I’d known this city as Baroda for 4 decades, and then in my middle years, when my hairline started receding and my waistline starting expanding I had to relearn its name. Vadodara, I was told, not Baroda any more. So be it, I said.
I stayed in a very nice little hotel, opposite the railway station, and right next to the bus station – very convenient, comfortable, cheap and friendly. They got me a car to take me around the city for a couple of days.
My first, and perhaps the nearest stop was the Sayaji Baug garden, with a small little zoo built into it. It was a weekend, and the garden and the zoo were filled with small children and the air trilled with bird songs and chatter from the kids. The imposing metal peacock at the gate was quite a draw, and rightly so.
The real peacocks who had the freedom of the garden and the chital deer who had the freedom only of their enclosure looked jaunty – spring had brought lustre and energy to their steps.
Within the precincts of the Baug was the Museum and Picture Gallery. A lovely red building housed a large and somewhat motley collection of things from artifacts to fossils, from paintings to pottery, from jewellery to jamawars. The collection would be of interest to many people – scientists, history buffs, textile experts, etc.
The picture gallery was a little disappointing in two counts – (a) most of the pictures looked like they’ve not been cleaned for quite a while, and (b) the ones that I really liked all turned out to be copied from some European master. I found a couple of small canvases labelled as the works of Rubens – but I’m sure these were copies as well; after all, if you own a Rubens, you’ll make sure that it’s kept in really good condition, with commandos guarding the masterpiece.
The sculptures in the garden of the museum were a lot more exciting.
A short distance away is the Hazira Muqbara. The jali, or stone lattice, work here was quite reminiscent of the jali work in the Sidi Sayyid Mosque in Ahmedabad, though on a smaller scale. The small mausoleum sat in a green shady garden, with young couples spending some moments of intimacy. An oasis of peace in a large, bustling city.