I was fortunate to be able to travel to India this summer to begin a research project on incremental housing. As an American in a India, I experienced wild new things everyday, but this was one of my favorite- exploring a six hundred year old mosque on the outskirts of Ahmedabad without shoes on. Shoes are dirty, and the mosque must be kept clean (at least in a ritualistic sense) so off come the shoes.
The mosque was old, partly ruined, scruffy but still in use for daily prayers. In America, or even western Europe, a building so old would have been the focus of fundraising campaigns for restoration, with fences and ticket booths and long queues of tourists waiting to get in. Barry, Aditya, Mingxi and I just took our shoes off and wandered in and around, found the stairs to the roof. The place is slowly decaying, the carved sandstone crumbling away and the booming city encroaching on the edges, but it is not separated out into a “special historical precinct.” Its a history that is still living, rather than being confined and categorized into a tightly scripted past.
In India, it seems, goats are allowed to graze where they can find grass, even if its on top of a ruin.