Narendra Modi, a Gujarati himself, will make his first visit to the state after taking over as prime minister in May to celebrate his 64th birthday here Sep 17.
The chief guest for the birthday bash will be none other than Chinese President Xi Jinping, also on his first visit to India.
The 600-year-old city of Ahmedabad is being adorned to put its best face forward for the top leaders of the world’s two most populous countries who will meet and dine at the Riverfront Park, on the banks of the Sabarmati river in the upscale Shahi Baug aream, Wednesday evening.
The Riverfront Park has got a new look with a rustic rural Gujarat ambience especially created for the pair to indulge in a sumptuous candle-light dinner and some “guppa-guppi” (banter in Gujarati).
In the fore and backgrounds, there will be a cultural programme of tribal and folk dances and music, along with Garba and Dandiya — the state’s favourite, graceful yet robust dance form — which is what the upcoming nine-day Navratri festival is all about.
Five huge air-conditioned domes have been created at the picturesque Riverfront Park on the river’s eastern bank, where the two dignitaries and a select 150 guests shall savour pure vegetarian and exquisite Gujarati cuisine prepared by top chefs.
As they bite into their juicy starters “dhoklas – patraas”, savour the light and sweetened Gujarati “khichdi-kadhi” or probably the rich “undhiya-puri”, Modi-Xi will feast their eyes on a magnificent view of the Sabarmati Ashram – started by Mahatma Gandhi – on the opposite west bank.
The special spread will comprise over 100 varieties of lip-smacking Gujarati bites and snacks, starters, main course, desserts and ice creams.
The Sabarmati Ashram, where Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba lived for many years, is being given a new look with sodium lights enhancing the view for the benefit of the VVIPs.
While the Sabarmati Ashram is being fitted with 100 multi-colour flash lights which will throw soft glows in the sky, the Riverfront Park itself is getting a new set of over 300 sodium lights.
The trees and shrubs in the Riverfront Park have also been decorated with colourful fairy lights which will twinkle in the background.
The approach route to the Sabarmati Ashram, which Xi will visit, has been given a facelift, with roads resurfaced and new dividers installed and painted — first time in over two decades.
The 36-acre ashram itself will be decorated with flowers, trees which have been given a trim-n-shave, new coats of colour on all the buildings, including Gandhiji’s residence “Hridaykunj”, and special lighting.
Modi and Xi will stay at Hyatt Ahmedabad near the picturesque Vastrapur Lake.
Three special Sabarmati Ashram guides shall tell the historical highlights of the monument to Xi.
The Vastrapur Lake, considered a poor cousin of the much bigger and famed (for many suicides too) Kankaria Lake, is also being spruced up with 100 halogen lamps, colour lights, four dancing fountains and a soothing, great ambience.
Few are aware that barely a decade ago, the Sabarmati river was an eyesore — dry as a bone, water visible barely two-three months in the monsoon, surrounded and encroached upon by slums and cattle, and the atmosphere reeking of the stink of human and animal excreta.
For some five years, the 370-km Sabarmati river is full round-the-year after excess waters from the Sardar Sarovar Dam were diverted to it.
The Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corp Ltd is tasked with cleaning the river and developing a 20-km stretch on both banks as a world-class riverfront, creating parks and promenades, planting trees, rehousing displaced slums, and providing public and tourist amenities.