If you ignore the grime and the potholed roads, you could be forgiven for thinking the photographs above were of a street in Joo Chiat in Singapore or Penang in Malaysia, famous for their rows of colourful houses.
As a matter of fact, the photos are of the town of Sidhpur in Gujarat, India, once home to a large Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. The Bohras have long been seafaring traders, plying the lucrative trade routes between India, Southeast Asia and the Arab world for centuries. Along the way, their architecture appears to have incorporated many of the same cultural influences as the grand Baba mansions of the Straits or Peranakan Chinese.
Have you ever walked down Emerald Hill in Singapore and tried to peek inside the heritage Baba homes only to have your curiosity rebuffed by screen doors? Apparently, nosey parkers were a problem in Sidhpur too, where the home-owners also incorporated screen doors to deflect curious glances.
Sidhpur’s elaborate living rooms are very close cousins to their counterparts in Baba homes:
Note the ornate woodwork, so common in Baba design:
And the beautiful tiles:
Apparently, the globalisation of design isn’t such a new phenomenon after all.