1st August 2013
"I'm exactly where I want to be right now. The train will be pulling into Bombay Central in about an hour, I've pulled the curtains tightly around my bed, my favorite jazz funk ensemble blasting in my ears after what feels like months, watching the Maharashtran countryside whiz by in a blur of raindrops and rice fields- it feels like my own personal, scenic dance party in here and holy chapati, this is exactly where I want to be right now.
“exactly where I want to be”
This is a new feeling for me. I've spent the past year living my life in a constant state of rewind or fast forward. Living in a deep vat of Duinostalgia or on the cloud of what-it'll-be-like-when-we're-reunited. But now, on this trip, in this incredibly stormy summer, for the first time in a long time, I'm hitting the play button as hard as I can and diving headfirst into this current as life plays tosses turns throbs just-fucking-dances with me. An old version of myself would be reminiscing, acknowledging that this time last year I was getting on a plane to South Africa, beginning a chapter of my life that I will forever hold so very close to my heart of hearts, and an experience that I refuse to let memory tarnish- becoming part of another family, leaving a piece of myself on a far off continent. But there's also this new me, that is willing to put that reminiscing, the constant unending nostalgiasizing to rest, and just focus on the now. For now, I am on a fucking adventure!"
I spent 5 days in Ahmedabad last week, and goodness, it was so incredibly wonderful. Ahmedabad is built on either side of the Sabarmati river with the old Walled City on the right bank and the newer metropolis sprawling out on the left. Our family home (The Divan's Bungalow), where my grandfather grew up, is within the Walled City and in the heart of the Muslim mohallah. Since it's Ramadan, the streets behind the house are buzzing with people buying food for Iftar, huge vats of biryani and kheema spilling off the sidewalk, and there's a real sense of celebration in the air. My mother's family is also originally from Ahmedabad, but from a Jain family, making my experience of the city very polarized- to be eating lunch with my strict Jain cousins who don't eat root vegetables, let alone meat and eggs, chatting about Palitana and derasars, and then heading home to the tandoori chicken and mosque strewn mohallah for dinner.
For me, the Walled City is a photographer's paradise- colors and people and sights and smells overwhelming me as soon as I step out of the door. On the other hand, the left bank of the city does nothing for me, and in my brief trips across the river, I quickly found myself concocting reasons to go back to the Walled City. At first I chastised myself, worried that I was exoticising the comparative poverty and living conditions of those within the Walled City, I forced myself to wander the left bank and to familiarize myself with the New Ahmedabad. However, I quickly tired of the seemingly endless roads, the malls, and the general urban sprawl. The heart of Ahmedabad is in the Walled City, where there is chaos, and cluster, and colors and a real community created purely out of circumstance. New Ahmedabad is a classic example of how urbanization is also a form of isolation. In moving towards cleaner, more modern cities, we seem to be losing the pulse of our cities themselves. I'm not trying to gloss over the piles of trash, say that the shit on the side of the road isn't a serious issue, I'm just wondering if there's a better way to urbanize, one where city dwellers are not confined to A/C cubicles and marbled malls.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about how best to share these photographs with the world. Each photograph bears a story and lends a hand to my overarching quest for the relationship between religious and modern India, and yet, I'd like to believe that the story does not necessarily need to be shared and explained to be understood. So I'm going to compromise- One post with a flurry of images to create an overall image of my time in Ahmedabad and another post with more detailed and unique story of what I found and who I met. Aren't y'all just so lucky? I'd say.
So without further ado, I give you Ahmedabad-