Finding Herself

Old Delhi Architecture

It was July, and I was sitting on the white rug in our room. Coloring in my sheets, I looked up towards the bed to see Mira still sleeping. I let out a loud sigh, letting her know that I disapprove of her sleeping in till 11. Her response to me was a shift in her position.

We have shared a room ever since we were children, and she being the elder one, always gave me my space and the freedom. I guess I sensed that, and in return did the same to her. So even when we shifted to dad’s ancestral haveli this year, we were happy together and thus got the biggest room. With the arched windows equally diving the room into two parts, we took our sides and I placed the white rug we bought from Delhi right in the center. It acts as a silent partition line, showing a visitor a stark contrast between the two sides.

We are Indians, but Mira is a true one. Bright colors, stitched patterns, bangles, jhumkas, sterling jewelery, and juttis. Strangely, her side also smells of jasmine. I, however, dived fully into minimalism and for some reason, black and white are the only colors that appeal me. Mira doesn’t feel those are colors. But dear God, doesn’t she love that white rug.

And it is all because of that damned Kabir. A week in Old Delhi was all it took. I wanted to explore the city, and Mira  wanted to shop. It was decided that our Aunt’s haveli in Chandini Chowk was the best place to stay. After all, the doors of the house spilled right on to the street. The smell was exotic, the streets were narrow and the people were innumerable. My hands were itching to click photos and I dragged Mira to the shops on day one itself. It was 6 in the evening, and the sight was beautiful.

A little over an hour later, with my memory card full, and my sister’s hand full of shopping bags, we were leaving for back home when she came across a shop of fabric. I don’t know if the bright colors caught her attention, or the guy with the black kurta selling his day’s objective did. But I have never seen her stop and stand in the middle like senseless fool, as if she had finally found her place to be. He noticed too. But before he could say anything, I had pulled her away. 

Old Delhi Architecture
Inner Lanes of The Old Delhi Market

“Are you mad? Staring at the guy like that”, I screamed at her. She kicked off her slippers at the raised threshold of the room and ran to her bed. It matched the room’s enigmatic feeling, looking old in every sense of its existence. The creaky wood didn’t stop her from jumping onto it. “I don’t know why I stopped. His voice was.. Something.”

I rolled my eyes. Trust Mira to be dramatic. If it were up to her, she would be living in the 60’s, waiting for her prince at the window and looking out for him in distress. I sketched a bit, and had switched off the lights. But I hadn’t  known about the tumultuous experience the following days would have unfolded for us. Every morning at 6, Mira would be out in the maze of the streets. And I knew were to find her. 

I was worried. She knows nothing about him, yet she sits at the back of his cycle going on a city tour as if they have known each other forever. I could not be blamed for my rude behavior towards him, but his smile after he dropped her home seemed to seek an approval from me, and that he cannot achieve easily. Kabir runs his father’s family business of fabric in the market, but he is a Fine Arts student. He paints, she sighed deeply and dreamily. And I failed to see what all this meant because just the next we had to leave. “We exchanged numbers. He will come visit me in Jaipur, he promised.”

At times, I think my elder sister has a bigger and easier heart than a clear head, and that pains me to no extent. Bitterly, we said our goodbyes to Chandini Chowk and Kabir, and that was that. Fast forward to today, and Mira slops around the house, checks her phone thousand times, goes to post man to enquire and wipes away hundred tears  at night. Angry at her nonsensical behavior, I face away from her bed, but my heart softens and I go hug her. Through that common window, we look outside and gaze at the clear sky with shining stars. This will repeat for days to come, and the rug will be a constant reminder of Kabir and his memories, for it was a gift from him that Mira cherished.

August bought monsoons and it bought another gift. Sitting on the swinging sofa in our courtyard, I was lost in my sheets and pens. Eyes darting back and forth, I had taken the mean project of sketching my house that day. My pen stopped when I started to draw a young man in my sheet at the door. My breath stopped and I looked up suddenly. I threw my things and before he could even utter a word, I ran up towards our room, swearing at the number of high steps someone thought would be appropriate to include in the haveli. I pushed open the door to our room and Mira looked at me with the eagerness of hearing the news she always was waiting to listen. “Kabir”,  I spat out. She got up calmly, wrapped her fuchsia dupatta around her neck, adorned jhumkas in her ears, and put on a bindi. 

Then she ran. She ran but her hand touched ever so lightly every element that came in her path. Out wooden door, and the blue wooden railing. The white net curtains felt her touch, and the strong pillars were graced by her arms. Our renovated flooring was gladly helping her prance towards the old stairs, and she glided down them looking ever so graceful. The courtyard seemed to light up and the swing became still. The house had stopped functioning, suddenly. 

“Kabir”,  she whispered. “Mira.” 

He stepped forward and touched her cheek. She let out a sigh so deep and grateful, it felt as if  she was forbidden to breathe until she met him again. Breathe she did, and so did the house. The wind was blowing again, my hair was all over the place and tangled, just as my tears were. Mira had found herself. 

Forbidden

Video Thursdays! Rem Leads the Way

Hello, all!

Before starting off this post, I want to share that I have created a little blog schedule for myself! It does seem too overwhelming to me right now, and that’s alright. As long as it’s generating excitement in me, I know I would be able to keep up with it. So, if you are following my blog, I will upload a whole different post regarding the schedule, where I will explain why exactly am I doing that. Acknowledging the title, Thursdays will be dedicated to sharing of videos. Be it art, design, typography or architecture.


So, today’s video is actually a trailer to the movie REM. The reason why this film was shot, was to show people how creating buildings is not about erecting a structure which would start enacting it’s functions, whatever that is supposed to do. It is not about what the architect needs but what the building’s users needs. And that is what Rem Koolhaas finds challenging.

Depicting the users’ experience through this film, which was one of the highly anticipated documentaries in the architecture scene, it examines his vast array of work through the eyes of the people that inhabit the designs.

To find out more about the film, you can also visit: http://remdocumentary.org/the-film-2/

Framed Curves

I discovered Moshe Safdie through his thesis project of Habitat 67. And as a student who had just begun understanding what this vast field was all about, I was in awe.

While the project was an experimental solution for high-quality housing in dense urban environments, the possibility of two design ideas into one project emerged. It dealt with 1. pre-fabrication, which around 1967 was just getting  kick-started and, 2. re-thinking the designing of apartments in the new age.

My joy of discovering his design in India, right in my land of Punjab, was insurmountable. Virasat-E-Khalsa, a museum of Sikhism, is located near Chandigarh. I could not stop gushing over how his structure stood right at my birthplace and I was unaware of it.


2016-06-22 12.38.28 1.jpgThe beautiful curves of the Virasat-E-Khalsa museum.

Curve

Smart Ideas

I have been reading up a lot lately on city designing and how the smallest of efforts can bring a huge outcome in any regard. Be it personal goals, work focus or on a larger scale of changing a city’s functioning.

Recently, I came across this video by IBM and it has to be one of the most functional as well as clever advertising I have seen. Kudos to the designers for making it simple yet effective.


Why Some Structures Hide

After a good lunch with my classmates at one of the posh cafes in Delhi, where I ended up paying more than I ate, a close friend and I were broke to go home on our own.Fortunately, her mom’s office was right across the street from where we were, and we waited for her to get free as a free ride was the only possible solution.

The office was the kind which was located in the clusters of homes throughout that area. It is usually the trend there, with either the entire structure housing the office, or a floor dedicated to the workplace with the rest being a functional home to someone.

image

It was a beautiful area. Huge, flowering trees surrounded the central green square around which the houses were closely situated. It was quiet, with occasional sound of birds chirping, leaves rustling and a car honk sounding off some distant road. The houses were white with staccatos of brick lining somewhere, or glass and wooden punctuations, inviting people inside and showing them out. Occasionally, you would see someone look outside through those punctuations. Lost in thought, having tea, or reading a book (those are my favorite kinds).

This ensued a photography session between my friend and I. We just couldn’t get enough of the place. I chose my favorite wall, and her camera clicked away. After 50 photos, an old man walked towards the gate before which we stood. He was wrinkled, but happy. He had a walking stick, but the other hand was occupied in holding bags full of fresh fruits. He was having a hard time explaining what exactly he wanted to do and found the whole situation tough to handle. We understood and smiling at him, we moved from his way.

I couldn’t resist myself from complimenting his house, and blurted how serene and beautiful it was. He found the whole situation embarrassing and nodded his head as a way of acknowledging my words. And just like that, he went away.

On our way back home in the car, it struck me how similar the man and his house were. Shy, peaceful and quiet, yet active and full of life, he had a strong personality. He didn’t fear showing his flaws. In the same way, that white plastered house bared it all. Chipped paint, stained glass and deteriorated bricks. But it still stood tall, and let all the planters and trees decorate it, as if it were some piece of art.

image

For a lot of people, it would seem that it is hiding like it’s owner. After all, the house is a reflection of its master. But I feel, like a treasure, it is waiting to be discovered by someone who would value it, just like the old man’s wise, occasional words would be waiting patiently to become a person’s morals.

Embarrassing

Hello, World

image
The view from my room

Connected

With never ending design projects looming over the head throughout the semesters, I was a night person. Come home by 7, draft sheets, have dinner, start designing. And to stay up all night, have coke, listen to crap music and basically have more coke again. Days and nights were blurred, and rarely would I have a schedule that would go on for a week. Either way, I enjoyed that very much. It gave an amateur a feel of what architecture school is all about. Late nights, coffee/coke breaks, missing meals, running without bathing,  sleeping or even without money.

While my other friends who were pursuing different fields would be out for drinks, or would go for weekend trips, I would be in my PJs contemplating which material would hold my model the best. I forgot what music had once meant in my life, and friends would adjust their schedules according to mine because, deadlines. I would term that phase of my life, hectic.

More than losing touch with my friends, I was losing touch with my own voice. No value of decision making, no respect for my own design ideas because of the fear of judgment of ‘practicality’, and certainly no love for my mental health and body. I was on a verge of a breakdown. Of course it wasn’t that bad, the kind where you really stop functioning. It was the kind where you start questioning why exactly you do certain things, when it no longer gives you satisfaction.

I knew had to change. While I knew how important designing was for me, being sleep deprived and eating Lay’s for lunch wasn’t exactly the lifestyle I wanted. So, I took upon the challenge of a drastic change. I knew it  wouldn’t be easy so I gave myself a year.

On 31st December, 2015 I wrote a letter, noting what I would have achieved when I would open the same letter in 2016 end. Goals, little lifestyle habits, maybe exercising, achieving balance and patience. I needed all to get back on track.

And so, when I opened my windows at 4.00 am in the morning on 1st January, 2016 and sat down on my yoga mat for my first deep breath towards a happier year, I knew immediately that I connected with a spirit that I had long forgotten.

At What Speed Shall it be?

My grandfather’s house is pretty old, still standing strong after 50 years. Therefore every little thing I observe there, I have the urge of capturing it. Not because it seems ancient and out of the world, but because it gives me a strange satisfaction of contrast. I don’t know why, but everyday elements which display a sense of difference with its surroundings makes me feel alive.

2014_05_23_09_07_26_OneShot
The fan regulator in my grandfathers house.

Numbers

More than just Walls.

I am a fourth year architecture student in India and I am currently hating the education system.  Since it was my fault of not having a vision as to how I should proceed with my education after my 12th, I am really no one to crib. I didn’t get into the national schools. And I really had no hope for international schools as well.

Dropping a year was out of question. While my parents are pretty open-minded and supportive of what I wanted to do, they couldn’t really digest the idea of spending 6 years on an undergraduate program.

So today, while I wait for my turn for my viva regarding the practical training I just undertook as a part of the university’s curriculum, I thought about giving this writing thing a go.

School was mainly about studying. And novels. Loads and loads of novels. The thicker the book and the smaller the font, was just my kind. These, I would relish in 2 weeks max.How can you just put down a book where every page holds a key to the next? I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave them alone even when I had my finals! Needless to say, at the end, my mum hid the books.

That craze for reading got translated into writing better essays, but I didn’t really give the skill much thought, as long as it fetched me marks in my English exams. It did, however, give me the confidence to write whatever I wanted to and whenever I felt like it.

Fast forward to today. After four rigorous years of architecture education, I get stuck after each line. My words don’t flow and my sentences are broken. My reading is slower than usual, though skimming through long papers to get vital information regarding my subjects is something I learnt in university. Either way, it frustrates me. Blame it on the packed schedule or prioritizing work over pleasure, but I couldn’t take out time for reading. And I miss it.

I feel research in any field is important. You choose a topic, you read further into it, you question it and come up with a slightly better answer to it. It’s your personal contribution and it’s putting your ideas out there. And being architecture student, who has a passion for writing, I feel I missed out four crucial years where I could have put acquired skills to work. Which brings me back to the education system. Architecture involves people, and their feelings. At the end of the day, we design for people who will use the space designed for their needs. Unfortunately, most of the times those needs are considered to be straight-forward basic. A bedroom. A bathroom. Etcetera. Stuck in various other necessary technicalities, the true sense of space diminishes by the end of the project (by project, I am solely referring to design projects we get in university). Even if we get technical papers to write, not one of them is taken pretty seriously. It can be pretty demotivating for people who are looking forward to such assignments.

But, one shouldn’t focus on the past and should move on! And that is the sole reason of starting this blog. I have a lot to talk about. Design related. I might be inconsistent, considering last year of architecture school is around the corner. But hey, if this helps the creative juices flow, I’m up for it.

Blog aim: Throw some light on this beautiful and powerful field of architecture and design, showing that it’s not just about four walls.