A lot has happened in the past week or so. Today is the first day of Holi, the festival of color and chaos, so I feel it’s a good time to finally put some thoughts on paper. Since the past several weeks have been dedicated to my research I am going to talk about that…
I am here in India doing the fieldwork component for my graduate thesis. My thesis explores the life-journeys of some market goers and vendors at the Gujari Bazaar in Ahmedabad as a means to explore the social production of a historic yet informal workspace in a “globalizing” Indian city.
When I first came to Ahmedabad in 2011, I was shocked by a massive scheme of urban riverfront renewal called the Sabarmati Riverfront Development (SRD) project. This ambitious project seeks to redevelop roughly 12km on both banks of Ahmedabad’s riverfront. The first time I saw it I remember standing on Ellis Bridge, but something else impressed me more that day when I looked over and noticed a massive informal market right below me called the Gujari Bazaar (aka: Sunday Market). From above it looked like chaos: people shuffling around, in and out, buying and haggling, but from within one is instantly struck by its order, form, apparent self-regulation and organization. Experiencing the market for the first time left a great impression. When I came back from my study abroad I knew that I wanted to take up the SRD project as a thesis topic or focus. For several months I did historical research on the city of Ahmedabad and explored the historical trajectory of segregation and extraordinary polarization in this city between a Hindu majority and a Muslim minority. In 2002, Ahmedabad experienced some of the worst and most intense communal riots in India’s long and politically contentious history.
As I explored the project’s context I began to loose sight of the real, lived spaces actually being affected by the SRD project. I realized that I was engaging in academic discussions about the role of urban development in nation/state-building and the further polarization of Ahmedabad. But I didn’t have any human voices; nothing to bring my thesis to life. So I decided to come to India and study the Sunday Market.
This market’s history is somewhat contested. If you ask heritage officials or the market association they’ll proudly tell you that the market is 600 years old. If you ask vendors and buyers, many will say its not more than 100 years old, some even say no more than 60 years old.
So, that’s the background. I’ve been going to the market every Sunday for the past several weeks. This fieldwork has significantly challenged my earlier caricatures of this space and its people, both those that come to vend and buy. I’m not ready to say what I’ve been finding, because it’s too early for that.
But I will say that the Sunday before last I was in the market and my new iPhone5 was stolen. I didn’t notice it was gone until 20 mins later. Using Find My iPhone I was to track it to Surat (another city in southern Gujarat). I notified the police in Ahmedabad and Surat. Eventually, I traveled by train to Surat to lead the investigation for my iPhone but so far there’s been no luck. And, honestly, I’m not very optimistic that I will get it back.