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Eight Minutes at Tagore Hall (Multi Kulti, 28.12.2012)

January 8, 2013

Alumni presentations are always interesting narratives. Sometimes the journeys are different, sometimes similar. Teller’s perspective makes a whole lot of difference.

The only thing common is the time taken to travel. But the path, most of which has taken effect in the traveller’s mind, is a choice that makes an individual.

The format was interesting. All presenters were given 8 minutes, and a bell would ring after each extra minute. (Imagine what would have happened to the listeners with some people going on and on). All involved agreed on two things: 1. Eight minutes are too less to talk about anything.  And 2. The entire duration of Multi Kulti was too long.

Some of the presentations that I remember brought up interesting directions…

A Parsi woman has written a book about how we perceive history, and how that affects our idea of power. During the two decades before independence, India had very fragmented realms of power, and depending on where one was, one viewed authority differently. In talking about how builtforms specific to Parsis came about, she mentioned something that struck me: She had access to only certain parts of fire temple.

It made me think of all the places from which we are banned, and accept it as a matter of course because we are given a partial entry to the structure. About mosques with special places to pray for women, about separate queues for women in some temples, and the universal rule about not entering a holy place when you are dirty, during monthlies.

The younger lot invariably told us all of their history – their schools, patrons, parents. Not skipping to highlight the bigger than CEPT university they went abroad to, and in some cases, mentioned even a few months they worked there if the firm was big.  Emotional and proud about the tiny portion of life that shaped them, but unaware that in a few years they’ll come to value the application of that learning more than the name and place where it happened. Most forgot to thank the place where it all started, forgetting the fact that they were not alone in their achievement.

Then there was someone who was apologetic about the construction quality, about what they didn’t achieve, as if it was their fault. I have one advise to all of these young people. NEVER be apologetic about what you chose, what you couldn’t change, and of what resulted out of your work.

It is heartening to see some rather young people successfully attempting sustainable and sensitive ways of building. Keep it up kids, you are the future. And there are those like Chitra Vishwanath, who have been around the business for a while and have done it for all to see. I loved that she pointed out that it pays to know water (on site) because at some point in the project you sure come to depend on ground water.

There were KKs- KK as in Kiran, and as in Viren; and Gurpreet, and Gurdev with his building like a piece of bread cut in three in the Bushes. Suresh designed a particle accelerator, and someone in San Diego sent a presentation about Airports. Tara Rao, who works with Amnesty International now, and a landscape architect’s presentation from a couple who uses forest to teach students about design. Also someone who works with craftswomen in Delhi. Flying Elephants in Bangalore are just that, they fly – ahead of others!

There are some people who are really working to bring Social, Ecological and Economic together in their lives, and some distracted souls building fancy high rises, living in a developed nation but talking about slums, as boundaries in cities- without anything more than a formal interpretation of these words in their work. Some are clearer as to what their motivations are, talking about their collections and possessions. One of them came back with irrefutable logic – there are things one does to make money, and there are places where one spends them. Way to go my friend.

Bhutan seems to be the new holy shrine of architecture, as people seem interested in doing some outstanding work there. Something about the place must be very inspiring, over and above the support from the King who shares the credit.

All in all, many are doing distinct work, and others sure are on their way, as per their individual capabilities and aspirations. Happy I was there, and hope to see a compilation DVD come out soon.

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