Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth-Century India by Howard Spodek

By Howard Spodek

In the twentieth century, Ahmedabad used to be India's "shock city." It was once where the place a number of the nation's most vital advancements happened first and with the best intensity—from Gandhi's political and exertions organizing, in the course of the development of fabric, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, to globalization and the sectarian violence that marked the flip of the recent century. occasions that occurred there resonated during the nation, for larger and for worse. Howard Spodek describes the activities that swept town, telling their tale during the careers of the boys and ladies who led them.


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Additional resources for Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth-Century India

Sample text

By this time, however, Ramanbhai had broken with the Gandhians. He accepted the government appointment as chair of the Committee of Management. In Gandhi’s first few years in Ahmedabad, he and Ramanbhai developed deep personal respect for one another. Both were lawyers, knowledgeable of British law in India, and believers in the British commitment ultimately to leave India. Both were deeply involved in public life. Both took strong public stands against untouchability. In 1912 Ramanbhai had participated in a celebrated dinner in Bombay hosted by the Aryan Brotherhood, in which two untouchables also participated.

Ahmedabad was a center of industrialized machine spinning, not hand spinning. 6 Only then could Gandhi begin his campaign for spinning. So Gandhi’s vision of reviving hand spinning seems somewhat quixotic as a reason for choosing Ahmedabad. Perhaps even more surprising was his later success in this mission. Gandhi does not directly discuss alternatives that he did not choose— the roads not taken—but we may nevertheless consider three of them for a moment. Why not settle in a village? Gandhi’s love for village India might have suggested a village home, and in fact, later, after he departed Ahmedabad in 1930, he chose the village of Sevagram, near Wardha, in central India.

The walled city now held about 370,000 residents, somewhat more than the 250,000 to 300,000 of Gandhi’s day. But then this was two-thirds of the population of the entire city; now it was only about 6 percent. The old walled city no longer served as the nerve center of political, economic, and commercial life. Most of these institutions were now located in the western sector of the city, across the Sabarmati. Indeed, the wall itself was almost entirely gone. As in many old cities around the world that had left their historic core behind in the process of suburbanization, Ahmedabad’s old city now drew attention for its history.

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