Open Letter to Elon Musk

Dear Mr Musk,
Let me begin by telling you that October of 2011 left a void in my life, I lost a person whom I would look up to and be mesmerized with. It was the death of Steve Jobs that triggered a search for a new role model, and I discovered someone whom people would call ‘real’ Tony Stark. For an Iron Man fan-boy, real Tony Stark is something difficult to digest. Having said that, the more I read about you, I began to discover some truth in those claims.
PayPal was great, Tesla motors is amazing, Solar City even better, Hyper loop is a cool thing, SpacEx was fantastic until last Monday, and well OpenAI is something I wouldn’t like to talk about much. The most inspiring thing that you have done with each of your endeavours is committing personal assets to the cause, every single time. It is this dedication and belief that changes the world, which quite a few of your companies have been able to do.

Elon Musk: image credits OnInnovation
Elon Musk: image credits OnInnovation

Last Tuesday, you unveiled a plan (of sorts) to colonize Mars. It was a breath taking presentation, a moment that would be put on a timeline in the books of history marking significant events in the field of space exploration (a conservative term). The presentation ran numbers on screen all through, though space exploration require much more complicated mathematics and scientific calculations than there are words in the English dictionary. Numbers on screen appeared to be simplified for dummies like myself but, I could easily understand that simplification could be done only when compelling numbers have already been dealt with. There was a computer rendered video demonstrating various components of your ambitious project. You emphasized on the fact that those weren’t artist’s impression but close to reality rendered based on scientific design process. Trust me I would be better off had those been artistic impressions. I understand humanity is under threat, we always have been but, I never imagined that a day would come we would have to flee the planet. Mr Musk, I know problems on Earth exist and continue to swell, day in day out, can we not look for solutions without having to move out (move out is going to assume a new meaning altogether)? It is a question, a question for you to ponder upon and find a new muse maybe. Not so surprising yet again you committed your personal funds for the development of the project. I read a lot of coverage of the event by the American media houses; especially the tech media, most of them were sceptical about the numbers that you presented or the funding and to my utter surprise and disbelief ‘technical’ challenges facing your dream. For dummies like me, your presentations are closest cousin of what in our fan world is called the Reality Distortion Field. I am usually excited about things that you have behind the veil but, this time around I was terrified. Even scarier was the timeline of the project, where trials of the proposed technologies begin in a couple of years. If everything goes well you could be on Mars even before the world (or should I always specify planet Earth now on) phases out fossil fuel powered vehicles, or even before a ‘Hyper loop’ comes to India. It’s totally understandable that you might be fed up with the people on this planet but, taking your chosen ones on to a different planet just doesn’t sound right. I wish all this were a sci-fi book that you authored, with no numbers around and no history of success in ‘space exploration’. During the presentation, you mentioned that you didn’t have a dooms day prophecy yet, nevertheless you do believe in an eventual extinction of the human race from planet Earth. I do not know what to tell you, I guess you should get yourself a translated version of a popular Indian song called “Duniya mein hum aaye hain to jeena hi padega”, the opening line translates to “If we have come to the world (read Earth) we will have to live”.

We have always been made to believe that we have to choose ‘one path’ and excel, you are the icon when it comes to excelling across fields be it finance, automotive, transportation, sustainable energy generation and most important of all, entrepreneurship. Steve Jobs used to say, “All I want to do is create a ding in the universe”, I guess you have taken it far too literally and have made it your life’s motto. Let me tell you that our country is on a threat of war with our neighbours at the moment, we aren’t worried a tiny bit about it but, the thought of having to desert the planet is scary. I think you may have run out of muses to have taken upon such an unconventional dream. Mr Musk just to mention a few, you could work on electricity for all, or healthcare for all, or internet connectivity for the world (Earth). Be the cool kid on the block, and let the definition of block be limited to the beautiful blue planet of our solar system.

Regards,
A resident of planet Earth

रद्दी कागज़

कल रात एक साफ़ सफाई अभियान चलाया, कॉलेज प्रवेश के वक़्त जमा कराए गए कुछ दस्तावेज़ों की प्रतियां मिली| देखते ही देखते चेहरे पे एक अजीब मुस्कुराहट थी, शायद इस वजह से की इन कागज़ों के बारे में बचपन में कुछ सोच थी, उस सोच को आज असल जीवन में सच होते देख रहा था|

एक कागज़ पर अंग्रेजी में लिखा था ‘कैरक्टर सर्टिफिकेट’ , बड़ा ही हास्यास्पद कागज़ है, विद्यालय की प्रधानाचार्या महोदया ने मेरे अच्छे चरित्र की जिम्मेदारी ली है| इस कागज़ को देख कर यह एहसास होता है की भरोसा करना कितना आसान है , मेरी प्रधानाचार्या न मुझे पहचानती है न कोई व्यक्तिगत मुलाकात हुई है , बस पीढ़ियों से चलती आ रही एक परंपरा के नाम पर उन्होंने मुझे यह कागज़ थमा दिया| आज अगर मैं उनसे ऐसा ही एक और कागज़ मांगने जाऊँ तो शायद मुझे कुछ हासिल ना हो| पूर्व प्रधानाचार्या को छोडिए आज अगर मैं अपने दोस्तों से भी ऐसा कोई कागज़ मांगू तो उन्हें हिचिकचाहट होगी| खैर यह हसी-मज़ाक की बात है , यारी दोस्ती में चलते रहना चाहिए|

एक और अत्यधिक विचित्र कागज़ मिला जिसे मूल निवास प्रमाण पत्र कहते है , यह कागज़ इस बात का प्रमाण है की मैं राजस्थान प्रदेश का मूल निवासी हूँ , भारतीय होना कई बार पर्याप्त नहीं होता , डेमोक्रेसी भी एक नायाब चीज़ है , इसके रंग निराले| इसी कागज़ के सलग्न है एक कागज़ जिसपे एक बड़े अधिकारी ने सत्यापित किया है की मेरे पिताजी भी यहीं के निवासी हैं और राजस्थान सरकार को अपनी सेवाएं प्रदान कर रहे हैं| सत्यापन भी एक बड़ी ही खोखली क्रिया है , किसी तीसरे व्यक्ति का मेरे लिए जिम्मेदारी लेना बहुत महत्वपूर्ण है , सारा मूल्य सत्यापित करने वाले की मोहर में है| मोहर है तो सच है, मोहर नहीं तो सच नहीं| यह सत्यापन का ही तो खेल है की हज़ारों लाखों घोटाले होते होते बच गए , यह तीसरे व्यक्ति का जिम्मेदारी लेना ही तो है जो आपराधिक दिमाग को सच्चाई का मार्ग दिखता है| फिर भी न जाने क्यों आजकल सत्यापन को धीरे धीरे सिस्टम से हटाया जा रहा है , व्यक्ति स्वयं अपनी जिम्मेदारी ले सकता है|

फिर कुछ कागज़ हैं जिन्हें हम मार्कशीट कहते हैं| यह कागज़ मेरी योग्यता बताते हैं , जी हाँ एक छोटा कागज़ का टुकड़ा मेरी योग्यता बताता है , प्रतियोगिता के इस ज़माने में मेरी औकात बताता है| यूँ तो कई मामलों में भ्रामक बातें करना अपराध है , जब यह अपराध संगठित तौर पर किया जाये तो इसे शिक्षा प्रणाली कहते हैं| बताइए मुझे की कागज़ पे लिखे गए कुछ अंक एक व्यक्ति के बारे में पैदा किया भ्रम नहीं है तो और क्या है| बेहतर शिक्षा एक ऐसा जुमला है जिसे हम सदियों से चलाते आ रहे है| बेहतर शिक्षा के अवसर उसे प्राप्त होते हैं जो समाज के पैमानों पर पहले से होशियार है , उसे नहीं जो कमजोर है , नामचीन शिक्षण संसथान उन्हें शिक्षा देते हैं जो कमज़ोरों को हरा कर आगे आये हैं , उन्हें नहीं जो पीछे छूट गए| क्या यह वाकई बेहतर संसथान हैं? समाज ने तो यही बताया है, होते ही होंगे , मान लेते हैं| इसमें उन संस्थानों का कोई दोष नहीं , हम बराबरी की बात करते हैं , पर असल में बराबरी से भरा समाज हम बनना ही नहीं चाहते , बुराई भी क्या है , अगर काम प्रतिभाशाली लोगों को आगे लाने का बोझ समाज उठा लेगा तो हम आगे बढ़ेंगे कैसे|

बचपन में ही यह बात समझ आ गयी थी की इन कागज़ों का कोई मोल नहीं है, ना तो यह मेरे जीवन को दिशा देंगे ना ही मेरे व्यक्तित्व के बारे में कुछ बता पाएंगे| सब कुछ समझने के बावजूद भी एक सपना आज भी अधूरा है| स्कूल से विदा लेते वक़्त यह सोचा था की इन कागज़ों को एक दिन अग्नि के हवाले कर दूंगा , पहचान बताने वाले उन अंकों को खाक कर दूंगा , पर हमारे बनाए इस लाइसेंस राज ने दसवीं और बारहवीं की उन अंकतालिकाओं को बेतुका महत्व दे रखा है , जलाने से सिर्फ सरकारी दफ्तरों के फ़िज़ूल चक्कर बढ़ेंगे|

इस दौड़ भाग में एक छोटा बैग भर गया है जिसमें ऐसे कागज़ों का भंडार है , जिन्हे सर्टिफिकेट कहते है| वैसे तो बैग चीख चीख कर स्वाहा होने की बात कह रहा है , पर उनमें से कुछ टुकड़ों के साथ कुछ यादें कैद हैं| मैं बता दूँ की उन यादों का कठोर परिश्रम , या प्रतिस्पर्धा से कोई लेना देना नहीं है , बस दिमाग ने कुछ वाकियों को उन कागज़ों से जोड़ रखा है|

उम्मीद करता हूँ की एक दिन उस बैग के अग्नि में विलीन होने की तस्वीर इस वेबसाइट पे ज़रूर होगी , तब तक यह रद्दी कागज़ों का पुलिंदा एक अलमारी के किसी कोने में तन्हा पड़ा है|

Open Letter to the President, CoA. Again!

Dear Sir,
First of all congratulations, on becoming the new President of the Council of Architecture, India, the last time I wrote an Open Letter to the President, CoA, it was a different sir on the receiving side.

Just in case you missed it, here.

I would love to express my gratitude to the council for conceding the voice of the fraternity over the issues mentioned in the previous letter (Logo competition, CoA website). To best of my knowledge, the logo competition has been abandoned and the website boasts of a new look.
Well, before I get to the core content of the letter I must apologize for being such a pain, you are free to yell “What is this guy’s problem, why can’t he live in peace!” To be honest, the last time I was only voicing the widespread opinion in the community, this time around I am expressing a personal agony, and other people may or may not feel the same about it.

Sir, you would be happy to know that between the last letter and today, my name got registered in the register of architects with the CoA and a couple of days ago I received the certificate of my registration. I was happy to see the envelope on my desk. I could recognize it since it was a self-addressed envelope that was sent with the other requisite documents. I pulled out the contents of the envelope to check whether everything was in place, yes everything was in there. Then finally I looked at the certificate of registration. It was supposed to be a pious moment, a sacred joy that only a person who has undergone five years of rigorous education that architecture is, would know. But I was appalled by the document, the ugliest piece of paper that I seen in the name of a certificate. I was hoping that it would be something that would adorn the wall of my humble office someday but now I don’t see that happening. Let me begin with the good things first, the 300gsm ivory like paper (I am guessing) is great for a document of importance and the reverse letterpress seal is spellbinding, though all its glory is lost in the clutter that the piece of paper is. Before getting into the details, let me share the events of the day I received the certificate, as they unfolded. My dad came home from office and asked me about the envelope, I told him what it was and he congratulated me. He went ahead and asked me to show it to me. He was baffled if this really was the certificate, with contempt he started pointing things out to me, I was happy to see that he could talk about design in that sense. Sir, I must mention that my dad is nowhere related to a field of design; he is a senior administrative officer with the government, usually buried up in paper work. There must be something grossly wrong if he seemed to dislike the certificate.

The Certificate, as received.
The Certificate, as received.

Now about the document, the document has no sense of margins in place, text alignment is badly done, and my picture is bloated out of proportion and blurred of course. The beautiful letterpress seal is just lost in the mess. I would ignore all of it, but one thing absolutely disastrous is the column on the right, a column to add registration renewal data each time, manually (most likely). Sir this is the kind of thing that shady money launderers and black money lenders would use (such pieces are called “hundi” if I am not wrong), the only person I know who still uses such a system is the local cable operator, who is fighting a lost battle to DTH service providers. I can understand that this is to save paper (if only done thoughtfully), but the document could have definitely be designed better and maybe the receipt could carry space for renewals. I understand that I shouldn’t do it every time but the sad truth is doctors and lawyers have better designed certificates hanging on the walls, though I am not sure about CAs this time because I haven’t had a chance to see someone’s certificate yet, I’ll find out about it the next time I visit a CA’s office.

The Hundi maintained by the Cable Operator
The Hundi maintained by the Cable Operator

Sir, I am sure there are pressing issues waiting to be addressed in your capacity as the President of the Council of Architecture, India, but a small redesign of the certificate wouldn’t hurt. And I think I would get something to hang on the wall.
The last time I wrote the letter I signed as the voice of the fraternity, this time I wouldn’t.

Regards,
CA/2016/75808 (Oh yes! I have it)

Open letter to Border Roads Organization

Dear BROthers,

It is May the 7th, what better day to write to you than today, your foundation day. This day in 1960, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) was established.
July last year, I got a chance to make a trip of the lifetime, a trip to Leh. The trip only happened because we were able to book airline tickets with the prices almost on the floor.

At the very outset, I must say, hats off! You are doing what people wouldn’t dare to do in their most adventurous of dreams. It doesn’t just take skill but enormous courage to create roads where none should exist. For more than 60% of the commuters on the roads in Leh, it’s difficult to even look down, I can’t even imagine what building them must have been. To be honest, I don’t know what you guys are up to in the rest of India, but project Himank and project Vijayak are a different ball game which a private player wouldn’t be able to play. This is for the men in uniform only.
Creating roads, is just one bit and you didn’t stop there, keeping them going in rains, snow and landslides, is godly. Prodigious sons of the motherland, you. The most treacherous of the landslides could engage you only for a few hours at best. In an adventure on the verge of a total misadventure, I took the Wari La pass road to get back to Leh from Pangong and I was surprised, surprised to find the men of your fraternity clearing the almost uninhibited and rarely traversed the route. A convoy of almost 30-35 bikers couldn’t stop themselves from raising the hands to salute the man operating the bulldozer. The happiness, pride and joy on the face of that guy was magical. Maybe that’s the only food that keeps you going in terrains like these. I am almost certain that you people possess supernatural powers, making your dozers and blasting machines ready before the boulders could even make up their mind to fall. I don’t think that any amount of money could make you do this, only total devotion and complete allegiance to the tri-color would make it possible.

One of the BRO roads, in its full glory.
One of the BRO roads, in its full glory.

And with your crazy roadside slogans you steal the show with that sense of humor. I’ll share some of them; hope they don’t offend the right wingers around.

Words of Wisdom
Words of Wisdom
Uh Well. Caption says it all.
Uh Well. Caption says it all.

Though Khardungla is talked about too much yet I would like to recognize again, the hard-work and the guts that it takes to create the world’s highest motor-able road at more than 18000ft above the sea level.

Just standing there, we felt as if we conquered the world.
Just standing there, we felt as if we conquered the world.

I am sure you people are on your job, as I write this, building and maintaining roads on the toughest terrains of the world, conquering our hearts and giving us critical infrastructure that the enemy forces would envy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for doing your job so well.

Regards,
Pulkit

Revisiting the Dream

Almost two and a half score years ago, a great American, under whose symbolic shadow of equality we stand today, enunciated the famous speech. And today when the time of graduation has come, I feel like re-visiting the dream. “Having a dream” takes a new dimension at this stage of life. Dreams mean jobs, dreams mean higher education, dreams mean starting up, dreams mean relaxing and figuring out what dreams mean. As kids we were taught to dream, to dream big and to work hard in the direction of realizing those dreams but, from what I have seen growing up is about learning to systematically kill those dreams and be the slaves of education as we know. The terrible pleasure in the entire transition from being a school kid to a college graduate is the eternal hope, the never dying spirit that one day everything will fall in place. So yes I still have a dream.

I have a dream that one day the human race will rise up and live out the true meaning of education: “Freedom”.

I have a dream that one day people would be accepted not for what they are but, what they could be. The day the world would wake up to the potential of every human being.

I have a dream that one day the ink on paper wouldn’t represent the strength that rests within us.

I have a dream that one day you wouldn’t be judged by your LinkedIn profile, but the content in your character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day people would be hired for the humility with which they handle success and the courage with which they face failure.

That would be the day when progress would be marked by liberation of the soul and not the enslavement of the mind.

Let freedom ring from the University of Delhi.

Let freedom ring from the IITs and IIMs.

Let freedom ring from the VITs and the Manipals.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every college and every university, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, engineers and doctors, managers and architects, civil servants and entrepreneurs, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

PS: Based on the famous I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King

Should we and would we exist?

Disclaimer: This post is my take on the issue at hand. In no way does it represent the take of the architectural fraternity. Naive, outrageous and downright stupid are terms that I am quite used to.

I came across two articles an ad campaign on the internet today:

1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/justinshubow/2015/03/17/the-american-institute-of-architects-outreach-campaign-is-doomed-to-failure/

2. http://www.architectural-review.com/essays/empty-gestures-starchitectures-swan-song/8679010.article

3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLhbTGzE6MA

I feel compelled to write my possibly shortsighted rant after going through the three. The profession of architecture just like many other things in the world, is being faced with existential questions. The entire human race has faced questions on existence since time immemorial. Going off the track I often joke that Christopher Nolan and his movies are widely applauded for the ingeniousness. But in no movie so far does the human race come to end despite being pitted against all odds. Wouldn’t he be better off by portraying the end of the human race? Wouldn’t that make him the remarkable genius in the true sense? Survival is the thing that the human species is best at.

I do believe that architecture is a profession which is not really required in most cases, civil engineers, contractors and people themselves are capable enough of designing spaces for themselves. Isn’t the same true for all art and design profession at large? Painters, sculptors, furniture designers, graphic artists and many more would fall on the list. They do not really need to exist but, (un)fortunately they do and to the best I know, would continue to do. The question of need is often a perplexing one. People questioning the needs of things have mostly been on the wrong side of history. Much of the progress that we have made so far has been dependent on doing what we didn’t need to, creating what wasn’t there before. Steve Jobs shameless admitted that “Customers do not know what they want”. Was he wrong? I don’t think so, he was being brutally honest. And to your amusement, astonishment or rage the company that he led, sits on a $170 billion cash pile. He wasn’t doomed to fail. Or even if he was, he didn’t. Rather he changed the course of history not just for the computer industry but for things that we would generally fail to notice, packaging and advertising being the most important ones on that list.

Much of the criticism of architecture of today is based on the lost sense of place. I find this not just to be inappropriate but also an oversimplification without taking any reality into account. What is the sense of place? I live in India, I wear trousers and shirts which weren’t here, do not belong here but like it or not are here, I love pizza, I am typing this on a computer which was perhaps designed in the USA, manufactured in China and assembled here in India and in a language that wasn’t mine till 200 years ago. Perhaps the only thing that would distinguish me from an American is the color of my skin. Is color of the skin the thing that should give the sense of a place to me or to the buildings in my surroundings? I am a citizen of the world and shouldn’t my buildings be a reflection of that fact? How much longer can we dwell in the past? I am not an advocate of parametric design but, I do believe in the principles of Voltaire. Galileo was ridiculed for his firm belief in heliocentrism and we all know the rest of history. Evolution is a continuous process and each step is a landmark in itself, so are the works of Gehry and Hadid. What the future might be like is only a guess at best, to say that future architects would be astounded by the nature of our choices today is an overreach of a one-sided imagination.

The wise also raise a question of here and now or highlight the sense of urgency that there is. I find this one related to the previous one to an extent. The disregard for here and now is what directly constitutes the more than 40% of the economy of Dubai today. The number is much more when indirect benefactors are taken into account. The truth of the world is that millions are starving or deprived of drinking water while we are doing what we are such as putting and getting back billions of dollars on a social networking platform, or buying a $1000 suit. At this point I do agree that the future might be terrified on our gullibility and inability to exercise critical judgment and not learning from our own history. Historically, the consume less approach of sustainability has failed and from my observations of humanity might as well continue to fail. The right question for me isn’t that can a building consume less energy but, can we produce more energy? As I have observed earlier architecture isn’t merely about designing for the needs but, designing the needs too.

The works of many architects have been criticized for generating momentary awe. The reason for the ephemeral nature of the awe isn’t the flaw in design but another phenomenon called information overload, there is so much that is happening everyday and every second of which we want to be a part of but are limited to a virtual rendezvous. Are you in awe of the Monalisa at this moment, most likely not, does that make it any less a masterpiece? In times when stress and depression is widespread, momentary awes, icons and monuments are the things that we seek. Here and now is a question of dilemma. Parametricism is a fearless statement of possibility in that sense.

Viewing architecture in isolation from the society is an unjust and sinful act. Star architects aren’t doomed either. The ego is here to stay. Democracy was supposed to be a doom on the idea of individual faces in power but the reality is that we have always craved for faces and leaders, leaders who are bold, charismatic and unrelenting for most of their life. We look for heroes, we look for personal greatness and star architects are only the architectural manifestation of that thought. I do believe that everybody isn’t equipped to do everything, you don’t invite Gehry or Zaha Hadid to build a peace memorial, you just don’t. If you do then the flaw is in your discretion.

The two articles are full of architectural examples and pin the doom of architecture mostly on two architects. I don’t have any examples here, because the answers are fundamental and related to the way society functions.

Personally, I am a fan of Apocalypse, if it comes it wouldn’t strike architects alone, and it wouldn’t be because of architects alone. The entire humanity would be doomed. Apocalypse is only wishful thinking. We would pretty much survive.

Pulkit

Bharat Bhagya Vidhata

Bharat Bhagya Vidhata, a verse from one of the most rousing hymns for most Indians. It’s the verse that has received and continues to receive a fair share of controversy and meaningless skepticism. Some conspiracy theorists believe that it was written in the praise of King George the fifth, Gurudev himself attributed it to the lord almighty, the Supreme creator, as discovered through some letters that he wrote to his friends. Bharat Bhagya Vidhata translates to Creator of India’s destiny, a very coercive thing to say. Who is the creator of India’s destiny?
Is it the almighty? Or is it the athlete who represents India in a sporting event? Is it the PM at a UN convention? Or is it the people who take India to Mars? Is it the dancer who seems to have preserved the cultural identity of this great nation?

Before that, here is a short why I got to talking about this in the first place. Sometime back, I shared the news about a friend’s placement at a great firm in the US with another friend working here in a social enterprise. His reaction was a moving one. He said that while people could fill their pockets with cash in the US, it’s people like him who bring the real change. And all that I could think about was the phrase Bharat Bhagya Vidhata. I was mesmerized at first, but got to the state of pondering a little later. And the question at large was who the creator of India’s destiny is? My idea wasn’t and isn’t to undermine the effort of my friend in shaping the nation, but, what good is an inspiring statement that doesn’t make the listener ponder at a later stage.

Coming back to the question, here is what I believe Bharat Bhagya Vidhata refers to: a sweeper who cleans the street, a teacher who channelizes the young blood, a cobbler who mends footwear to feed his family, a woman who works as a maid so that she could educate her children, a man working for the ISRO, a soldier stationed at the frontier, a rickshaw puller, a mason who is essential to the construction of the dam across our rivers, a man working for an NGO, a woman working as a nurse in the middle east so that she could feed her family in Kerala, a businessman who pays the taxes on time and also an engineer working in a company in the US which changes the world. For what changes the world also changes us, moreover as a civilization, we believe in Vasudev Kutumbakam meaning that the world is one family. Every single Indian who does what his/her job well is the creator. And there couldn’t be a better thing or person or power to hail in a national anthem than your own self. Bharat Bhagya Vidhata isn’t just praise, it is a reminder of the responsibility that each one of us has, the responsibility to do what we are meant to do, no matter where we come from or where we are located.

In the end all I want to say is “Bharat Bhagya Vidhata, Jai He” (Oh Creator of India’s destiny, praise be on you).

Unsung Heroes

This note is a tribute to the unsung heroes in my life. No legendary stuff, just everyday people in my life.

Heroics go beyond fighting wars for the nation, heroics go beyond saving people in a disaster, no doubt that these are heroics of the highest order yet heroics aren’t limited to these. There are people and times that are etched in your memory forever. These events may not be something big or something really significant, but they are there. These seemingly insignificant acts left an indelible impression on the soul. For them, it’s not a great thing or a one time thing, it’s there in the nature of the people. It makes them who they are. It’s in the shadow of the greatness of these people that I have grown as a person. Many of these people may have forgotten who I am or what they did for me, but I won’t ever forget them. One thing that is common in all these people is the fact that grandness lies in the heart. No fancy, material thing could ever buy that grandness. The other thing is that they laugh and they smile, come what may. May be it is this laughter on the world and its ways that these people find their strength in. To an extent I have learned to laugh too. These people won’t ever ask for any credits because they never think that they did something extraordinary, for them it is the way of life for them it is doing what is right, for them it is simply an extension of the self.

Though each one of us cannot be great or be a hero in someone’s life, but there is one thing that all of us can do. And that is acknowledging somebody’s existence when the world has given up on that person. I can’t proclaim that I do it myself, but I am trying to learn.

Lastly, I wish I could name the people I am grateful to in this note, but, that would take away all the glory from those people. Their glory is in remaining anonymous, remaining away from the limelight and being the everyday person that they are.

The fault is in our stats

This note is an outcome of typo that I made while texting a friend. I found it amusing, maybe one of the funniest accidental joke that was created. I laughed like crazy for almost half an hour, but then I decided to read about the book more, since reading books isn’t my thing, I tried reading a summary. Though I ain’t a fan of love stories, I found the story beautiful. Maybe, it was worth the hype that surrounded it. Being the jobless person that I am, I started thinking about the phrase that I just created (other people must have created too, but I didn’t come across one before the typo).

It is in very few cases like the one in the book that the stars are at fault, for every other time the stats are. I realized how profound stats are in the human life. Stats go much beyond the scope of the perverts.

1. Stats are the marks on the report card.
2. Stats are the zeroes on the payslip.
3. Stats are the people on your contact list.
4. Stats are the number on that skin tone measuring scale.
5. Stats are the figures on a height measuring scale.
6. Stats are the figures on the weighing scale.
7. Stats are the yards of land that you have.
8. Stats are the red on your ledger.
9. Stats are the qualifications that you possess.
10. Stats are the awards conferred upon you.
11. Stats are the lies that surround you.
12. Stats are the goods stashed in vaults.
13. Stats are the things that go inside your phone or computer.
14. Stats are the people who choose to call you their enemy.
15. Stats are the friends that you have.
16. Stats are the number of times you encounter a no.
17. Stats are the number of times that your name features on the police rolls, in case you are going to be a politician.
18. Stats are the bhp of your car.
19. Of course stats are stats.
20. Stats are the 20 things listed here. (Facebook is full of annoying posts with random digits related to random things)

I wouldn’t deny that many of these stats would relate to matrimony, since I have attended 2 family weddings in the last month and rigorous hunt for around another half a dozen people is on.

Though this isn’t the way that I would love to end a note yet I would say, The fault is in the stats and not the person that you are.

And if you are going to ask me who my favorite character from the book(summary) is, it is Rhett Butler.

Architecture education: what is wrong?

Preface: The following write up can be rejected at the very start as a ranting of an escapist nevertheless I would enjoy my right to write. To say that nothing is wrong is negligence at its peak. There is a great hue and cry over ever expanding gap between architectural practice and architectural education, the quality of architects being produced is being questioned too. As a student of architecture here are some of my observations.

पत्थर की दीवार और लकड़ी की चौखट थी ना जाने कहाँ से तस्वीर उभर आयी
पत्थर की दीवार और लकड़ी की चौखट थी ना जाने कहाँ से तस्वीर उभर आयी

1. Can design really be taught? A rather rhetorical answer is no, but the mere existence of countless institutions stands testimony to the fact that yes it can be taught.

2. Liberty is the guiding principle of design and it must be. But do institutions imparting design education follow that principle?

3. What do I mean when I say liberty? Liberty to choose; courses, projects and if possible people. Can’t I design my own course in a standardized framework? The reason why this is important is simple, at the end it is expected, if not self-consciously that the work you do should be an expression of individuality, so why not in education?

4. Architecture and design are very dynamic in nature, how can design education be stagnant? And we have the same courses, under the same syllabus for years together.

5. Innovation is the heart of architecture, where is the innovation in education? Though I like the sound of Introduction to the architecture or theory of design or building science, but I wouldn’t mind meaningful yet crazy things such as LEGO 101 or interlocking building blocks 201 or advanced study in energy efficiency.

6. Coming back to liberty, once we get into discussing the core courses of architecture, where is the liberty to design? After crossing the threshold of functionality, design is very much subjective. Educators need to understand this in theory and practice.

7. The growing gap between education and the profession is a matter of great concern. Though many educators are professionals themselves yet the gap only widens. I interned with 4 other people from different colleges in the same offices, within weeks all 5 came to the conclusion that “college mein kuch nahi sikhaya”. This clearly indicates that this isn’t the story of just one college or one student.

8. An immediate remedy, till the time more pondering is done, is to create a course on construction practice, which is just one day of site visit each week for the entire duration of 5 years. And it is very important that this course must not be linked to other courses. Yea, a seemingly logical step would be to learn about RCC slabs in the studio and then go see it on the site. This is another traditional approach which has not yielded the results. It would be better that you go and observe things at the site and wait for the studio in which the details would be taught. The element of curiosity is very important. There is no learning without curiosity.

9. As Charles Correa says, architecture is not created in a vacuum. Buildings are made of materials, understanding of materials is important. The theoretical construction material subject isn’t helping much. Understanding of material doesn’t come from the numbers that tell the strength, elasticity and other properties, it comes from understanding the creation of the material, the designing of materials. Education needs to cater to these two aspects of understanding building materials.

It is time that we shake the foundations of architectural education and bring the innovation back to education.

PS: I have not included the already expected answers to these questions such as giving more importance to internships, organizing more guest lectures by professionals and other things. I have tried to avoid talking about the teacher as an individual here, I can go on to lengths talking about it but, it is difficult to replace teachers in the system than changing the system.