As Ahmedabad celebrates its foundation day on Sunday, a new fort wall is being constructed by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) at Gujri Bazaar, a 596-year-old market started by Sultan Ahmed Shah, the founder of Ahmedabad. For some people, this wall, Gujri Bazaar and the old havelis have been a part of their memory of the city.
Pointing to the wall, Susheela Kahar, 60, reminisces how she has grown up around this wall as a school girl. Studying at Prathmik Shala No 8 adjoining the wall, she used to play around it. Sometimes, she’d bring food and eat next to the river. During festivals, she’d pray there. “Now, sometimes, the kids from my family play here. My kids studied in the school next to the wall. This wall is from the historic boundaries of the city. I noticed that elsewhere in the old city too these old walls near the darwazas are of the same height,” says Kahar, unaware that the place will be brimming with people and lights on Sunday.
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Pointing to the Gaikwad Haveli, which houses a police station across the road, she recalls how the fear of the police kept them away from exploring the haveli. Putting the “historical” into context, Kahar, who now lives in Raikhad Mill area, speaks with authority on the older city wall entwined with the new construction coming up. She says, “This wall is from the original walls built around the older city limits by Ahmed Shah himself and Ahmedabad grew inside these walls. But it has sustained some wear and tear and it was repaired later. It is good that the AMC is beautifying this place,” she says.
Kahar says that earlier, there were communities living here next to the Sabarmati River for the riverfront project, who were evicted by the state government to make roads and the riverfront. Gujri Bazaar has been moved here for convenience of shoppers. Kahar says it is safer to walk here now. “Earlier, we used to feel a little unsafe here while working at nights, but now this riverfront and lit-up roads has made it safer. I like that they are extending this wall further and hopefully they light it up with beautiful lights. It is better for our kids to play here,” she says.
A fish seller by day, Kahar continues her family tradition by selling close to 10 kg of fish in Teen Darwaza area and also works as a maid. Having lost her husband early in life, her only daughter, Pushpa, is married and lives across the river in Vejalpur area.
Originally hailing from Barabanki in UP, Kahar is the fourth generation migrant to have made Ahmedabad her home and lives with her brother’s families and their kids in the chawls next to the riverfront. “I was born and raised here and have never really been to Uttar Pradesh, although sometimes I have a great desire to visit it. Many Hindus and Muslims live in this area and there have been no communal problem. Despite speaking Gujarati and having spent all my life here, our food habits are different as we eat non-vegetarian food and make north Indian food at home.”