Seeing is Believing


The whole affair began when I was working on a short documentary in Ahmedabad. It was about the naubatkhaana, which is, literally, “the room of the drum”. Here they play the naubat (a drum) every day at 7 and 11 p.m., as a tribute to Ahmed Shah Badshah, the founder of the city of Ahmedabad. This is a tradition that has been carried on for the past 600 years.

Along the way, alongside the documentary itself, I caught this keeda, this bug. I wanted to reconstruct medieval Ahmedabad, maybe in images, in stories, just for myself, a want to know.

This fascination brought me to walking about the city, which was how I came to find myself at the Hazrat Pir Muhammad Shah Library.

The Hazrat Pir Muhammad Shah Library is 400 years old and began with the Sufi Saint Pir Muhammad Shah’s collection of books. It houses shelves and shelves of beautiful handwritten manuscripts, in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, starting from the 17th century. I walked through the library, unkempt and obviously aging, not gracefully either, but timelessly aging.

Maybe it is just the romantic in me, but I think the place is the most fascinating one in the city. And the beauty of that flowing script on the text in the shelving, it called out to me. Ribbons and ribbons of text fluidly formed words, sentences, chapters, then books, and then libraries, and cities, and then, once upon many times, civilizations.

Thus, began my fascination with the Perso Arabic script.