Udwada- a hauntingly beautiful town that has etched itself in my memory for life.
When we think of the Parsis, the image that comes to mind is that of a fun-loving community that believes in living life to the fullest. They often come across as people who enjoy each and every moment of life with whole-heartedness and inclusiveness. And this image, more often than not, is true in many senses as well. But when you visit Udwada, the town where Parsis first came and settled in India, it paints a completely different picture. This beautiful town turns this Parsi stereotype on its head. The streets here remain deserted for a major part of the day with most homes bearing an uneasy stillness. With the majority of the young Parsis shifting their bases to bustling cities, Udwada has turned into a towering testimony to its rich past.
I happened to visit this historical town for a project and at the very first glance it struck me as something extraordinary. Never had I ever seen a town that’s so deserted, but still manages to pull you towards its aesthetic beauty- be it the neat, curving single lane roads joining those houses where the aging Parsi community resides, the lonesome bakery that dishes out some mouth-watering cookies or the Parsi Agyari where the town dwellers go to commune with their spiritual heritage and find solace. The sheer slowness of the place lends a timeless gravity to the town, engraving itself in your mind like an unforgettable memory. Despite all the years since, I still find myself thinking about that town sometimes without realising what an important part of my life it has become. The slow-paced life, like it almost doesn’t exist, the faces of the people I met, the bakery owner and the priest at the Agyari are all very clear in my memory, as if it was just yesterday. Time has stood still and the life here seems to be depleting and I fear before long, it might just cease to exist. And what a bitter loss it would be. I wish for the time to somehow turn itself back and bring back the life and zest of Udwada from its glory days.
Honey Panchal, Assistant Professor, School of Communication Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
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