Blinded by the lights of the city, we often seem to forget that there are beautiful places to see in every little corner of the world. Besides the popular tourist sites there are several other places worthy of a visit. If one cares to look, he can find several dozens of such places around them, fading into obscurity. Among the very few who set out to find such places is an Engineer from a little known village
Vivek Modi is a Civil Engineer who has taken a liking to the heritage of his hometown. He comes from Siddhpur, a small town in north Gujarat. Home to Bindu-sarowar the only place where ‘Matrushraddh’ is performed. It is a ritual performed by sons so the soul of their deceased mother can rest in peace. But that is not the only thing unique about this ancient town. It also has a number of buildings in the Bohra architectural style.
The old houses here belong to the Dawoodi Bohras, a Muslim sect who from the looks of their residences seem to have been an aesthetically inclined fold. The abstract carvings on the balconies and the unique decorations inside are an indication of the great and prosperous past of the town. Other buildings such as the Rudra Mahalaya, a palace of Shiva built by King Siddhraj Jaysigh are considered an architectural marvel of their time. Siddhpur looks like a place worth a visit.
But the town and its buildings are slowly fading away into the past; partly due to negligence of the government and partly due the locals migrating out of the town. The town’s economy is not what it used to be. Most of these houses lie empty and some have been sold and demolished.
Vivek Modi has taken it upon himself to see that these local wonders are not forgotten in time. The Siddhpur Smriti trust has joined him and they work together to raise awareness among the locals through street plays. He has also attended many international events for heritage conservation. They are trying to get these structures included among UNESCO World Heritage sites so that the local businesses are supported through tourists who come to see these structures. This is an attempt to attract the locals back and help in preservation of their culture. He has even written a book titled “Siddhpur : The Ancient City Lost In Time”, yet to be published.
After meeting with government officials, architectural experts and other organizations, he has succeeded in bringing some tourism to the place. They have started doing Heritage walks and converting the Bohra ‘havelis’ into home stays.
These efforts seem to be working and people have agreed to maintain their houses, as now they are a source of income for them. Tourism has helped the local economy and the town seems to be breathing again.
Vivek Modi says “Tourism also helped the town to develop. When a single tourist comes to the place, there are 18 people who get benefits out of that including the guide, tourist company, driver, chef, local shop keeps etc.”
This is a different kind of man, a man who cares about his town like it’s his own. What he started on his own now seems to be getting bigger; with more people getting involved in his cause he can now see a better future for his town. When people were neglecting their own heritage, this man saw a value and is now on his way to make the world see the same.