Sunday, December 31, 2006

bhagam bhag

the last film of 2006 was also probably its worst. the only redeeming thing about this royal mess was govindas ‘kaiffe’ and the catchy ‘signaaal, pyar ka signaaal’. nothing else. and yes, lara dutta was beautiful. random comedy can only be done by david dhavan.

right now, i am mukuls place cleaning things for tonights party.

happy new year everyone. have a great party!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

conference notes

day 1 session 3
the first two are my originals
and the second two..
while i drew the tree; mukul drew the airplane; then i drew the wtc..
etc etc..
important work.

conference day 3

day 2 and the hunt for appropriate metaphors for modeling the transforming city continued. how do we imagine the periphery of the city? paul, yogita, prajna and rohit presented the vasai virar region, while sudhir patwardhan spoke of recording beauty. then prasad presented the strange forms of new work that seem to be emerging in the interstices of the economy along with anand and vijayawada stock exchanges and tamals stories from the fringes of film city. third session shekhar and the archiving and mapping of the city, and the in the last session the “culture industry”, the ‘traffic talk’, the everyday and the ‘erotic’, multiplexes and the ‘uncanny’ and kaushiks fantastic work.

there was an odd but interesting schism in the seminar, where the intensely technocratic and ‘field work’ heavy presentations sat juxtaposed with the aesthetic, presided over by theoreticians. as much as an odd mixture this was, it was great fun to watch as each seemed to find its own trajectory to follow all trying to find common ground. a need for a holistic model, as if there can be one, seemed to underpin it all. or on the other hand there is this urge to dismantle all defined forms as simplistic and reconstruct new images constantly to comprehend. through it all it was understood that we needed to diagram.

as enigmatic and seductive forms shimmered in the air the exact mode in which they operate always seemed just out of reach. as conceptual tectonic plates shifted and capillaries rose, the act of doing always froze them into a form whose much vaunted dynamism seemed inert. somehow we feel like we can work in the folding of these plates and constantly navigate in between. i dont know how.

but the dinners after were good. the first day at asiad with kaushik, mohua, ranjit, ninad.. opposite was the new prime mall all dressed up for the holiday season. blue lights made tree trunks into fairy tale jujubes and the floor was lit with little blue jewels.

yesterday at ‘blue water’ – which gyanprakash said is a space that all through the past two days we were criticizing. were we? below the huge scaffolding of a hoarding that seemed 4 stories tall, just opposite the new mall being constructed on link road near the proposed metro station, in the messiness of the sheds and galas of the small shops along the street, a sudden open courtyard through a cane canopy. inside water fountains and low blue rexene seats on white brick platforms and the usual constellations of stars around which groups revolved. the leftovers found the periphery and got suitably happy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

conference day 2

in which we spoke of morphologies- new forms in the city- physical and institutional, conspiracy theories abounded of corporate agendas within the civil society organizations that seem to be all over the planning processes in the city and spoke of how occupancy is so much more complex that we imagine it to be. binaries were constantly being dismissed and new forms of understanding were being postulated. capillaries perhaps, or maybe folds of strata collapsing into one another. complex forms, ‘messy’ perhaps where they embed within one another complicated and tenuous relationships. what worried me was that the taking up of a moral position, anyways difficult to develop in a terrain so ridden with mines, was being constantly being warned against. as if it would invariably be too polar. and then there was this discussion on political mobilization. where is the political? is it possible without a ‘cause’? how does one develop one in a ‘morphing’ city?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

day 1 field visit


jeebesh and anant

cotton exchange

sewri pavement dwellers

nilesh at udui shri krishna



phoenix mills

star night bar at guzder bunder in khar- love the mirrored facade

taking people around the city reveals it anew to me. today in a qualis anant, jeebesh, jeenal, aparna, nilesh, rupali and me drove from juhu to malls at inorbit, to sites and services housing at charkop to thakur complex and aarey milk colony to powai and then mankhurd and touched down in navi mumbai. after lunch at the ‘established in 1942’ udupi shri krishna near matunga station with the banaleaves and authentic sambar and rice (along with the very vociferous proclamations of originality and uniquenaess) we got to the eastern waterfronts where it seemed as if the ship breaking yard was gradually shrinking. after a terrible ride hunting for kerosene wharf we got to phoenix and then back to juhu. and everywhere, absolutely everywhere we could feel the heat of the pressures of development. change is good. perpetually.

the presentation for the ‘eu’ conference is tomorrow and muki and me finally put together some photographs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

govandi toilet search

a toilet on the edge of the dump yard

kids on the road skirting the dump

the road to the toilet

today prasad and me drove to govandi to see a toilet. prasad, on the tour for the ‘spaces of entrepreneurship’ tour wanted to show the group this toilet run in the slums near the dump yard run by a certain sattar bhai. after a detour that took us through smoking piles of garbage with children playing cricket in between and on top. the slum on the edge of the dump was probably the home to the lowest rung of the poor in the city – rag pickers who would not find space anywhere else. the slum rehabilitation schemes that are to transform these areas will never get here as no builder will be able to sell anything in the area what with the stench in the air.

the toilet we were looking for was a two storied affair with sattar bhais office above. a small school wrapped around the toilet and the kids were playing in the slime and dust that rose around. the toilet was being painted and prasad and me sat on the terrace sipping sweet tea and eating biscuits as sattar bhai regaled us with stories about the advantages of privatization of water and the politics of sanitation in the city.

as with any experience in the city riddled with startling contradictions we lunched with chitra immediately after at yokos sizzlers at the hiranandani galleria in powai below faux arcades.

from the terrace of the toilet to the dump yard
the toilet with the school in the foreground
sattar bhai

Monday, December 25, 2006


the christmas tree

the shrine

celebrated with two stiff scotches at johns house. ranjit, shyam, shriya and me joined mary, john, joanna and the rest of their family. merry christmas everybody.

john shyam shriya joanna

shriya joanna

strange dream #190

in a darkened room with everyone watching there are projections all around me of a blue decapitated head. the image is an almost perfect overlap of andy warhols and debbie harrys faces. it is staring impassively at the audience. somehow it seems though that i am alone in this room. the image turns out to be a music video for a punk version of 'smells like teen spirit’ put through a grinder. its about ‘the myth of beauty’ someone says.

the face flickers in the light across different surfaces constantly on a black and white screen until at the very end on the floor another image appears with the body of the strange face. a post mortem is being performed on this body by slicing the screen/image/body by knives that pierce it from above and below. brutally cutting up the skin and the screen / floor. i cant figure out whether the knives are real knives or only flat surfaces of the image. out of the dark eyelid like gashes that the knives have created come crawling out worms - thousands of them. black in colour, squirming out of the surface. sometimes real and sometimes merely image. at the end they form a dark squiggly mass in the blue pool of the projector light in the middle of the dark room. and i am still watching impassively, curiously as if looking upon a painting by van gogh. i woke up.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

mrs brown

in which judy dench swallows up the screen as the mourning queen victoria who develops a close friendship with her servant after her husband dies of typhoid. the usual period drama fare. repressed emotions of the upper classe are brought to the fore when confronted with the brutal honesty of the poor. meanwhile all political wheeler dealers sneer in sophisticated sarcasms. in spite of the predictable tropes - harmless on a sunday morning over breakfast.

dharavi presentation - koliwada

the students in the meeting

at dharavi yesterday, we held the first of our scheduled three public meetings in the area. the meeting was held at the koli jamaat hall in koliwada and organized by the koli leaders. the hall is on the first floor within the dense fabric just off the main road and entered through vinyl floral cutouts with photographs of muscular men. besides the students i counted at least 80 people from the community. though most were from koliwada itself there were also people from the other stakeholders participating in the project. ninad made a shuddh marathi presentation about fsi / mukesh mehta / possibly larger houses. the first few responses were very antagonistic – especially about who we were and what was our interest in the area. especially since the name of the school was ‘raheja’. paul and ninad did a reasonable job of pacifying the crowd and were helped a lot by the people who ahd given us support on the field. the meeting then continued with dazzling performances by different people who took the opportunity to orate vociferously on the probable benefits of the projects to the people of dharavi. it was exciting and dramatic. i doubt i have seen a more exciting process for an architectural design studio. interventioning as academics.

the 'holi maidan' where the last meeting is scheduled

the street to the koi jamaat hall

the entrance from the main road to the koli jamaat hall

the community members

kini from the koli community

Saturday, December 23, 2006

annual day photos

painting workshop

building workshop - escape routes

pauls speech

projection workshop

kalpits models

annual exhibition

the second year movie for the annuals

the non-choreographed dancing

Friday, December 22, 2006

soja days

the first being the day we met him and his wife at the citizen hotel at juhu - a towering hulk of a man with kindly eyes, while his wife had a quick wit that kept us entertained. rupali and me took them for a spiraling cross section through the city. driving through drying bombay duck at khar via carter road to mahim and tulsi pipes road running past whizzing trains and railway stations to the mill lands where from the top of a flyover we saw spectacular views of jcbs demolish a mill building like ants on a dead lizard. past phoenix mills and haji ali, kanchanjunga, marine drive to churchgate station, oval maidan and the gothic madness of the high court and university to horniman circle and the town hall. we stopped at the gateway of india for a photograph and then had lunch at trishna. soja just about managed to fit into the tight seating. but the food was amazing. post lunch we moved via vt and the bmc below the mohammedali road flyover through the markets selling perfumes and korans (the densest square mile in the world – he said) to darukhana and kerosene wharf. from here we could make out the distant outlines of the refineries over the salt pans and the flamingoes flocked over the mud flats. five gardens and the suburban dadar parsi colony was next and then dharavi and bandra kurla complex. we ended the grand tour at ‘mind space’ – a name that fascinated the both of them and maureen warned us that we would see it in his next book. “overwhelming” is the word they used to talk about their impression of the city.

soja and maureen

mill lands

exhausted after we got to school there was still another group to talk to – a group for the university college london looking to make a film on issues regarding water in mumbai. meanwhile the college was abuzz with the workshops on in full swing. the second year showed us a tongue in cheek take on ‘krrish’ that they had made. then a dinner at mahesh – where else can we go when paul is around?

mira bhayander exhibition

mira bhayander discussion

the next day was even more maddening. the mira bhayander presentations started late. the other guest jurors were arunav and awadhendra- urban designer and environmental historian- both from delhi. the corporator from mira bhayander came but left early. the discussions at the end of the first half of the day were centered around the connection between different scales of imagination. after lunch we got into the design project presentations which started off disastrously but ended up fairly well. it was unfortunate that all the kids did not get to present their work- but it was getting too hectic and hot but the end of it all. ninad presented the dharavi work at the end and it was just about time for sojas lecture.

he spoke about scalar shifts, new gentrification processes, international migration patterns, new work and technology changes and how they affect spatial justice. the students were all there in full force but our great visiting faculty- the ones who know it all – were nowhere to be seen. oh , well…

the lecture

dinner at mahesh again- lobster, crab, bombil, pomfret and prawns. cant have any more sea food for at least a week.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

days like this

a day that started with this… arun mama from pune asks me if i know any way in which we can get the exact area and volume of an injection wound on the buttock of a rabbit. and this because being an architect i must know about these things. he was serious- architecture must be truly multidisciplinary, i say.

amisha climbing the btech workshop ladder

a day that continued with this… an enormous blow up as i realized that the energies of the workshops were dissipating. i tried every thing i could, anger, sarcasm, emotional blackmail, understanding shoulders; alternately stern, angry, supercilious, friendly, sad.. its no wonder that by the end of the day i was pretty much driven to senility.

thomas, kaushik and siddharth

a day that ended with this… me sitting in the stilt area smiling at the kids clambering up and down he building with hope, idealism and excitement. i was filled with a nostalgia for the present. this was perhaps brought on by ateyas questions and the conversations i had with the students later in the evening about architecture, art, identity and love.

maybe my head was a little woozy but a wave of sadness for the loss of innocence washed over me. i was afraid to imagine the future where cynicism might overcome and corrupt this simplicity. it is indeed sad when idealism is mistaken for stupidity. how does one begin to capture and foster this when duplicity is seen as the epitome of sophistication?the more strategic the games- the more one is appreciated. it is the nature of the metropolis to be this way, i guess, but i still wonder why we celebrate it.

today as i was watching i felt the way you feel when you look at a photograph on an old friend. it’s not the presence of the image, that familiar face that moves you. it is loss. what was it that i was looking at that was about to get lost, i wonder. how could i keep it safe?

brainstorming for the 'escape routes'