Friday, May 27, 2011


The uncomfortable serpent raised its head again.  

The question of an Indian-ness,  or an absence of it surely will raise itself time and time again as architects discourse or rubbish the work of contemporaries and past masters.  Some of us will lament it, and others will justify the absence as a direct consequence of  the hand-me-down “modernism” we were schooled in at the highest alters of architectural education in this country. 

A large part of the reason, I have come to believe, is political or more correctly rooted in the politics of the making  of the modern India.  Our own industrial revolution, green revolution and the great Nehruvian idea of Modern Indian Nation.

India has never had a modernism.  It never could :  thought, public opinion and judgement were schooled to us on deliberately substandard education system designed to keep colonies as colonies. Men are colonized in the mind.  And we are standing proof to that idea even today. That however is another debate, but it has consequence in the act of the making of a modern India. 

It has consequence in the fact, that great politics believed that by bringing “modernisn” to India, India would have no choice but to turn modern. Or so we all, as architects, believe it did. So we believe.  But what is this modernism? Where did it come from? Where does it go to? The Indian modernism and its edifice, that still stands many decades after its many siblings have either died or mutated into various new creatures still carries on. But it is an odd sort of modernism that has a vacuous space both before it and after, and no one quite seems to know how it was arrived at. Although there is not one architect who doesn’t  know what it is or more correctly what it looks like.  

And then there is the vernacular, systematically schooled out of our intellectual awareness (and reduced to a token of apologetic homage to the land we are born to) in schools across the country.  A whole way of thinking, making and imagining, and purposing is all but erased. The backward ideas of craft and hand held tools, and the imperfection of the artisan, seemed all too embarrassing for an “in- the-making industrial super-power”. A thing to be shunned, and disavowed in the posturing and political correctness of a new independent India.

And so too today, we must have our postmodernism  now, and what ever else it is they are doing in all those places we so wish we were but just are not.  We are not to be left behind. 

And often the uncomfortable serpent raises its head and asks the same question again.

I see us living a life with two laments, or two nostalgia.

The first nostalgia for an Indian-ness we had (a richness , a humanity and craft) and the second nostalgia for  Modernism  that  we never will.

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