Sunday, December 5, 2010

If stones could speak, what would they say?

Ahmedabad is a strangely attractive city. I say strange because its attractions (a lot of them) aren’t what one would call beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. So, yes, I visited the darwazas of the old city and the jama masjid today. Architecturally, these sites are a delight. But more than appreciating the motifs and carvings on the walls or pillars, more than marvelling about the structural strength and the workmanship of these sites; I loved the fact that they were a part of a long and colourful history, and the contrasts that were so enthralling to observe.

The roads were teeming with people, bursting at its seams with the variety of shops, goods that ranged from handkerchiefs to antique bells, from Christmas decorations to rat traps. 

Teen darwaza and the surrounding market and its gullis are a delight for any kind of shopper, the compulsive as well as the practical one. The air is filled with smoke and intermittent honking of the horn from a consistent stream of traffic that plies through these lanes. At short, sharp intervals though, one can hear a particularly loud Gujrati lady haggling with a seller or smell soap, or ittar or maybe even fresh biscuits being baked at a corner bakery place.

The darwazas stand like proud royal guards of an era gone by, watching over a city that had slowly and steadily changed its appearance and priorities over the decades. The spirit though, seems something that has undergone very minimal change at all. The people don’t seem to run, they still seem to have time to talk to each other, or maybe even smile at an unknown stranger. The darwazas- Dilli, Prem, Daryapur, Lal and Kalupar; are places of bustling activity. 

If one was to say that a sanctuary of peace and quiet existed right in the middle of Teen darwaza, I wouldn’t really believe them.But jama masjid manages to surprise me immensely. I feel gratitude for the fact that despite being a woman, I am still allowed inside the sacred premises of this wonderful mosque. The huge empty space inside, the countless pillars, the water construct in the center, the flapping of the pigeons’ wings, the atmosphere of reverence and tranquillity, the intricate and beautifully done carvings; all contribute to making jama masjid a place that is not just a building with great architecture, but an experience that needs to be sensed.

Picture: Front facade, Dilli darwaza