Monday, January 28, 2008

Pols of Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad is full of contradictions. Architecturally it straddles the old and the new. The new city is full of malls and boasts of clean lined structures by the likes of world famous Louise Kahn. But the old city is what gives Ahmedabad its texture. And you can't think of old Ahmedababad and not talk about its famous Pols.
The word 'Pol' in short for 'pratoli' in sanskrit and simply means door or 'entrance'. As one steps into the very narrow lanes crammed with homes stacked close and almost piled on each other, its easy at first glance to think- this...? And then you walk in and look around you will see beauty, in every peeling door, in every dusty frame- each differently intricate, each separately carved, with workmanship that speaks of royalty.
Our jaws dropped at this kind of intricacy...

"A Pol is a small residential unit consisting of a single street with a group of houses, which is usually protected by a massive gate at the entrance. When the gate is closed, the entire street becomes one big house often inhabited by people of the same trade or even by relatives. A compact housing cluster with dead-end streets forms a distinctive residential pattern within a Pol. "
"In earlier days, the Pols were self-sustaining for a certain period of time since each house had its own underground storage for water, and food grains were stored in the safest part of the house. At times, two different Pols opened for ventilation at the same point and they also had a common service bay for drainage, water supply and garbage collection. These Pols formed a kind of micro-neighborhood, which developed further as population density increased in the city."
Drying towels and the wiring form an odd and real contrast to all that carving that belongs to another century.
Not all of them are styled similarly though, some distinctly show strains of the art deco style

more art deco....

These kind of maddeningly beautiful details are just thrown around the dusty corners.

And the people were extremely friendly and inclusive. The gossip and the chores were all shared so much so that a new comer would never know who belonged to which home. Walking the narrow lanes was almost like walking around in their house and to get certain closer shots I had to climb onto the balconies. All of which ended up in someone asking if I am from NDTV or National Geographic (!) what made them imagine that someone from these places would land up with a point and shoot camera is a mystery. But the experience sure made for a brilliantly memorable afternoon.


Sas said...

Vineeta what an interesting, warm and beautiful made post!

I loved reading it and to let the pictures fill my imagination.

It felt like I was walking the streets too looking over your shoulder :)

Thank you :))

Arch at Rang said...

What a feast for the eyes!!
Especially my eyes..since I have a thing for doors & windows;-))

Very informative!

Gosh, look at the workmanship...amazing!


vineeta said...

Sas! thanx :) that was the idea- Im glad you liked it :)

vineeta said...

archana, I was thinking you would have seen many of these images on my flickr and was hoping it wouldn't be repetitive. And yes that IS a lot of door beauty in one go :)

~ ॐ ~ said...

A lot like the Havelies which once used to be used by a single family and then generations happened and people moved.. but still the homes remained the same..

Something that is referred to in UP as a "Kunba"...

I am coming to Ahmedabad for sure as soon as I can, once I am back in India... there is so much about this city that I want to capture and see..

And Vineeta, THANKS for this post... you are a rockstar !!!

vineeta said...

Prashant, thanx much! :) Im grinning ear to ear :) I'd never heard of UPs 'Kunba's'. But then I hadn't hear of 'Pols' either till I reached Ahmedabad :) You will love the place. Its a must do.

UL said...

I wouldnt have gone beyond 'this' like you mentioned, if it werent for your post..what a unique talent you have of capturing hidden beauty. Thanks for sharing.

vineeta said...

ul, you make me feel good :) I went to Ahmedabad in January 2007 and thats when i didn't even know what a design blog looked like. I just feel so grateful to this space where I can so freely share what I anyway love & there are interested readers- how awesome is that? :)

~ ॐ ~ said...

it is the awesome-est :D

Vinita said...

Hi Vineeta,
Heard about pols the first time. It must be great to live as a child in such a type of home because its one big happy family. With more and more latch key kids being left on their own watching tv and on internet this must feel like a blessing.
Is it similar to "waadaas" of pune or chawls of mumbai??

Point and shoot camera from national geographic hee hee hee.
Is that why you were asking about a new camera on your earlier post? :)) Just kidding

The intricate jaali work is amazing. But i sincerely hope they hold on to these things. Because we see more and more being demolished and new skyscrapers coming up and the old doors are found in pier one or similar such store in US at a sky rocketing price.


bhumika said...

This comes as such a pleasant surprise! It feels good to see my city featured here :) The old city is mesmerising and everytime i go there, i come back hungry for more. Unfortunately, i haven't been able to explore too many pols but i'm motivated to do so asap.

Wish we would have known each other in 2007; it would have been great to meet up.


I'm looking forward to your a'bad trip. it would be a good opportunity to explore some places :)

gunJan said...

pols indeed is sumthing new, and yes ur intricate pix this time, have this inimitable quality of peering over ur shoulder:-)

here's a dedication:-)
"Love among the Ruins, by Browning

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop
As they crop--
Was the site once of a city great and gay"



You've been tagged with the 'You make my day' award. I love your blog !

vineeta said...

Vinita, You bet its unbeatable growing up in a Pol house unlike the sequestered modern day flats! I dont know about the 'waadas' of pune, I think Pols are really different from your average mumbai chawl simply because of the space inside it, apart from the history and the workmanship. A Pol house normally has a central courtyard is quite sprawling inside. My next post is on how the inside of a Pol looks.

vineeta said...

Bhumika :) I did think of you when I posted this. Your city is indeed beautiful. I loved it! Which is probably why I will come back again & then we can surely catch up :)

vineeta said...

Gunj, Im privileged & touched that you will quote poetry- Im so glad I posted this! :) I remeber feeling really conflicting emotions when walking through the lanes- amazement that something like this is living & actively used today, sadness that a LOT of it was in such a state of disrepair, probably the govt's apathy. But the questions that really jumped out was- do the people living in it realise the amazing speacialness of it? If they do do they have the resources to maintain or restore the ancient workmanship of what is their home.

vineeta said...

Masala Chai, WOW! thanx! This is the 1st time my blog has been awarded with anything :) But like the other tagged- Is there something I must do? If so do tell cause Im quite clueless about it :)

Bhavna said...

Such an interesting post Vini! Learnt something new today :-)

...have been lagging in going through blogland lately coz of my current infra issues...don't post too much new stuff..wait for me!! :-)

vineeta said...

bhavna- sort yr infrastructure and your new online store issues peacefully :) and u have no cause for concern- Im anyway the super slow coach when it comes to posting :) And come back fast- we miss yr lovely looking stuff!

zobars said...

I am not in advertising or media or any of those good things but I still loved your post on Pols. I have not been there but I have always heard of them as being quite the thing to look at. I will do that on my next trip for sure. Thanks for such a beautiful post.