This column is going to be a commentary on current issues of sports, food, lifestyle and politics of India and Gujarat. I was thinking about everal topics to begin writing on and wasn’t successful in coming up with many. The other day though I started talking about Ahmedabad
to someone and thought what could better than starting with the city I and we all love a lot, Ahmedabad.
Not much is written about Ahmedabad nor does it regularly feature in the ‘touristy’ places, if I may call them, of india. But there is so much to Ahmedabad that we don’t know or sometimes even though it is in the known we haven’t explored that part. Now what defines an ‘amdavadi’ (yes we people from Ahmedabad call it ‘Amdavad’ and refer to each other as ‘amdavadis’ ) from everyone else? Yes we are entrepreneurs, love garba, and exist in every part of the world but the major thing that we all love is food. Ahmedabad’s food culture is one of the most underrated food scenes in India. From delicious street food, to suave restaurants to great bakeries and great cafes – it is all here. The influence by various
Culture and religions form the city of Ahmedabad and give its charm. There is a lot ofinfluence of Jain, Parsi, Islamic, Hindu cultures in the living style with a sizeable population of Sikhs and Christians too. Contrary to a lot of beliefs it is quite a cosmopolitan city.
Most people when visiting Ahmedabad, visit the main city and go back. I agree that the western part of the city is upcoming and developing quite rapidly, but for me a visit to the city is incomplete without visiting the roots. The Eastern part of Ahmedabad more famously known as the walled city is where the old Ahmedabad starts and it has a unique charm to it. No other city in the world has the ‘pol’ concept like Ahmedabad. You will find houses lined up close knit with a small lane between two rows of houses. It was said that during the pre-independence days the revolutionaries could jump from one deck to another and go sideways to emerge from a completely different ‘pol’. This is how complex the construction of the pols was. The eastern city boasts some architecture marvels like the ‘Sidi Sayed Jali’, ‘Hutheesingh ni Haveli’, ‘Hutheesingh Jain temple’, ‘Jama Masjid’, the ‘Jhutla Minara’ (where when one minaret was shaken the other one would move as well), ‘Bhadrakali Temple’ and many more. The list is endless. A heritage walk that takes you through the city is highly recommended. The gates of the city like the ‘Teen Darwaza’, ‘Lal Darwaza’ which used to be the entry points of the city are worth checking out. For the foodies, there are lot of options around the old city, apart from the restaurants around two places are a must visit. Manekchowk which has some the best local street food that there is a must go. Open till late in the night a visit in the wee hours is recommended, the energy of the place is the sight to behold. For the meat lovers in Ahmedabad Bhatiyar Gali is a place to visit. About 80% of the city is vegetarian, so there are lots of vegetarian options available and places like bhatiyar gali for the meat eaters.
Ahmedabad along with all of the above characteristics is a city of the festivals. Navratri and Uttarayan are two festivals where the city is like no other place in India. All the other 2 festivals are celebrated with equal joy but there’s something special about these two and
celebrating them in Ahmedabad. Ask someone who has gone to celebrate kite flying in Old Ahmedabad,, it is a sight to watch. The sky with the colorful kites in the morning and the lanterns (tukkals) in the evening is a brilliant sight. On the 14th and 15th of January the life comes to a
standstill and people are to be seen on their rooftops celebrating a unique festival. Navratri is another popular festival in Ahmedabad. The garba continues for nine days making the atmosphere and the energy of the city absolutely brilliant. For nine days amdavadis forget everything and just dance. The best part is going home late on the last night and having some delicious fafda-jalebi as an early breakfast for Dusshera. For amdavadis every festival or an event begins and ends with food.
The old city then was connected with the new city with a slew of bridges where in Ellis Bridge, a historical bridge built in the 19th century, is an interesting site to go to. You cannot leave the city by not visiting Gandhi Ashram and the Calico Mills. Once known as the ‘Manchester of the East’ and having more textile mills than any city in India, the old dysfunctional mills are a grim reminder of the city’s glorious past in textiles.
The new era ushered a new kind of energy into the city. From the cozy city where you would almost always find a known face at certain place was next to impossible now. Gone are the days when you had to go through the small ‘galis’ and now the enormous over bridges and the roads await. Posh restaurants and sprawling malls have risen throughout the city. They say change is inevitable so I welcome this one as well. It’s just that as an amdavadi, I hope that the old charm of the city is not lost. Do I miss the city of the 90’s, a part of me would say “Yes”, but this is a new beginning for the city. It is now that it has become a symbol of aspiration, hope and achievement. It saddens me that people only characterize it with certain events in the city. This is an example of the event when the correct leader and the correct intentions juxtapose and you get great results for the city. The river front projects, the redevelopment of the highways are all examples of how different this city has become. One thing though that hasn’t changed is the spirit of the city. It is said that Sultan Ahmed Shah founded this city when he saw the brave act of a hare chasing a dog. This typifies the city I was born and brought up in.
To me, Ahmedabad is still one of those beautiful cities in India that amalgamates the past so beautifully with the present without changing the character of either. Visit the place and I hope you would fall in love with the city and love it as much as I love it today even though I haven’t
seen it for the past six years.
About the author: Aadit Kapadia is a Gujarati living in the United States. Professionally a Civil Engineer and when not working on structures loves to follow cricket, politics and listen to music. Oh yes, also an avid reader and a foodie. Willing to go miles for a good bite of food;-)
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