Sunday, July 29, 2007


the party wrapped up late only when people realized it was 3.30 in the morning. i had already dozed off by then. in the morning we piled up on the double bed and lounged in the balcony with the rain eating scrambled eggs and drinking tea.

its coming close to saying those goodbyes now. next week aditya leaves. the first time i spoke with him was probably when he was in the second year as part of the design studio. he was even more self conscious then than he is now. last night the boy grooved dancing wancing to the music shuzik even though i am sure he was exhausted with his agile moves in the baroda zoo. he leaves for berkeley end of the coming week.

this photograph is aditya in the avon balcony looking content and happy. hope we get to see each other soon.

and today i fell in love again with nusrat fateh ali khan when musarrat on sa re ga ma pa sang this from the bandit queen soundtrack. i am downloading it as i type.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

tv show jury

considering the controversy over my temper tantrum over certain students bunking two days of school when they had design juries to go shoot for zee antakshari perhaps i did overreact a bit. but i insist – only a bit.

after all there is the indubitable fact is the very fact that a talent show on television which has been known to have episodes where the participants and contestants are dunked in water is considered to be more important than an important evaluation in the most important subject in architectural education. it’s a question of putting straight the priorities of the school and the students. isn’t that also what education is about? or are we to stay valueless, watching people come in and watching people leave- only learning how to resolve toilets along the way. perhaps the method was too harsh. but if the argument to go for the show is that we have no ‘cultural activities’ in the school and this was a place to display talent, then i am afraid we must look at what constitutes the ‘culture’ we choose above the activities of the school. to me the show is a competition between people whose only talent is knowing film song lyrics and the letters they begin from. enjoyable i am sure- singing along with the perennially smiling hosts and buzzing the buzzer before your competitors. fun – but talking about it like it is about ‘talent’ is a problem. and as someone who loves pop as much as i do i technically should not have a problem with the very existence of the show or its enjoyment. but to say that it has more value than a design jury in school or the film club or the encounter or the electives- which are some of the ways in which the school engages with ‘culture’ – like it lies somewhere outside is patently ridiculous. and i got angry about this.

but perhaps there is a larger question at stake here. what is the role of a teacher? if it is not laying down a standard of value systems that the students are asked to react to – positively or negatively, however challenging or ridiculous they might seem to be, the entire system of education is reduced to a farce. we keep each other happy by making sure that we don’t threaten each others secure sense of comfort. we say only sweet things to each other in sweet ways to not ruffle any feathers.

there was a time when this was not so. arguments were tough things and students were put through the shredder as preset ideologies were challenged and twisted. they grew hard as we were hard. nothing was allowed to go slack. the students probably hated us then but the work was better. as much as slackness was punished good was work appreciated. in an effort towards universal happiness we did not let quality diminish. i have a feeling we have let that happen over the past few years.

i am sitting at mukuls house right now as ateya and chitra prepare for the farewell party that they are throwing along with ninad, saurabh and aditya. all of them have been students of mine and are people i have become close to and very fond of. each of them brilliant, passionate, intelligent and each very much their own person. fantastic people. over the next few months they will all disappear to america and to london. i am going to miss them so much. its been a long time since rupali and me violently tore into them when they were in the second year. i keep hoping that there will be others who will be able to do as well as they have done for themselves- got into some of the best universities in amazing programmes. i compare them with what i was at their age and am embarrassed by my silliness. something worked when they were in college that does not seem to be the same anymore. for the better or for the worse i am not sure. i am certain though that those were far more difficult times to be a teacher and to be a student. the fights, arguments, rants were vicious. many tears were spilt and many sheets torn, models broken / upturned. today things are more peaceful, happier. we are now softer and more attentive to the feelings of students. i like that. they might be happier than they were 6 years ago. but i hope we have also not let go of the urge for excellence in an effort to live in peaceful blandness. safe from harm. sterile.

back to antaskhari. i lost my temper because i expected better from the students. i wanted to make sure to them as well as those with them that the choices you make are important decisions. now the ball is in their court.

and i forgot- let the complaints and protests begin.

Friday, July 27, 2007

photo post - andheri kurla road

trade star is one of the humongous glass buildings on andheri kurla road. i sat waiting for mom who works in the building in the afternoon rain while gogol bordello sang on the car stereo. i was giving her a ride back home as she was feeling unwell. its a strange road whose contradictions can be quite startling. the small scale industrial areas seem to be gradually vanishing from the main road but the paraphernalia and vehicles that cater to them are still parked on both sides of the street alongside the honda civics of the tech workers in the office complexes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


in ajays workshop the students are seem to be trying to reconstruct their selves through looking at themselves again through images and talking about those images. such interesting conversations from such simple acts. today he showed them ‘hiroshima mon amour’ that beautiful film where love and devastation are woven together with stream of consciousness meanderings. if france is where the womans first love lived and died it is hiroshima where it is found mirrored. as illicit as her love was for the enemy is the love that she feels for the stranger she meets in japan. she is afraid to love again and let go lest she forget- and we forget the horror of nuclear war.

rahul is on the other hand excavating the violences we take for granted he is paralleling our lives with those who live in admittedly more extreme siege lie situations. surveillance and suspicion are not reserved for those in war zones but have seeped into our everyday lives- and we take them for granted.

ashoks workshop is looking at the way resistances can emerge in the city – the forms that it takes. the students are prying away at the staff looking at the ways in which our defence and offense mechanisms are put to play. stealthy these kids can be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ridiculous incident on the street

it was most appropriate that it was as i was watching a monty python film on tv at 9 in evening or so that the absurdity of bureaucracy reared its ugly head right in the middle of the ‘ministry of silly walks’. a police man stood at the doorway asking me why i ran over a man and did not take him to a doctor on the 16th of this month. naturally i was aghast at such an accusation. now for the flashback.

i was taking a right turn onto s v road form the highway when a man accelerated to go straight from the right lane (the lane from where one is supposed to go right) the big bulky tight t shirt clad marathi man with his wife in tow also had huge diamond earrings on and was driving a badly beat up fancy honda civic. as a result of his uncalled for acceleration the front of his car nicked the back of mine. a gentle nick- happens in bombay all the time. as it was definitely not my fault and because i was in no mood to make a scene i decided to go back home.

but the man decided that in the alternative universe that he inhabited i was to blame. the smell of alcohol that emanated form him confirmed his delusional state. he followed me to the entrance of my lane.

an altercation ensued during which he stole my cell phone from the car, people gathered around, told him to take it easy, got back my phone and cajoled him to chill as he was drunk. the man insisted on taking this forward.

at the local police chowky he came late and i had already spoken to the local policeman. he told us to go to the main police station to settle the issue. when i arrived there it was undergoing reconstruction. i waited for a while until the man arrived and then bored i waved my hand and said bye.

seething, when i got home, i had a feeling that this was not the end of the story. and true enough it was not.

what is amazing to me is the fact that his complaint was actually taken seriously. i went to the police station to give a statement and it appeared that the policeman in charge had pre-decided that i was the guilty one. the interrogation was a joke as there was absolutely no reason for me to speak. i was told that i was in the wrong lane when the fact that i was most definitely not and that the other guy was, besides being drunk was frustrating. the whole situation was totally suspect. i had to pay a fine at the end. an official one.

the absurdities of bureaucracy mean that it only takes someone to complain and then you are guilty no matter what the “facts” are. sonal said it feels like a kafka novel.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

nilesh and yogita's wedding

the krvia gang assembled together at a wonderful wedding and reception where nilesh and yogita got married. it was great to meet so many people whom i had not seen for ages, our most famous alumni ritesh deshmukh included . when all of us gathered around the bride and groom for the photograph we were afraid the stage might collapse. nilesh and yogita both looked radiant and happy and were able to mingle with the guests without being overwhelmed by the overproduction that has seems to be the norm for other weddings. lovely.

gold medal award day 2007

the college's annual gold medal for thesis was announced yesterday. while vidya vandana and snehanshu went through the projects i was running around making sure that as many students as i could manage had pinned up. i am yet to understand why so many of them decided not to.

as for the winners- there were five commendations and one winner.

  1. punit and his unusual (for krvia) technological and management focused transit camp housing for slum rehab projects
  2. krinas gentle community center around the church at gorai.
  3. apekshas clear and careful municipal school
  4. prernas playful extension to the asiatic library (and to think the poor girl flunked the university jury for the same sheets)
  5. nidhis situationist inspired dadar railway station interface

and the winner was

diptis journey into her own history and the land that her family owned off the western express highway in borivili. today the old house and the hill on which it stood is buried in a slum. somewhere fragments of the old house can still be seen hidden. her project wanted to reconcile these fragments of memory with the varied claims on the site. ghosts is what she called them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

laughter heaven

opposite joggers park in bandra, a bounded garden for people to run around in shorts and track pants in, is this, covered in blue tarpaulin and bamboo like its a beached boat from the fishing village nearby.
granite clad posts keep out those who dare not laugh in the 'ho ha ho' prescribed by the gateway. in the afternoon the begonias and shrubbery laugh while me and the other 4 o'clock street inhabitants, watchmen and chauffeurs, huddle under the shade of the few trees over the parking lot accompanied by the smell of urine and ocean.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

my crazy ex girlfriend

hell breaks loose when neurotic super chick uma thurman is dumped by her boyfriend and she does not take it well. silly enjoyable fluff with more than a few tongue in cheek references to other more serious superfilms. uma thurman as g-girl is a riot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

ranjits birthday

last night at his house over wine, whiskey and sausages, pulling each others legs and measuring the circumference of our heads for comparison. while mighty sparrow calypsoed in the inner room.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

accidental death

my cousin radha was married just a year back and yesterday we received news of the death of her husband in an accident in charleston, usa. radha was in britain when it happened. arun mama has left for the usa today. this is another tragedy in a family that has already seen more than its fair share of it.

on the internet i found photographs describing the spectacle of the crash- a trailer tractor and seven other cars in a fiery blaze. a light post melted in the heat of the blaze, the victims were charred beyond recognition but the interstate is now open.

keep alive madan mohan

it might have been too much too take by the end of the show (after all it did go on for over 4 hours) but when it was good it was terrific. last night mukul, his parents, mom, sonal and me had gone to watch a group called ‘keep alive’ pay tribute to the music of madan mohan. to be honest, after the non stop talent shows on tv i was expecting the rejects from them to be the singers- in other words- to be not so great. but these three women and two guys were fantastic.

even more that the fact that they were actually always in key, were able to pick out the emotion from the lyrics and were able to throw their voices in the complex configurations that lata mangeshkar could, i was taken by the nuanced way in which they had listened to the original music. delicacies of movement and nuances of feeling that were hidden on record were revealed to me as i saw the singers make them come alive in front of me.

the songs were interspersed with details and trivia of madan mohans life making him out to be the kind of tragic hero we always would like our poets to be in black and white nostaligia. his family was in the audience and were felicitated for surviving him (i guess). unfortunately because our central character of the day had to be portrayed as the most profoundly unhappy person, many of the songs chosen to be performed by him were these mournful ghazals. beautiful though they all were after a while they did begin to morph into one another. the stand outs of the day were the girl in green who blew the electricity off whenever she came on stage, and baiyan na dharo from dastak which is a beautiful song no matter who may hum it.

Friday, July 13, 2007


this city makes strange forms. speaking of hybrids, here is a building under construction that suddenly took on a new form when the shikhar of the temple was finished juxtaposed against the curtain walling of the staircase block. like three buildings cut and paste together to form one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

day two - make / shift

mukul and me spent a bit of the afternoon yesterday at the exhibition. he was clicking photographs while i hung around talking to the people who came in. architects, students, academics from other colleges and lay people kept coming in. i think that the exhibition can officially be called a hit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

make /shift

after a grueling day of making sure each of the links in the projections were working, the computers in place and everything clean and neat; the inauguration got done. suddenly the space that we had left empty was teeming with too many people- so many that the projections were lost in their shadows. we had to drag in more chairs from the store room for people to use. i don’t think too many people had a chance to see anything with all the hoo-ha. to those who are interested i recommend another day- for browsing the huge archive of work on the city that the school has done.

later there was a mad party with over 40 of us at a long table in gokul, bitching, laughing, teasing and singing much too loud for all the hard core traditionalist drinkers who frequent the joint. but who cares for such delicacies when spirits are high on flowing alcohol and chicken chilli dry.

Monday, July 09, 2007

opening / inauguration : Make / Shift

two different ideas of beginning an event are at odds with each other at coomaraswamy hall. from the young architects the ‘opening’ where you meet lots of people, browse the work and schmooze around; from the older guard the more traditional diya lighting, dias and speeches and everyone sitting watching the proceedings on stage.

we spent yesterday trying unsuccessfully to resolve these in coomaraswamy hall. each are fine in their own right but here they were jostling for space.

we have had a fantastic bunch of people working on the exhibition. the space will be perfect when the issue is resolved after the opening when the plastic chairs go back to the warehouse from where they came and the projections gets precedence again.

so please come- one and all... to Coomaraswamy Hall, Prince of Wales Museum. 5.30 is the opening of Make/Shift Mumbai. the exhibition is on till the 12th.

Friday, July 06, 2007

opening at chemould- archana

drove down to chemould with ateya, ninad, aditya and kausik for ‘relics of grey’ archanas big show at chemould where gender, the city and personal histories seemed to be the main themes and she had worked in all kinds of mediums – painting, video, installations. before that we went over to tea center for sandwiched and darjeeling tea.

jahaji music

of the films i have seen in recent times, i think i enjoyed surabhis ‘jahaji music’ the most. even though the 5 hour version i saw had longer pieces of music, and i could not imagine how it was going to feel in an abridged form; in the film that opened the encounters for this year nothing seemed like it was missing – except for that one backstage dialogue between remo and the wonderful mighty sparrow. it was great to see a film on music- its making, the controversies it creates, the stories it tells and the way that it is deployed to make identity- black, indian and/or female. the kids seemed to really enjoy themselves but were demure in the question and answer session. for all their supposed coolness i have a feeling many of the kids were taken aback by the unabashed sexuality that sizzles on screen whenever any of the amazing women take to the stage. and even though remo did make the entire audience collectively cringe, it just ended up making us enjoy lady saw, denise, rikki and the entire cast of characters so much more.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

sivaji - the boss

whatever it is that he has i want 10% of it. i don’t think i can handle more. the charisma would destroy me. only he can handle so much- and with such flair. nothing seems to faze him, nothing seems ridiculous or silly. even when he wears blonde wigs and dances around a greatest hits of recent european starchitecture (cant think of a better foreground to gehry, calatrava or moneo than this), or when he goes bald and does amazing things with his sunglasses, or that entire sequence with the fairness cream, the clothes never ever come close to wearing the man. its no wonder that he is superstar rajni. this is real style. not the insipid half hearted designer lite of a amitabh bachchan. rajni is truly sexy.

there is no spectacle too much for a film like this one. the story of a lone crusader against the corruption of the ‘system’ has rarely been done with such unabashed fun. the sets are spectacular, the fight sequences fantastic.

i had thought that i would enjoy the film in a camp sort of way, you know- that snobbish sort of way where laughter is mixed with a certain form of patronization. but i got involved with the story and i wanted to clap and whistle so many times. of course saurabh might be right when he says that i would not have perhaps been so easy to please if the film were in hindi because of its ‘good tamilian culture’ pandering or its one ugly girl joke. but it more than made up for its political incorrectness with the hilarious fair and lovely sequence and the anti-horoscope storyline. it was great to see an old fashioned masala film with a real movie star at its center after a very long time where the lead lady shies away draped in demure tradition until the music starts playing. suddenly she is transformed into the sexiest hip swayer in glass palaces and colonnades this side of the middle east.

and of course its more fun when all around you in the theater you have people who have seen the movie four times before and know every dialogue, repeat it loud before it comes on screen and go ‘cool’ with the man himself.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

make / shift mumbai

Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental studies (KRVIA) is exhibiting its work on the city of Mumbai from July 9th – 12th in the Coomaraswamy hall of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalay, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum.

The exhibition titled “Make/Shift Mumbai, Readings, Imaginations and Propositions” will showcase its large repertoire of work on the city completed over the last 15 years. Since the institute’s inception in 1992, a group of educationists, professionals and artists became involved in envisioning the direction of the school. Discussions on cities have been central to its academic investigations. Through its varied research and consultancy projects and through its undergraduate courses and its extra-curricular programmes the institute has actively engaged with the city and provided an important platform for debate and discussion. Espousing an interdisciplinary approach, its initiatives have ranged from mapping/reading the metropolis in multiple ways; to providing new spatial imaginations for the city through its academic work; to its advocacy work, which proposes alternative futures to the city’s development. The college is now starting a Postgraduate programme in Urban Studies, offered as an Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree with a specialization in Urban Design and Urban Conservation. The intention is to take its earlier initiatives forward by providing a platform for structured research and design at the postgraduate level.

The Exhibition, “Make/Shift Mumbai, Readings, Imaginations and Propositions” is both a retrospective of the institute’s work and an introduction to its Post Graduate programme. While the three categories Reading, Imaginations and Propositions are in many ways interconnected, they form an important structure through which to see the institute’s work on the city. The work displayed through these above conceptual categories has been done through the institute’s Design and Research Cell, its Urban Studies courses conducted in the fourth year of the B.Arch programme, its Humanities courses, the Final year thesis projects, and the Design projects undertaken from the first to the fourth year of the undergraduate programme, which engage in readings and interventions in the city at various scales and through multiple approaches.

monday town drive

been a long wet weekend with no access to email. as it rained wildly outside i caught up on my sleep. finally the net seems ot connect today. aparna rupali and me took a long ride into town today to check the curtains out at the prince of wales museum for the exhibition – more on that in a later post. after that we drove to the humongous kamala mill compound to take a look at a sample of a printout only to see rakhi sawant with orange hair and a green sari n the corridor. we ran from her to a warehouse in sewri where under the huge roof were all kinds of materials and stands for immediate use- cheap.