Shock City of Twentieth Century India
Indiana University Press 2011
As Ahmedabad, the chief city of Gujarat state in Western India, puts itself up as a contender for World Heritage status, Howard Spodek’s lovely book, Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth Century India (Indiana University Press, 2011), can only give a boost to its campaign. This book is a discrete, yet integrated, collection of narratives from Ahmedabad throughout the twentieth century. The stories trace how this city quietly and unobtrusively sent out people and ideas into the rest of India, and on occasion acted out events that were reflective of trends across the wider Indian landscape. But, as Howard emphasizes, this is also a city that despite everything has remained staunchly and proudly Gujurati, its luminaries basing their power on resources and support from the surrounding regions.
Mohandas Gandhi made this industrial city his base, as did many of his followers; the mills came and went, cultural and educational institutions sprang up, and Ahmedabad itself might yet undergo a change in moniker to Karnavati. None of this affects its mediaeval monuments, and patterns of life in its gated bylanes of pols, even as they retain characteristics from long ago, yet subtly, imperceptibly, shift and change in response to changing times.. Howard’s book is a must read for an insight into century of the many that this many layered city has been in existence.