The week that was…

by sidin in

In the confines of the small room built outside Swami Narayan Temple in Kalupur, the slide projector and screen seemed as out of place as a Mylapore Maami in a Mcdonalds. That and a few plastic chairs made the setting for the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk. For 365 days a year, come rain or shine, the Amdavad Heritage Walk starts from that small room. Two kilometers through some of the richest history this well-chronicled city has to offer. Last sunday it was mine, and a couple of friends', turn to be take the walk and see the underbelly of the city for ourselves.

Streaming out from the gateway to the temple the trip winds through the heart of the walled city, or the old city, across the Sabarmati. The IIM, meanwhile, languishes in the newer, some say even tasteless, part of the city across the river. The scenes we walk through are so picturesque and vivid, it seems like a film set in places. Within a few minutes I am clicking away to photographic fame and fortune on my Sony digicam. I step in what appears to be a wonderful epoxy mock up of cow dung on the road. As squishy. The lengths these heritage guys go...

Walking from "pole" to "pole", the medium sized walking party strains through narrow paths, some only a few feet wide. I walk sideways in places. Jain temples. Many many Jain temples. Wonderful craftsmanship in marble and wood and stone. The residential areas are divided into well-defined enclaves called "pole-s". I do a rough calculation in my head and come up with the figure of 10 jains to every temple in Ahmedabad. The guide clarifies that everything you see and touch is real. Good lord, not the epoxy goo thing...

What they did all those years ago in Amdavad is awe-inspiring, and 0ften humbling. Bird feeders built tall into the sky like sceptres, elaborate sewerage systems. My photographic genius surprises even me. I struggle to contain my click-happiness. Strangely none of my tour-mates seem interested in my snaps. Wonder why they all stay away. The green stain on my shoe was not epoxy. Dammit.

Temples. Pretty ones. Mostly Jain. I am dumbstruck by the detail, the perseverance. Coming from a campus built in the highest artistic traditions of FCI warehouses and railway loco sheds, it is truly a feast for the eyes, nay, soul. On further revisions of my calculations, I find there are 3 Jain temples per Amdavadi jain person's limb. Reminds me of Kottayam, driving through which you notice only two things, churches and toddy shops. Mostly in pairs next to each other. Sin and absolution.

The walk winds to a rather abrupt halt at the Jamma Masjid. Its magical shaking minarets lost to an earthquake a hundred years ago, the Mosque, and its sprawling prayer grounds still take your breath away. A delightful Mughal pond in the foreground. The caretaker welcomes us with enthusiasm that could single handedly combat global warming. Earthy tones abound in the column filled masjid. The walled in area for the women in the right background tugs a bit.

Tying up our laces for the last time, we decide to complete our morning with a quick lunch and a movie. I have pasta. And then we watch Garv. If I was younger it may have left me permanently scarred. The walk however gives us much to talk and photos to share. I go back to the insti full of images of temples, brackets, wooden facades, bird feeders, and Salman Khan wearing a magenta shirt, pink tie and sharp white pants.  I also get a cute "I love Amdavad" brooch.

Another day another temple. The Ekalavya Foundation School in Ahmedabad. A pioneering effort by Sunil Handa, an alum. Far away from the IIM campus, entering the gates immediately fills one with a melange of nostalgia and young fervour. I wont say academic, that would it make it too wooden. A wholesome campus. Built by the same architect who designed the new campus back at the insti, it wont make it to any heritage walk any time soon. But it is utilitarian, sparse and a little larger than life.

On a personal request I was allowed to take a double-period on World War 2 for the students in classes 9th and 11th. Handa saab was generous enough to let me do something I have wanted to do for a long time. Tell young people about the past, sans textbooks, sans syllabus, sans dates. So here I was sitting in a school assembly for the first time in years and years. After the songs and anthem, I felt, and cliche here, a lot younger.  But no doubt about what I saw in front of me. Potential. Now if only they would learn their history well...

An hour and a half later, I can confidently say I had a class of pretty interested students and staff. Felt warm and fuzzy inside when some of the students send me letters and notes a few days later telling me how some of them now think they should read more and that they never knew history was this good. They better read up on stuff though. Not one guy knew the population of Ahmedabad or Bombay even approximately. They all knew Sachin's one day aggregate to the third decimal.

Now I have an invitation to talk to the 8th graders and get them to like humanities and not all become engineers...

The death of my laptop was confirmed beyond all doubt. I have a slight chance of salvaging information from the hard drive, but otherwise the only option left is a full reinstall. I love life.

Finally got the snaps from a medical camp conducted by the local social service team. Called Prayaas, they conducted a medical camp for the slum dwellers outside the insti compound wall. The team put in all their own money. They gush when they tell you how 140 people turned when they were expecting only 50. If there is a greater, more sincere joy, I am yet to find it. Kindly note the 40% plus people who said in my survery that IIMA junta are arrogant pigs...

Genuine fears of the site losing readers strikes me in the middle of the night.  3 in the morning and I am still bent over a borrowed computer trying to make sense of last years placement budget and figuring where changes need to be made this year. Excel sheet after excel sheet. I start a post on how to buy clothes.  I stop after fifteen minutes. Creativity was flowing as freely and gracefully as obscenities from an auto driver in Jafferkhanpet. And I was writing sentences like: "Thus the fat man should never allocate more than 10% of last years budget for snacks and cool drinks, provided batch size increase..."

Radio Roman Dimension broadcasts again to an increasingly dedicated clientele.  Domain Maximus continues to languish...

Imagine the contradiction. On the one hand your in Bschool par excellence, on the other hand a quotation comes back from admin for resubmission. Reason: Font size too small. So much for organizational revolution.. who moved my f!#$%^& cheese...

The cloud cover breaks. My head works again... The music troop plays a thumping good show. My camera conks off after four photos. I go back and read my horoscope. "The planets indicate ease in the workplace and a period of deep contentment..."

Sunday and Monday:
Weird hazy whacky. Nothing really happened.

5 meetings in 8 hours.


The future: Laptop should return in two days. Post drafts should achieve completion by Friday. People till then sympathize, pray for my laptop...

Much love,