. All creatures are created equal is not just an idea here in Dhrangadhra, it is their reality.
Then we finally hit the palace grounds. A small white gate and a dirt path with trees surrounding were the first things I saw, and then the Palace itself, an over 200 year building that had beautiful carvings all around it and birds everywhere. I thought I had suffered a little culture shock with the drive, but I was about to stay in a Palace where generations of kings had ruled and you could see the history all around you. It was not just old carvings and statues, but also a 50’s Sutdebaker sat in the driveway, old garden tools along the wall, and then as you go upstairs air conditioners in every room. It was a mixture of the generations that had past and what was to come.