Monday, July 20, 2009

A Trip to Elephanta Caves Mumbai

This was one of the trips I went on during my internship at Mumbai. Muru gracefully agreed to come with me and was a real pain in all the wrong places with his constant bickering at my slow pace.
Lesson #1: Never take non-photography-enthusiasts on a photo walk. Or if you do, make them the models. They will shut up for a while (at least, Muru did).
While it was a nice trip overall, and for once it was great to see a well maintained place of interest inside the subcontinent, the dilapidated statues at Elephanta are a sore sight. The more one looks at it, the more painful it is. And mind you, this is not the result of inept maintenance. A few hundred years back, the Portuguese landed at these caves, and used the statues as target practice and defaced them!! As a result, what we have today is a bunch of ex-statues. Really painful to see if you know the story. While one goes expecting 1000 yrs of history, all one gets to see is 400 years of misery.
Anyway, the sob story apart, here's what transpired in that hot Mumbai afternoon of April 2009.

Adra Sakka Adra Sakka!

It's quite a long walk (half a km) from the jetty to the base of the small hillock atop which the caves reside. There's a small train that ferries people along this route.

The principle icon of Elephanta Caves - The Trimurti

That's my model - Muru - posing shamelessly as passersby look on

Practical geometry!

1 kilo mutton paaaarrrrcelllll!

Frankly an awful pic. But liked it for some vague reason!

Trip to Elephanta Caves - pictures

Sunday, July 12, 2009

They made us think!

After a fairly active blogging stint when I was in Mumbai, now am back at Bangy-base. Term 4 has proven to be extremely hectic. Enjoying my first couple of hours of free time in weeks now. Thought I should quickly pen down something here.

In the last couple of weeks, 2 great men visited IIMB campus and delivered engrossing lectures. The first one was Mr Nandan Nilekani. He had come just 2 days after he hit the headlines for the unique ID concept. Right timing for IIMB :) He spoke at length about 18 points (from his book). Stuff like 6 challenges, 4 ideas and so on. He then answered a few questions from the first year students (it was their orientation program). A pretty interesting event. But Mr Nandan Nilekani did not want press publicity for that event. Am guessing that was because that was his first public appearance after the news and he maybe wasn't ready enough to face the press. At the end of the lecture, had the privilege of lunching with the man along with the rest of the Student Affairs Council members.

Yesterday, another great achiever made his way to the stone walls of IIMB. You may not have heard of him. But when a person's CV goes upto 127 kB of a clear text file, he ought to be great alright.

Am talking abt Mr B V Doshi - the greatest Architect in India in recent years. A movie documentary made on him was played to us, and he himself was present to field questions at the end of it. The audi was jam packed as the video took us through the life of this person, who at 82, looks decades younger. Born in 1927, this person was awarded the Padmashri in 1976. The documentary was less about architecture, and more about life itself. Amazing person!

Some points that impressed me (paraphrased):
"Indian-ness is about frugality and making multi-purpose things. Look at the dhoti and towel - the standard Indian attire. You can use the towel to shield you from the Sun, to put down somewhere and sit on it, to cover your torso during cold, and so on. Your dhoti can double up as a rope in a small tank to draw water, as a bedsheet and so on. That is Indian-ness. Ingeniously using things very efficiently. That's what I reflect in my designs."
And actually he does that! All the buildings he has designed have been built using inexpensive material that is commonly available in the area. He also uses recycled materials and waste products to bring his designs to life. The video showed how he has designed the sofa/diwan in his living room - It serves as a seating area naturally. If you remove the cushion, there is storage space beneath the wooden planks that are the seat of the diwan. And the wooden planks are all modular - you can remove each one of them and use them as either a plank to sit on the floor on, or turn it top-side down and use it as a tray to get food and snacks!!!
"What is missing today is socially relevant architecture. People are busy in their own lives that when we build something today, we no longer plan for open spaces where people come and meet, sing, dance and celebrate life. We simply don't have the time for all that. Sad state of affairs."
That's true, and is something most people do think about. But one point that struck me real hard was this:
"We do not understand the word 'Heritage'. Heritage to us, is always monuments and relics from the past. Buildings built 1000s of years ago. We never realize that we actually have the responsibility of creating today's heritage that would be celebrated 100 years down the line. We never think of that! And it's not expensive. I always use inexpensive materials in building my designs. Creating heritage is not expensive. We just should have the intent."
How true!! This was the most interesting point that came up during the interaction, in my opinion. A few years down the line, when I build my house I will sure remember this.

One last point. You know what makes this lecture very significant? Mr Doshi is the person who designed our IIMB campus :) He is the man behind these stone walls. In the video he talks of how he designed the looooong and talllllll corridors with neat columns on either side, based on Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple :) His aim, he said, was to make people feel free and non-constrained even when inside the building.

That, he definitely has achieved.