I woke early to go on the highly recommended Heritage Walk through the old city of Ahmedabad. My guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke an easy-to-understand English, making the history and architecture of this traditional old city truly come alive. A well-spent 100 Rupees! It leaves from the Swaminarayan Temple. It’s quite easy to simply enjoy the beauty and intricacy of designs and styles of living, but all the better to actually learn the history, understand the symbols, architecture, art, religious places and traditions of this beautiful walled city. Thank you India Someday for this suggestion.
From the intricate door designs to the bird feeders (some now towered over by taller structures,) to the story of “salty water pol,” the tour was the perfect length of time to offer a solid orientation to the urban planning, religion, architecture and even trees of India. We were walked through various “pols,” neighborhoods of carved wooden houses, wells, bird-feeding towers and courtyards. Pols were originally designed as a security measure, with secret entrances and confusing street mazes. The houses each have two entrances for quick escapes. There are approximately 360 pols in the old city. The walk ended at Jama Masjid, the city’s oldest mosque. Constructed in 1423, it’s enormous peaceful courtyard and 260-columned prayer hall seem like an ideal sanctuary for the significant Muslim community of Ahmbedabad. It was fascinating to see some the religious fusion at these sites as well.
Janmaashtami – Krishna’s Birthday Community Celebration
I made my way back to the Gandhi Ashram to meet the Manav Sadhna folks at 11am to depart for the community celebration in a nearby slum neighborhood. We piled into a small van and I began to feel much more like myself, out of the tourist world, and into real life. Manav Sadhna seems to be doing great community work, striving to develop “ladders, not leaders.”
We climbed down a small hill from the road and entered a vibrant community oasis, teeming with smiling children excited for the day’s celebration of Krishna’s birthday. Tim and I met up with Gala, a fabulous short-term volunteer from Barcelona and I was immediately accosted by dozens of kids at a time, incessantly shaking my hand, asking my name and staring deep into my eyes. We helped out with preparations for what turned out to be a long, performance filled celebration. We were taken on a walk through the narrow alleyways of the community, past people’s small home spaces and to the 2-tiny-roomed school Manav Sadhna operates there. We enjoyed a lunch of crunchy snacks with some of the center’s staff, sitting on the floor of the school.
When performance time finally approached, we joined the children in the tent, squeezed in like sardines, all excited for the story of Krishna to come alive and so it did. From traditional to modern dance to call and response activities and acted out scenes, the whole experience was quite fascinating, and it didn’t happen quickly! Packed to the rim with children and adults, the burning India sun beat down on the tent, flies abounded and kids became unsurprisingly antsy, mischievously flicking rocks and bickering with each other. I sat, without an inch to move, in between it all. The performances were awesome. (Ugh - I sadly just realized I can't put videos up here. Perhaps I'll get them up on You Tube of Facebook and will share links.)
Shabbat at the Synagogue
I was excited to learn that Ahmbedabad is home to a significant Jewish community, with a synagogue quite close to my beautiful haveli. A perfect Friday night activity! I invited Gala and Tim to join me in checking out their 7pm Kabbalat Shabbat services. Quite excited about it, they had a blast enjoying their first ever Jewish experience, in India! Warmly welcomed by the small group who was gathered there, I joined in song where I could and guided Gala and Tim. Turns out Gala’s family has Jewish roots.
Gala and Tim were a joy to hang out with. Hearts of gold, strong social justice values and super fun spirits. Living like locals in the voluneer’s quarters, their jaws dropped at my lavish haveli. We shared a great meal, including Heather’s fabulous recommendation of dahi sev puri.
Thank you Tim.
Thank you Manav Sadhna.
Thank you India Someday
Thank you You Wander We Pay
A social worker…..working socially, around the globe.