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Memoirs about Siddhapur


Many a silent haveli has witnessed ups and downs. This one is of great interest, it is architecturally unique. It stands at the corner, sentinel like: each of its windows, 364in number, stares at trespassers. 


This 364 windowed haveli, like many crumbling, rambling mansions grapples with history’s turning page. It has lost all its redolence, submitting humbly to the ravages to time. Can Colonial legacy repair the silence in the streets of this ghost town?


Siddhpur’s ancient architectural wonders watch quietly, time must take what it has given… After all  nothing stays intact in time. Except, perhaps fossilized memories.


As families left this bustling town, a home to both Shaivites and Bohras earlier, a mysterious migration took place. One beyond human understanding, why would prosperous families seek fortunes in cities? Especially, when their havelis housed intricate furniture and beams of Burmese teak, Czech crystal handles, Iranian carpets, and satrajis that cost an unbelievable fortune. 


These mansions of erstwhile, were painstakingly built by craftsmen from guilds: stone and wood carvers, painters and workers from limestone quarries trooped in. And, imagine all this activity coming to a slow but sudden standstill!  


Not that this was  another Dust Bowl. But isn’t it’s tragic tale very similar.


” Go on, nothing’s left here! Leave!   Bigger cities offer more comfort.” I remember hearing someone say. Schools, colleges and cars, umm what more. No not jobs, here is a business community whose presence in Siddhpur is dwindling decade after decade.


You’d say nuclear families or the lure of cities coerced an exodus, a slow one at that. From the 1970s, families branched outwards into booming  metropolises that offered much more. Cinemas, luxuries of larger stores, picnic spots galore; and, privacy and freedom that perchance this abandoned old fashioned town wouldn’t have given.


The irony is, today, this sleepy town grants a sense of belonging.  I’d say displacement, a curse indeed, compels one  to look beyond the comfort zone. It is then that city boundaries blur, and suddenly disappear. And then those in dire straits begin to forge a close bond with yesteryears. The dishabillement of my ancestral town makes me shudder. I know builders and promoters find its empty nests an easy prey.


 But the truth is that it is a haven for those upon whom the affluent cities have shut their doors.  From cities pour, the alienated, unfortunate, and many more who are indeed luckier. Siddhpur’s  Bohravads open their doors to all, they’re  a bridge that help the floundering cross city shores.


Mumtaz Khorakiwala


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