Travelogue

July 6, 2017 , By Astha Modi

Restoring heritage Havelis

Restoring heritage Havelis

Flourishing in architect and design sensibility, Ahmedabad is a dream abode for any design fanatic. This story is about two hidden treasures that have been restored recently and BlabberCat spent her weekend basking in the glory of heritage havelis more than two centuries old. 

 

It all started with The heritage research for Economics Ecosystem Enterprise Foundation. Debashish Nayak was the pioneer of this movement where 2000 properties in old Ahmedabad was declared heritage by UNESCO. Real Estate proprietor and businessman Rajiv Patel found himself drawn to this social entrepreneurship after stabilising his stand in realty. In fear of letting it go to the ruins or handled by someone who might not understand it’s value, he decided to buy two Havelis and save the fading glory. Bought, renovated, re-evaluated, he got back the golden days of - The French Haveli and Deewanji Haveli situated at a short distance from each other.

(Wearing Digvijay Singh from Ahmedabad - lime green long gown with detailing in the Zen collar and back)

The old city is remarkably different from the new city. Not in terms of cleanliness because the entire city is very well maintained, but in terms of planning, construction and architecture. I got off my car and was greeted by the havelis head caretaker Mohan Bhai, who lead me towards the maze like lanes. The lanes are too narrow for cars but wide and open enough for the locals to create their own chilling spot in groups. The temples inside the lanes do not attract an overwhelming crowd and it seemed like a happy community on its own as I was greeted with so many smiles and concerned glances instead of harm intended stares. My day had just begun and I already felt safe being here on my own. I asked Mohan bhai if I can take a walk around alone, he said you can till as late as one-two in the morning and no-one will bother you. It was hardly a minute into the lane and my eyes fell on the gem standing humbly with charming wooden doors and prismatic windows ready to welcome you. First stop and abode for the weekend - the French Haveli. I already knew the first question I would be asking Mr Patel as soon as I meet him. Why ‘French’?

(Wearing satin bronze blushed evening gown by Digvijay Sing - a fashion week edit, perfect for summer formal evenings)

Like most Gujarati households, this haveli too had a swing distinctively in the indoor courtyard and the the rooms started from the mezzanine floor till two more above. The narrow and high stairway resembled a ladder just like it was a century ago. The visual space of the property housed the most smooth transition between old world furniture and regional specialities. The way the artisans have utilised the energy and space is immaculate. It felt special to realise I was standing in a 180 year old property that once belonged a huge Gujarati joint family. Each room is different from the other as it was made for different people and purposes. Even now if you close your eyes and sashay across the isles, you’ll feel time has paused since then just to make you feel this moment. The next day I spent in the Deewanji Haveli.

(Wearing Label Purvi Kabra from Ahmedabad - long sleeveless check printed jacket with onion pink top and knee lenth lounge pants above and below brick pink striped long dress till below the knee, made from 100% sustainable cotton)

Our travel blog stories are always about experiences more than itineraries because of our love for unique properties and whiling away hours there, writing, reading and clicking. But we do recommend the night market near the haveli and visit the stepwell. Design seekers rate it their favourite thing to do in Ahmedabad. it was a tick mark in my bucket list and I spent more time chilling and life-thinking there than I actually planned. Back to Deewanji, however cheesy it may sound, I felt like royalty. The regal courtyard with sun beaming in the beautiful haveli and plants and creepers spread everywhere, this property was even more glorious than the earlier property but they both had a different charm. Deewanji housed spacious overwhelming halls and isles. The large floor areas spread across four floors was a challenge to maintain standing against time since 300 years. The woodcarvings was recreated from the original design and a lot of alternatives had to be induced with the approval of European restoration industry. 

I got to meet the owner Rajiv Patel only after my shoot was over and in a way it was good because I experienced everything with a naked eye and minimal brief. The French Haveli previously known as Arts Reveri is renamed by him influenced by the Indo-French Project. The adaptive reuse of this house is a boutique Hertiage Home stay or in simple words bed and breakfast. “Doing business and constructing buildings is one thing but social entrepreneurship is another thing where I’m constructing dreams into reality. I feel close to my roots and it affects me deeply that these valuable properties are saved from going to the ruins or being misused by hands who don’t feel the same kind of passion. I started with heritage walks across the old city as a gateway of creative activities outside my core work. I didn’t expect to fall in love with a sight that I wanted the world to see. It was a big investment and all I had to keep was patience and perseverance to make the haveli stand in stardom all over again. For Deewanji, I was trying to get someone else to buy it and restore it but then I was suggested to do it myself, and now its become a heritage culture centre besides a boutique hotel. But it doesn’t stop here. Saving heritage properties is a challenging movement and still at a novice stage. Our country is enriched with such architect and spaces that need our handwork to preserve them There is one more property not too far from both these havelis that I’m restoring currently and I can easily say that its just the beginning,” said Rajiv Patel.

 

A big thank you to Rajiv ji for welcoming and hosting me so fondly at the haveli and Ashish Mehta for the wonderful photography. 

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