Curated By: Nisha Nair-Gupta
People Called Ahmedabad
As writers, we were enchanted by the various facets of Ahmedabad or Apnu Amdavad. The old and the new, the traditional and the modern. And after nine months of research, through chilly winters and grilling summers, over a range of endless Amdavadi festivities, we captured and surveyed, adding colour and texture to stories.
A mercantile city founded in the 14th century within fort walls on the banks of the Sabarmati river is now a bustling centre of education, international trade and business. The contemporary coexists and shares a deep and abiding relationship with a long standing past. As the city continues to grow and embrace so many modernisms, it is still very deeply rooted in its own history. And this underlies every story that has been documented.
Seventeen writers – from students to professionals – sifted through the city to find the person whose story they thought best represented Ahmedabad. Each belongs to a collective narrative, falling serendipitously into a compartment that makes up the city’s life. Everyone we spoke to has a unique and often intimate relationship with the city. Their knowledge of the area they call home is often sedimentary, with layers of tales, myths and conversations. Although the city appears to be homogeneous, once the surface is scratched, our protagonists reveal diverse existences within multiple timelines, many little Ahmedabads. The stories were found in the monumental corridors of IIM and the favourite kitlis that dot the city, in the new concrete riverfront and in pols within the old city. Diamonds were found at busy markets, institutions of modern architecture, plush malls and office lobbies, during mornings at the park, in underground cafes, forgotten mosques and crumbling by lanes…and a few in quiet living rooms.
Each story aimed to understand immeasurable parameters –itself.aspiration, conflict, joy, angst, success, struggle, belief, tradition, negotiation, shift, routine and more. Through stories of spirited entrepreneurship, conflicts, negotiations, of the past and present intertwined, reinterpretations and the contemporary, People Called Ahmedabad peeks into the many Ahmedabads. We tell you stories about the mujawar at Ahmed Shah’s tomb, the scion of the city’s oldest philanthropic family, a refugee community who now calls the city home, those who still house the kitli culture, a boatman on a mission to save people, entrepreneurs who have made the economy of the city tick, internet sensations reviving the love for food, a museum that talks about conflict, a bookseller at the city’s famous Ravivari and many more.
Essentially this is a compilation of 55 stories, backed up by panel discussions to help develop our curatorial approach. Academicians, journalists, artists, curators and city enthusiasts have told us what the city says to them and to the world. As before, finding these stories has involved forging relationships with the people who talked to us. Some lives inspired us, some brought joy and some moved us. Many tales may not be included in the final print, even though they are memorable. And for many of us, as city dwellers who take life for granted, we discovered how important it is to pause, listen and reflect. And in the silence, a city and its people start telling new stories.