In India, the past couple of decades have seen a mammoth flourish in tourism, with newer hotels, resorts, and touristy parks coming into being – all glitzy and glittery. But somehow both of us feel that amidst such bustling modernity and vibrancy, tourism in India is somehow failing to grasp intrinsic cultural charm and vibe that India has been famous for. Once you check into a hotel no matter where it is located, don’t you find all of them hauntingly similar? Well, we do…most of the times!
Lost in the labyrinthine lanes of Ahmedabad, with the stunning two to three storied – sometimes even more – wooden buildings as company, we were smitten by Ahmedabad’s beauty at the first sight. The buildings were coloured in vibrant hues that screamed out loud Gujarat’s rich cultural heritage and vibrancy from every nook and corner. There were stand-alone buildings, the traditional pols (cluster of houses comprising of numerous families of one particular group), temples, gaushalas (cow sheds) stables (albeit no horses now!), Jain temples, and so many things – all of these had different tales to share, tales of love, lust, pride, romance, war, and peace. But where are the listeners? With whom do these alleys share their secrets? Thanks to Gujarat government’s initiative, some of the houses in Old Ahmedabad have been given the heritage tag, which bans the sale and reconstruction of the houses and the owners get a token for the house’s maintenance and renovation. But where are the visitors? Certain brilliant initiatives have been taken by few people – mostly the owners of some heritage houses and palatial buildings – as a result of which some of these houses have been restored as boutique hotels and homestays. Yet, the only thing we feel lacking is adequate promotion, which could attract travellers from all over the country and all over the world to them.
The heritage walk that we were a part of was conducted by the prestigious House of MG, about which we got to know from brochure by the tourism department of Gujarat. It was a bright Sunday morning of January, so we were expecting quite a crowd. Sadly, we were only about 12 odd people. We covered a distance of over 2 km, and trust me, the decadent architecture at each corner enthralled us. The walk started from the old Mangaldas Ni Haveli and ended at Manek Chowk covering Rani ni Haziro and the revered Jama Masjid on the way. To be honest, we never imagined that a ‘business’ city like Ahmedabad could showcase such beautiful confluence of Jain, Islam, and Indo-Aryan architecture. Alas! All we could do is gasp at the lack of a constructive effort on the part of the government, citizens as well as the travellers to align culture, tradition and tourism together.
So, if you’re in Ahmedabad or any other old city for that matter, take some time to visit the older parts of the city, take the roads lesser taken and travel on the unknown path, or you could even stay at hotels or homestays that epitomize the essential culture and tradition of the place – we’re sure, you will find something worth remembering and cherishing a long time! 🙂