Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ayudh puja in changing times

Ayudh puja. A day I looked forward to as a school going kid for once my mother had put my books (usually the dreaded mathematics textbook) for puja we didn't have to touch books for a day and a half. What bliss! For a change nobody told you to go and study. Of course that didn't stop us from sneaking and reading our favorite storybooks! No work... all play... all day long! The blessed days when there was no television or computers so we kids in the neighbourhood would climb trees, pluck fruits, eat figs and never feel hungry enough to go home but tanned playing in the autumn sun. What do kids do these days for a day and half? Watch TV I suppose. Or sit on the computer and game.There are no playgrounds, no parks to go to.
So thats what I did. I watched elephants and meer cats on Animal Planet with my 14 month old daughter. She loves them particularly the elephant calves. So much that she doesnt understand why we periodically change the channel and interrupt her( read commercial breaks). But I also make it a point to take her out in the yard to run around either in barefeet or with these squeaky shoes of hers. I only wish she had play mates her age in the vicinity but alas there are none. So we play with her toys instead. There is Noddy who is always goign to sleep and the Teddy who made an appearance on her favorite channel the other day. Except he was called koala bear! And of course there is her Doggie that sings different tunes.
Ayudh puja. The day cars and bikes get washed and dabbed with the traditional haldi and kumkum. And all machines implements and tools. As a new student of painting I felt the urge to place my paints and brushes for prayers. I do hope the divine blessings help me scale the magnificient and alluring mountain of painting. I think of spending some time on the computer and wonder. Are not computers our modern day tools? Shouldn't they be sacntified as well? Placed along with our books with a dab of haldi and kumkum! Oh I think I will just take my notebook and place it for Puja. Notebook here by the way is my laptop. :)
Changing times.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The frustration of revision

When do you stop a composition? The moment when you cannot add or delete any element. When it is complete. when the 'whole' composed of different parts put together in harmony, contrast or other design props is visually balanced to the discerning eye. A good painting is like that. Every stroke has a purpose. Every shade of color adds to the overall effect however subtly it might be. There are no accidents or mistakes. Have you ever written poetry and there came a moment when the lines feel complete. Sometimes you manage to convey everything in four lines. At times even hundreds don’t suffice.
I wrote the following lines intending to complete them later. These words just “tumbled out” as I like to say.

Let the follies be mine
Let the glory be yours
How can I claim all is You
For there are so many imperfections.

But I am not able to add anything. The lines say all that I want to say.

Often in my line of work as a designer we sit racking our brain to arrive at a solution which we feel is fairly well composed. We have balanced function with aesthetics, we have finalized the materials and specifications according to our design sensibility and the budget. We sit back on the chair happy at the outcome. It feels complete. We can't wait to show it to the client/superior for approval. But more often than not, the client asks for changes. Not the whole concept but only small things here and there....which very completely messes up the whole composition. These small things change the whole dynamism of the design. It is no longer complete. Remember what I said? You cannot add or delete. Any change leaves the design in disarray. So begins the process of re-balancing. Sometimes you succeed. Most times you have to let go of the most beautiful part of the erstwhile composition in order to accommodate a tiny insignificant alteration which is frustrating.
I once did a residential landscape for a client whose brief was a design within a small budget. So in lieu of that I chose brick as the dominant element and designed the paving lines according to the basic unit of a brick. At a later stage after the bricks had been laid in place, the client changed his mind and asked for granite cladding of the same. No harm done, but the original design using the brick module was made redundant. If I had had the freedom of using granite in the beginning the design would have been different in the first place. It would have evolved keeping in mind granite as a paving material.
What we seek in design is honesty of expression. Honesty of material. Let the basic material shine through and hold the weight of the design on its shoulders. But in the example cited, with that change the essence of the whole design collapsed not unlike a house of cards.
Changing a material is not as simple as that. Every material has an inherent property that affects the design. In the same project, at another location I had proposed granite cobbles and slab in an interesting composition for the entrance area. The client asked for a cheaper option and we explored different materials. Every time we changed the material or the brand, the dimension of the basic unit changed, and the design changed consequently. When the client sees the final drawing it might appear as mere lines. But only a designer and a sincere one at that can understand the labor that goes behind the simplest of design. After umpteen changes, with the client vacillating about the choice of material, haggling for reduced rates from dealers, we finally chose a cheap paving option. The resulting design was a poor shadow of what we had started with. I only hope that it lasts its guarantee period. If it doesn’t. Who is to be blamed? The design it seems is not the architect's creation but that of the patron's tastes.
In another example, when I was working in an architectural firm, my colleague was working on a multi storeyed apartment building and the plan and elevation was simply beautiful. It was the kind of design where the proportions fall in its rightful place and it deserved to come up in the skyline. But that wasn't to be. After the plan and elevation was approved, the client realized that a hotel would be more profitable and asked for the plan to be revised accordingly. That screwed up the entire design starting from the plan to the elevation. I don't know what happened to that project as I left the firm shortly after but something potentially beautiful was destroyed that day by the relentless dagger of commercial interests.
It’s deeply mournful to say the least.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tough times are like bad medicine

It’s a huge struggle to give my little girl her medicine. She has come down with a bad cold that has become congestion and her doctor prescribed antibiotics. The sweetening technique by the pharmaceutical company did not work. My baby still cannot stand it. She breaks into uncontrollable cries and loud protests leaving me with no option but to force it down her throat. And that causes her to hate it more. While a little spills out, I hope at least something gets down her throat. I have come to hate it as much as she. I wish I didn’t have to give it to her but I know I have to, so she gets better. She doesn’t understand it of course and cannot understand why her mother is putting her through so much anguish. But within seconds after the unpleasantness during which she shrieks and cries at the top of her voice and is soaked in sweat, she is her normal self, smiling. I wonder, if only she struggled less, the medicine would be easily dispensed with reducing our misery. The more she struggles the more she prolongs the anguish.
But who am I to give advice. Am I any better? That got me thinking…All the bad times that we go through is like bad medicine that the Maker is giving us so we get better. So we overcome our vices which if left untreated would cause further agony and no spiritual development. And so no matter how much we struggle or protest or cry, we still have to drink the potion. The more we struggle the worse the situation gets. The maker like a mother is in pain too to see His children suffer but continues to deliver the tough times because they are for our good.