Dhal Ni Pol

March 15, 2010

Dhal ni Pol is the name of the collection of narrow streets and ancient houses where the Arts Reverie house is. There are over 600 pols in Ahmedabad, each with its own gate (often shut at 11pm) and infrastructure of shops, laundry, tailors, barber, library, temple etc. Living here at the house, I have started to get to know the people of the pol well. It is lovely being so much a part of things, from the chanting at the temple to the school run and arguments over rubbish disposal! It is a typical micro- neighbourhood.   

The pol community notice-board

 From the roof of the house in the evenings it is possible to see into the houses around and I have been amazed at how many people live in some of the spaces. It is a tightly packed community; sometimes five or more people sleeping in the same small room. Everybody seems to know eachother, and the nice thing is they now know me (red- faced English lady with umbrella!). Would have thought they would be jaded by tourists at the house, but they are very welcoming and friendly.   

The vegetable seller pulls her cart through the streets every morning and afternoon.

The fruit seller makes the rounds with seasonal produce

 The community feel is especially evident in the early evenings when people sit out on the steps of their homes and in front of the shops chatting. It is lovely to see, and very relaxed.   

Pol gossip

Outside the barber's shop

 It’s a shame in a way, that in western city cultures, we tend to go straight inside and shut the door. Here, there seems to be an extraordinary number of children forever playing in the pol; the younger ones roam around in gangs tormenting the cows and making up very involved games with no ‘props’. The teenagers play cricket (again the cows suffer) or lounge about on their scooters. Grandparents sit and watch the goings on and occasionally intervene to help the cows/sort disputes etc.   


This lady is often sitting in the same spot by her stairs

Hard to photograph the kids in action as they love to pose

  Had wondered where the cows go at night, and then the other day I discovered the ‘dairy’. It appears like a normal house but the cows go in and out after milking. It looks like there is a courtyard in the middle of the house but I’m not sure. A family owns all the cows.   

Lovely Granny washing the dairy floor

Cows sitting in the way of the 'cricket pitch'

 Like in Old Dhaka, a lot of the pols are disintegrating as people choose to move out to more modern neighbourhoods where there is more space. Sadly not many of the buildings are being maintained.  Plans are afoot to try save them. It is easy though to have a romantic view, especially from the privileged view within the modernised Arts Reverie house. Just opposite, I watch the upstairs family painstakingly pull their water up by bucket every day (the water is turned on for a set period in the mornings at public taps, when people wash and collect water). 

Water bucket, pulley and 'guard'

 I do love the way each pol has its own character and seems so self-contained. To lead a simple life there is little need to venture far (and there is a vast market just around the corner).  

Catching up on news in the library

The flour shop: bring your own container

This lady will wash and press your clothes in a few hours

If you need anything new, there is a cloth merchant and a tailor or two

And there's always the corner shop; open all hours

  It will be such a shame if the communities that keep these pols alive are driven away. A lot of the biggest  houses are already unoccupied (either owned by wealthy families  who choose not to live in them or by families who can no longer afford their upkeep).  

Blue haveli and cow

Beautiful old doorway

Keeping the path clean

  Have seen some blazing rows, but this is life, and for the most part Dhal ni Pol seems like such a gentle, safe place to live, filled with colour and character. I feel very welcome here and very privileged to be a part of it for this month; long may it survive!


One Response to “Dhal Ni Pol”

  1. pozzo53 Says:

    Part of the reason we don’t hang about in the street in Britain is obviously the awful weather. However, there clearly has been a decline of street life in Britain. Partly it’s increasing privatisation of life and geographical mobility that cut people off from their neighbours. But there are serious issues about control of space here. William Morris and the early Marxist movement in London were warning about the loss of public space as early as the 1880’s, as successive governments tried to clear the streets of potential political challenge. As increasing spaces are handed over to private corporations to regulate and police as they wish, the issue becomes more critical. More and more people live, work and shop in areas where they have no legal right to be, where they can be dispersed at will even if they do want to linger. It’s the very opposite of civility.

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