Ahmedabad is dear to me and complex to me, I spent my formative years in Ahmedabad and that kind of explains my love for colors and food which are quite opposite of what my born and bought up Malayalee husband identifies with.
I did my primary schooling in Ahmedabad (in the 1990’s) and a lot of what the city showed me was a yin and yang. While it showed how to stand up for one’s rights it also showed the extent to which male preference oppressed an entire gender. It taught peace and coexistence with animals while being torn apart by religion during the riots in the early 90’s.
From mandir to masjid is thus an apt name for the heritage walk conducted by the Gujrat tourism in Ahmedabad. The walk took us through the fabric around which modern-day Amdavad is built. The walk starts at 8 am from Swaminarayan Mandir in old Ahmedabad. As a child growing up in the 90’s whose school was in the ‘Muslim area’ as the area beyond the bridge was called I finally got a more holistic idea of my city Ahmedabad as I saw both communities coexisting like they have for centuries.
Ahmedabad was founded by Ahmed Shah on the banks of Karnavati river which is now long lost. The walk allows a peak into structures that house lifestyles and the requirements of the bygone era which have in many parts prevailed. The walk takes us through pols or community living houses and courtyards, the wooden structures with wood which was once imported from Burma and oles which are market areas where these communities converge. A planned city with roads and sewers that were built to last and which survived the devastating earthquake where modern structures succumbed.
The old city area which is made up of pols and oles in close quarters while separating the different communities also unites them in a unique way. The narrow passages and secret roads that connected one to the other is still a thriving way of life. Ahmedabad both old and modern areas have a legacy of cohabiting with all animal and plant life. This is one city where monkeys, peacocks, squirrels, and birds perch on balconies no matter how crowded the city. Chabutara’s or bird feeders are important structures in pols and continue to make their appearances in modern Gujrati’s households as well. In fact houses in old Ahmedabad where made keeping these tiny visitors in mind by leaving cubby holes and feeding trays.
Parts of the walk took us beneath Fernandes bridge which was one of the first bridges built in Ahmedabad. Present day Fernandes bridge is known as a popular book market the roads beneath the bridge where knowledge flows once a river flowed. Though I can romanticize the city there are things I wish worked better here such as the lack of cleanliness in these narrow lanes and open defecation.
The two-hour walk however ended on a high note for me as I got to gorge on a yummy Gujarati breakfast as Chandravillas with a steaming cup of tea.
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