Wednesday, September 28, 2005

the sources of the self: the making of modern identity

just finished reading this tome (and it sure is one huge book). sonal said it is the heavier version of ‘sophies world’- a narrative of heavy philosophical concepts and a complicated book, the attempt is to understand the notions and concepts that help us see ourselves as modern beings. what is it that constructs this modernity?

naturally charles taylor traces it in western civilization, as he naturally would. though i am sure there are definite differences in the construction of my own post-colonial identity- after all i did not share the same history of development- i was able to relate to many of the ideas. it must be my english medium convent education and liberal westernized background that allows me to see my own self in the identity of the modern man that he sketches out- the thinking man of the enlightement detached and rational; and the expressive man of romanticism struggling to get in touch with his own ‘reality’ and that of nature. this careful deconstruction of my self was provocative and fascinating- though incomplete. kept me thinking- and still confounded.

my two trucks

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

dr pandya's clinic

dr pandyas’ clinic lies in an old rotting building on the fringes of lic colony. its been there for years, behind what once used to be the best bus stand at the base of the hill. i have always gone there, ever since i was a child. mom, dad and me went there in the evening yesterday because of dads hip injury and all those memories of waiting for our turn to go in came back to me.

i have very rarely seen the clinic when i have been healthy. it is always through a mist of antibiotics or in a fevered haze that i used to sit waiting for my turn to go in, studying the medical charts deconstructing the human body into its relevant parts or the detailed descriptions of how to identify and prevent diseases like polio and (yesterday) leptospirosis.

as i was waiting outside yesterday, looking at the doctor talking to my father through the window from the lobby to the inside i had a lot of time to notice just how beautiful the benches are in the lobby. on a white and blue streaked vitrified tiled floor they stand carefully crafted out of wood. slender graceful carved legs holding up a polished teak wood slab- soft to the touch- very comforting and comfortable. the delicate way in which they hover over the floor lightly perched on black legs- a plane of warmth for sick bodies to rest- upright. so much better than the plastic moulded chairs or the cushy sofas in modern hospitals or clinics.

there is something about the space of a clinic that must be necessarily pure- and perhaps hard. there is a rigidity and clarity that in some way represents the pure space of rational science glowing shadowless in fluorescent light. i like that.


a photograph of babu's adorable two month old son in chennai.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

the seven samurai

after having heard about it for year, i finally decided to watch the seven samurai- akira kurosawa’s masterpiece that inspired so many hollywood and bollywood remakes. the storyline, i am sure, everyone knows- a group of villagers decide to hire samurai to protect their village from bandits.

the hype for me was a little too much to take and i might have expected too much of the film, but it was not as great as i thought it would be- though i did get involved with some of the characters and some sequences were tremendously staged. the battle sequences were amazing and so were the scenes in the forest, but constantly as i was watching i felt that there was someone over my shoulder telling me to find something profound to feel- and to be quite honest i did not- except for the complex way in which the dynamics between the moral codes of the villagers and the samurai were presented. great action film though, and quite entertaining (though a little too long- or so my mother thought)

bjork: medulla

bjork: the new album is ‘medulla’ with sounds of birth, fluid, throbbing, squealing. her vision is vast and intimate at the same time and so is her sound. it is primeval and sophisticated. the terrain that she covers is of existence in its most basic form- where matter and thought are being born.


one breath away from mother oceania

your nimble feet make prints in my sands
you have done good for yourselves
since you left my wet embrace
and crawled ashore

every boy, is a snake is a lily
every pearl is a lynx, is a girl

sweet like harmony made into flesh

you dance by my side

children sublime

you show me continents
i see islands
you count the centuries
i blink my eyes
hawks and sparrows race in my waters

stingrays are floating across the sky

little ones, my sons and my daughters
your sweat is salty
i am why
i am why
i am why

your sweat is salty
i am why
i am why
i am why

the new sex symbol

graffiti on the college walls:

'jt' meeting

the city has been over run with community based initiatives to upgrade or “beautify” their localities for the past few years. as some of you know i have been involved with some of these- like the churchgate project or the gateway of india project. the design cell has also bene working on such projects for a while.

yesterday one of our recent projects ‘the juhu market revitalization project’ held a stakeholder meeting in the stilt area of the school. i was quite impressed with the number of people that the group from ‘juhu together’ had managed to convince to come for the meeting- people of all types; from the shopkeepers, band members, from the village and from the apartments. a local band played live music and some aunties catered east indian food. everyone shouted a lot and spoke in broken english or anglicized hindi to communicate with the other. to have the language is such a relief. the local corporator also turned up and so did a group of young men from a santacruz slum who had completely transformed their area by providing a clean toilet with a computer classroom above it through funds from the world bank.

the thing about these events is that they can be completely unpredictable. local groups will never say what you want or expect them to say. and the discussions were just like that. everyone had their own agenda to peddle and was vociferous in stating its claim to prominence. what did we expect? still they were all quite enthusiastic and perhaps ‘phase 2’ of the project should emerge now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

the week that was

the week that was: routines… design class every morning, followed by some work or the other on the impending caa evaluation (the report is still under construction); some problems to solve with the schedule of things and then in the late afternoon and evening sitting with amit and mayuri on the lokhandwala interior.

i really have started looking forward to these evening sessions. somehow the work there is so much my own. i feel happier in that space. less weighed down by consequences. the office is also done now and it is really not as bathroom like as i thought it would be. dying to get it working again. i needed that space- a space of my own- or at least a space i felt was mine. no matter how well or badly it does- at least it exists as a concept.

the day before yesterday stopped over at prasad’s place to see how he was doing. met tamal, rupali there and the kids from saurabhs class followed soon. we bitched about college, about work, about anything that we could to try and not address the reason that we were there. what would be the point in speaking of it? can we offer any advice? is he not getting his earful of it anyways? and besides which wouldn’t it be presumptuous of us to begin to speak in a place where words cant begin to express emotions? all we could do, i think, is to be there and support with our presence.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


suddenly today morning i felt the urge to reach back into my past- beyond the time when i was born; in fact beyond the time even my parents were born. i want to know the secrets hidden within my skin color. the gene pool and the climate that gave me this particular shade of brown. what gives me these particular features? who else in the past or had them? from somewhere in the middle of todays’ maharasthtra where my mothers family comes from or from the rice fields of todays’ tamil nadu which is where my dad grew up. who were they to whom i owe these particular circumstances- this body, this language? the peasants, farmers, landlords, priests, workers? where were their homes? who did they love? what clothes did they wear?

suddenly today morning i needed to see them- really see them- not in the sepia tinted visions of movie flashbacks or in the costume drama of an amar chitra katha, but as living breathing people walking streets, making friends, eating food; i want to know their everyday life; not only their glories and tragedies but rather the glorious and tragic in the mundane.

as far back as possible, i need to draw me a family tree till the branches disappear into a haze.

Monday, September 19, 2005

funeral in the morning

a terrible beginning to the day. prasad shetty's mother passed away late last night. she had a heart attack. it was very disturbing seeing prasad so visibly disturbed.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

such productive work / back in business

such productive work after such a long time. reading, sleeping and a lot of tv watching. singing competitions, dancing competitions and kaun banega crorepati; downloading music and indexing and cross indexing it. kishore kumar folder right now- though i need mukul to tell me the names of the movies.

it is unfortunate that i have a meeting in andheri today- cant this bliss continue?

but that was eariler today... after the meeting at lokhandwala, met amits mom who is bedridden in traction because of a bad back. amit, mayuri and me then had lunch at 'seven hills' and i have just got back home to edit the caa document- again. back in business.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

report making. furniture. office. 'chocolate'

the dates are here- the caa inspection begins on the 10th of october and ends on the 14th. this means that all our schedules for submissions and examinations go for a complete toss. luckily it seems like the paperwork to be done is almost over. just a few (more) fine tunings.

yesterday after my two classes- third year design and the ralph erskine ‘imaging the inhabitant’ second year lecture, paul, kaushikand me were planning the next few days when amit came and i started work on designing furniture for the lokhandwala flat.

the office is almost done, all i need to do is pay the guy and then move the computers, etc to it. finally!

‘chocolate’ at inorbit with amit. another shameless hollywood ripoff. ‘the usual suspects’ set in london with an all cool cast- very much like ‘dus’. also like ‘dus’ hollywodised caricatures, editing ishtyle and over the top camerawork. quite well made in spite of it all. arshad warsi, emraan hashmi, suneil shetty, anil kapoor and irrfan in the kevin spacey role are all quite goos. the women- meghana reddy as monsoon the ditsy reporter is gorgeous and tanushree dutta as the femme fatale is all cleavage and legs that go on forever. the music is awful- like really bad. three item numbers, if i remember right- just one big hit- at least one song that i quite like- ‘halka halka’ with the usual suspects dancing on the streets of london.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

bahaar's wedding

bahaar and anand

bahaar is the last of my friends from my architecture years at lsr to get married. she was looking exquisite (as she always does) at the mehndi in a room above ‘joss’ and in the wedding at the ‘crystal room’ at the taj. anand, her husband, is this tamilian iyer boy from new york- seems like the kind of guy i would like to know better- good looking, smart and with a sense of humour. the poor things looked exhausted yesterday when mukul and me ( wearing matching matching clothes –almost…) met them resting their feet after being very polite and pleasant to all the guest who stood in line to pay their respects. they are off to kerala for the honeymoon and then anand heads off to nyc; bahaar follows at the end of the month.

bahaar at the mehndi

bahaar and anand dancing to a live band singing bollywood hits at the mehndi

i wished i could have spent a little more time with them, but the roads back are unbelievably bad with the rains, flooding, ganpati and the government machinery all conspiring against all motorists.

Monday, September 12, 2005

sunday meetings . 'dus'

mayuri, mukul, amit and me on our way to ghatkopar in the morning.

after our meeting the food court at hiranandani powai.

then suresh p m and his white flat overlooking national park at raheja estates, with the half wall bathroom, no walls.

‘dus’ is all suave coolness with magnificent flying men (and one woman) and their machines in a fabulously derivative plot sourcing varied hollywood blockbusters. a shameless no brainer, fast motion / slow motion rapid cuts for no apparent reason but to seem 'happening', an item song out of nowhere and the designer clothes making abhishek, zayed, suneil, sanjay and shilpa all look hot as hell. completely unpretentious mindlessness. i liked.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

driving attempts. car deck . madhu's bombay

madhu, mukul and the ghulam sheikh mural on the floor at majlis

many attempts to get to andheri later i was in mukuls house (again). the unpredictability of the forecast, the complete lack of any reliable information and the ridiculous traffic jams made me head back home thrice on the way to andheri in the morning. it seems that many people reached safe and sound though. anyways, i made use of the day by getting a car deck fixed, with mukuls fine ear for sound helping me make all the decisions.

not being able to sleep at home, i then decided to go for a massage when madhu called to ask whether we could go to kalina for a screening of the rough cut of her bombay/mumbai epic. so we did. interesting it seemed though it was tough for me to comment as i did not know the techniques and therefore the possibilities.

speaking of film, samira has to make this presentation of her work in december to a bunch of other architects. i am thinking, maybe a costume drama staged in her architecture in black and white still shots (or vivid colour), perhaps a few short movie clips, surreal for sure..mythical characters performing unusually everyday acts in her rather strange spaces. or maybe a childrens party?

madhu and mukul in the majlis office

Friday, September 09, 2005

'blue velvet'

i had heard so much about this film in so many places, that today when we all evacuated college for fear of more flooding, i went straight to clixflix and picked it up to see. i hate scary films, i hate gruesome films. this was both. violent and frightening.

david lynch explores the dark side of the american small town when a young man discovers a human ear lying in a field and is drawn into a mystery that involves a beautiful torch singer and a sadomasochistic killer. he is assisted along the way by the quintessential girl next door. the two worlds- the perfect suburban homes and the manicured lawns against the dark corridors of high rise apartments and seamy beer bars- intersect and disturb the lives of all involved.

eric fischl's work

i am not so sure about the politics of the film that for me seemed to still stay safe within the moral bounds of traditional american family values and see everything that might be aberrant as evil. eric fischl’s paintings explore this sexual frission underneath the pretty brick facades of suburbia. so did the soundgarden video for ‘black hole sun’.

but in ‘blue velvet’ the dystopia is definitely the ‘other’ – the city, the foreign accent of the singer, the crimes at corners. yet somehow when jeffrey confronts the ease by which he is able to hit dorothy and cries, is he seeing himself anew- confronting his deepest desires? i don’t know but for me the dark side seemed more ‘real’ than the utopian suburban neighborhood. and though the first shot shows the worms that lie beneath the surcafe of the lawns, i don’t think we were able to penetrate below the facades of suburbia to gaze upon its dark secrets, as much as we were supposed to relish the disruption of the evils of the city.

extremely interesting film though and quite a thriller.. dark and scary.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


i am still feeling rather empty and hollow at the end of ‘elephant’. gus van sants’ film based on the columbine massacre of the 1990’s when two american school kids took ammunition and machine guns into the school and shot their classmates, teachers, indiscriminately and randomly. long tracking shots introduce us to the characters walking down the corridors, the intersecting lines of their lives that meet and part at random, sentences remembered repeat and ring in spirals- no judgment, no cause and effect for the act is ever made explicit as we become participants and observers in the everydayness of the day and the inexplicable violence of the act.

the urge to explain the act is defeated whenever we begin to speak. we are like the blind men in the story where we try to describe an elephant by each touching a different part; never getting it right. was it sex? a culture of violence and easily available guns, the dynamics of high school nerd/stud relationships? the explanation is missing. Thankfully, this is not rhetoric the way michael moores ‘bowling for columbine’ was . it is a meditation. a hypnotic fluid meditation on a particular culture.

mukul said that after the film you feel like you do after you wake up in the middle of a bad dream. disturbed and with a sense of loss.

'iqbal'. ateya’s birthday. new car ganesh. ganpati.

nagesh kukunoor’s 'iqbal' is safe harmless multiplex cinema at its most banal, yet reasonably all right for a mindless night out. a rage to riches inspirational drama about a deaf and dumb village boy who makes it to the indian cricket team because of his love of the game and the help of a drunk local now fallen into drunkenness hero, the move doesn’t even attempt to add anything novel to the premise. a premise so old that we have seen it before in countless american sport films. in fact even the background score was vaguely ‘chariots of fire’. every scene and moment in the film was derived and therefore predictable.

i guess that is all fine enough, but in the first half when everyone is being ingratiatingly endearing and cute, at least i wanted to strangle somebody. in the latter half things got a little better with the cricket playing becoming central. so there we have it a film with nothing much to recommend but nothing much to hate either . but then maybe i am just an asshole who expects more from his films- or an overly intellectualized pseud who is unable to shamelessly enjoy mindless films (like kuntal accused me of yesterday). but i loved ‘the princess diaries’, ‘the rock’ and ‘legally blonde’- so?

aditya aditya ubaid prasad


mukul rupali

chitra sahal

ateyas house is this enormous marble mansion overlooking the sea in colaba in a building where , in a similar flat, ratan tata houses his dogs (and his mother in a separate similar apartment) the birthday party was a small intimate affair with 8-9 people from college and some of her friends from school. the alcohol was divine with spectacular cocktails of all types, rum toddy, whiskey sour, and something with vodka and lime; and then the watermelons soaked in bacardi. rupali, prasad, prasad, aditya, aditya, ubaid, mukul, ninad, pooja shah… we drank, gossiped and laughed a lot. spent the night at kuntals place and slept in a beautiful wooden room overlooking priyadarshini park.

got back home and ran to shahapur with mr ganesh where we went ganpati hopping from home to sweltering home and ended up on the site. meanwhile we also conducted many enquiries about the status of education in the area. mr ganesh wants to start a tuition course for the kids. we met more small town power brokers and contemplated the right way to begin intervening in a place where outsiders are seen as money plants to be squeezed for every thing that they can possibly give.

mukul and mom meanwhile went and picked up the new car which is shiny and new in the parking lot downstairs.

new car

all the roads meanwhile are jammed with ganpatis presiding over throngs of people carrying and worshipping them. these shiny pink skinned, lotus eyed, garlanded gods with gilded crowns in surreal sets.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

some images from the past few days

the stilt area at manek

kuntal at manek

pdp and the arabian sea from manek

nandita / kuntal in the wooden room at manek

the party at bhupen among friends

ghulam sheikh

jogen choudhary

atul dodiya's dedication

atul dodiya's work

mukul at joss

the frame wall at ghatkopar

from pragyas house

art ojects. the shape of a pocket. jhanak khanak payal baje

there are works of art that completely adore works of art.. and their creators. been immersed in them for the past few days. jeannette wintersons art objects- ecsatcy and effrontery - a luscious dramatic love poem for art and her relationship with it, the meaning of it in her life. effusive about both the art and its creator, she is unashamed in gloriously extolling their virtues. words are what she loves; and her own are fiery and precise, abounding with aphorisms that dissect the role of art in our lives- be it books, paintings or movies. right now i am reading john berger’s ‘the shape of a pocket’- a selection of essays whichi also seems to be similar – so far .

and then there was ‘jhanak jhanak payal baje’ where a dancer sacrifices her love for art for the sake of art and ends up being the one who saves it from the enemies of jealousy and money. the film is highly melodramatic, like you would expect from a shantaram film featuring his love and his art- sandhya; the dnaces are fabulous most of the time and the music great. the sets trip over themselves in trying to out gloss each other. i loved the film.

Friday, September 02, 2005

artisans villages and a miserable jury

the sad state of architectural education on the city was apparent to me when i had gone for a jury to the “sir” jj school of architecture yesterday. a third year jury. the project i am embarrassed to say is 20 times the size of our vasai fort project. an artisans village, if you please.. these workers working always like prisoners in a camp making pretty things for the consumptions of tourists. 150 of these drones flown in from all over the country- like a theme park of culture- working away for the benefit of “our rich and varied cultural identity”. this strange construct of a national identity that relegates cultural differences to being items in a shop; that reduces the lives and histories of people to just another item on the shelf; that treats art like it lies outside the realm of real life and therefore peripheralizes its creation to mountain tops overlooking suitably pristine water bodies. will we ever question these? or will we pander to the most ludicrous of bureaucratic nonsense. a ministry of culture sitting somewhere in lutyens delhi deciding to collect appropriate marginal cultures by marginalizing them and simultaneously engulfing them.

it was truly difficult, trying to be fair to the rather adorable students, when we could not agree with even the basic premise of the project. even if we were able to put aside our own predispositions, there is only so many times that i can talk about an organization diagram. is that all architecture is supposed to be? ‘aesthetically pleasing” efficient form? i believe not. so i fought. and so did pinkish, and samira and manoj. all us krvia-ites swooped down on the poor kids and tore into them. i felt really bad, becasue there were some beautiful sincere kids.. trying so hard. so committed, so serious. i wish our students had even half these guys energy and seriousness.. the possibilities… the possibilities…

after the jury as i was waiting for amit to pick me up, so that we could go to ghatkopar, i was talking to vidya who teaches there on the brick podium near the new building. we discussed the difficulties of teaching at jj. its hulking monolithic nature as an institution, its stagnancy, the claustrophobia that sets into anyone who spends enough time there.. i am afraid of what might happen to krvia with all the new paperwork that seems to rule our lives too.