I ran into Fezoz and his mother Jenab Bibi on my very first day in Ahmedabad. I was wandering the frenzied streets of Manek Chowk, trying not to melt in my long sleeved kurta and stop myself from solely photographing the adorable little boys scampering the neighborhood, all decked out for their evening visit to the mosque, when I noticed a little temple nestled in the walls of Teen Darwaza's (Three Doors) central entrance. Adorned with fresh flowers and incense, it was a sight for eyes sore from the plastic toy and ugly teacup ridden market of Manek Chowk. Teen Darwaza was built by Sultan Ahmed Shah and served as a royal entrance to Ahmedabad's Maidan Shahi in 141 A.D. Legend has it that one day a sentry saw Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth leaving the gates of the city through Teen Darwaza. He immediately approached her and asked her if she had the Sultan's permission to leave. When she said no, he asked her to wait at Teen Darwaza for him whilst he ran back to the palace and asked the Sultan for his permission. When she agreed, the sentry rushed to the Sultan and instead, asked him to cut off his head. With the sentry dead, the goddess of wealth had no choice but to keep her word and wait at the gates of Ahmedabad forever. The temple at Teen Darwaza marks the sentry's sacrifice and reminds the people of Manek Chowk that the goddess Lakshmi is watching over for them.
Today, Teen Darwaza is a bottle neck for traffic, with scooters and autos and cyclists honking and cursing their way through the sweltering jam. Even so, shop owners and businessmen stop at the little temple throughout the day to offer their prayers (and worsen the traffic jam), all strongly maintaining that whilst the rest of Ahmedabad goes through economic dips and dives, the economy old city never falters because of goddess Lakshmi's eternal protection. About 70 years ago the caretaker of the temple, an elderly Hindu man adopted a muslim orphan named Mustafa. The little boy, Feroz's father and Jenab bibi's late husband was raised by the caretaker as his son, but allowed to keep practicing his own religion. After his father's death, Mustafa took on the role of the temple caretaker, and after his own death, his wife Jenab bibi took it on from him. On the day that I visited, her son Feroz was adding oil to the lamp to keep it burning, before rushing off to break his fast at the nearby mosque. At first I was amazed that this beautiful story of a Muslim family keeping a Hindu belief alive for the surrounding community. However, after talking to Feroz and Jenab bibi, I am no longer so sure. Jenab bibi's entire family is illiterate. All 17 members of the family live off the little donation box that sits next to the shrine, that Jenab bibi watches over like a hawk and often pressures unsuspecting passersby to push notes into. So whilst I cannot say if the family's dedication to the temple is for its cash cow properties, or for their genuine faith in the eye of Lakshmi over the city of Ahmedabad, or more likely, a combination of both, I was once again amazed at how often different faiths and religions are so often completely tangled in each other and constantly weaving in and out of each other in this crazy motherland of mine. Sigh.