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Friday, May 5, 2017

People Called Ahmedabad: Creators, Critics and the Curator – Part 2

The readers of this portal by now are familiar with the project called "People Called Ahmedabad", if not please check this link:

Since we could write only about a few very talented individuals who have been involved in the project in the last article, I am writing about a few more in this article. Lets hear their story in their own voices...

Shivani Mehta is a 22 year old, final year architecture student, studying currently in the KamlaRahejaVidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies, Mumbai. Her internship at Sangath, under Balkrishna Doshi brought her to Ahmedabad for six months. She loved writing and so began to pen stories that were around her waiting to be told, here is hers: “People called Ahmedabad happened during the six months I was in the city and got me interested instantly because I have always enjoyed writing. Exploring a new city not only through photographs or sketches, but understanding it through conversations with people seemed like a concept too beautiful to miss.

There were no stories I actually went in search for. I don't think I really felt the need even to do that because I was surrounded by so many all this while. I just came across so many interesting stories during visits to exhibitions or heard about them from being part of conversations with colleagues,that it became even more exciting then to discover more about Ahmedabad from people whose stories they were.In 'Khaman : A tradition', almost a century old shop talks about the love for food that the city has. The story on a family in Ganesh Galli, titled 'The Limbodicolouredbasti' delayers life in an informal settlement in the city and brought out aspects beyond just their livelihood.'Weaving heritage' is a story about Shahidhusain Ansari, a zardoshi artist and his unusual way of capturing the heritage of the old city.

It surprised me how much I could learn every time I happened to have a five minute conversation with people I didn't know and might not meet again. Heritage, the food culture, occupations of people, might be regular ways of describing the city of Ahmedabad. But having met people who have actually had parts to play in forming this description, only deepened my understanding of the city, made me feel closer to the people who reside here, but more importantly made me realize there is just so much more to explore.”

Abhishek Jain (The world’s a Stage… or Screen), is considered by many to be one of the pioneers of modern Gujarati cinema, yet he hardly takes any credit for that. All he knows is that he wants to bring people home, to Amdavad, through cinema, and empower others to do so...not riding the waves of Bollywood. Films are big budget- audiences for regional cinemas are small, especially in Gujarat. But his hard work and commitment meant one of Cineman’s latest productions, Wrong Side Raju, was co sponsored by AnuragKashyap’s Phantom films.

At Seva café, there was passion and compassion in subtle service. It was homely, welcoming and warm. Service is not just defined by the scale of acts, but also by the love it brings out. One really desires to wash dishes, clean the floor, cook food, serve food, without any expectations, but out of love and joy, and Seva café offers such a space

At Clay Club, what inspired me was the organic way creativity flowed from being a passionate college club to full-fledged business. Again, art is a hard niche to sell in, but unfazed by college credits and career prospects, the artists pushed on, now creating stuff out of clay and in another initiative, banana leaf paper.

With theatre artists such as Aditi Desai (The World’s a Stage.. or Screen) and DakxinChhara(Finding a New Identity), there was confidence in the change that they could bring. Both had quite different upbringings, and different styles of theatre. Yet both believed that no obstacle is too great that it can stop the effort on bringing out social equality and awareness. I remember the fierce energy in their eyes, the belief that people need to experience theatre as a form of self-empowerment, of social awareness, of helping victims of abuse, of activism. Lack of money, social stigma, etc could not faze them.”

Pramada Jagtap is a final year student of KRVIA, an architecture school in Mumbai. She did her Internship in February 2016, with professorNeelkanthChhaya that got her toAhmedabad. Herbachelors thesis that I am currently working on revolves around the inner city ahmedabad, for which she was out studying the area during most of my free time which she incorporates into the book lovingly. In her words it is all a work of passion:
 “I came across the project and seemed very interesting because unlike the mapping methods that I have adopted in school, this involved mapping through people's stories. It was a newer exercise for me, that didn't involve documenting through drawings, which was something that i was comfortable with. Since I wasn't from the city, it was an opportunity to know it better through these interactions. 

Each story allowed me to understand the city a little better. Professor Chhaya gave me leads to a lot of stories, some which couldn't be included in the book, but have left a lasting impression on me. The interview with Kartikeya Sarabhai was one such encounter. His stories and observations about the city were particularly interesting, especially a magazine he had curated during the 90s called 'Amdavad Ma' which was similar to the people place project, but during a different decade. Each story led me onto my next and yet another. The best part of being a writer for PCA was undoubtedly my interactions with the interviewees.”

Pray Bavishi is an “amdavadi” (hails from Ahmedabad) and holds a Masters degree in economics and is currently pursuing second Masters in Public Administration. His journey with Ahmedabad and its story has been more intense and began much before the book. He has many to tell, his own to begin with, “Writing has always been my passion so somewhere about a year ago I decided to put my writing into a good use and started the blog called Humans of Amdavad on Facebook where I started to document the stories of Ahmedabad city.  I decided to write about unsung heroes of the city and so far I have covered more than 100 stories for my page and have more than 10,000 followers and my stories have been published at national as well as International media platforms.

When Nisha approached me with the idea of the People Called Ahmedabad, I was thrilled and excited to be part of the book as a co-author. For me it was an honor to be a part of this project where I could write about the people of my city. It has been an amazing experience and so far the journey has been beautiful. People Called Ahmedabad made me realize that Ahmedabad isn’t just a city but it a feeling in itself and it made me show that Ahmedabad too has a big heart.

The stories which I have covered show how beautiful the people are in the city. While covering stories for my own blog I come across number of stories but these stories were something which had a huge impact on me and they were close to my heart. These people made me realize that people are much more than their outer appearance and it’s their work that speaks out loud.”

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