Happy Birthday Ahmedabad – Esther David

Today, Ahmedabad is 605 years old and time to celebrate the occasion by taking a walk in the old city of Ahmedabad.

In 2015, it is not as easy as before, as several roads are closed down.

Old timer Ahmedabadis have ways and means of circulating in the old city, even if roads are closed, barricaded, closed or walled in. They know how to break walls. So, when I read about the vendors problems at Bhadra plaza, I thought it needed a dekho. I had prepared myself for a long walk at the plaza, but even with the gates and railings, the auto-driver drove on a parallel street, onwards to Teen Darwaza. When he stopped, I could have walked to Rani no Hajiro, but preferred to turn towards the plaza. Since, it was inaugrated; I have been impressed by the dignified behavior of vendors in this area. No doubt, many lost business during the closure of this area and regulars who shop at the old bazaars had to take long detours from Khamasa or Relief road to reach Rani no Hajiro, Maneck Chowk and Ratan Pol by paying triple fare to auto-rickshawallahs. Yet, one could still reach Dhalgarwad, by taking a small by-lanes from Italian Bakery.

Yet, the vendors and shop keepers of this area were indettered and took life in their stride, so much so that during the inauguration, they downed their shutters to facilitate the organizers and saw the programmme, perched atop their shops, as the late Jabbarbhai’s widow who keeps the eternal flame burning for goddess Laxmi in an alcove of the central arch of Teen Darwaza; was sadly seen fast asleep in a dark corner under the stage, oblivious to the elite audience.

Even as vendors are allotted new places or are displeased about the draw for allotment of space, they have kept their cool, as they stand in orderly clusters along the serpentine granite pathways, which is similar to the way other vendors have organized themselves on the Riverfront Bazaar. The Ahmedabadi character of accepting change and getting along with life can also be seen in the way, the worshippers at Bhadra Kali temple continue to seek the goddess’s blessings, as vendors of lotus, agarbattis and coconut spread their wares on the parapets. Maybe, they miss the elephants, but are sure they will reappear through some lane, unknown to the security guards.

The concept about the pedesterian plaza may work during the short winter, but I wonder, how we are going to make it from Bhadra to Maneck Chowk during the long summer months, as the trees have disappeared with the bird songs. Yes, a few trees are there and so are the Swallows and Swifts, nesting inside the arches of Teen Darwaza, as some old houses on the peripphery are falling apart and a theatre nearby needs a new life. Agreed, few saplings in tree-guards can be seen, even if they will take years to bloom, so, I returned back home with mixed feelings of loss and hope.

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