Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why I Design!

I have wondered why it is that I like to design. I am not so sure, but I think a lot of it has to do with pencils. I was always fascinated by the way the pencil marks paper. How the tracing of its charcoal, or graphite lead would gradually make things appear on paper. Things, which I had otherwise no way of seeing. Things, which somehow would magically embody themselves from the space between the pencil tip and the white sheet below.

I remember even at an age of about five, very consciously drawing only on plain paper, not ruled sheets.

Of course my love for pencils, has everything to do with my father. Before I learnt to write, he taught me how to sharpen a pencil- with a barber’s blade. A meticulous process of care, skill and patience. The marking of a clear line, with the blade edge, while slowly rotating the hexagonal pencil with the left hand. And then the slow and minute shaving off of wood to reveal the core. He did not use sharpeners, or sand paper ( as some faculty would have you believe in art/ architecture school).

He taught me to appreciate a finely shaped point, carved perfectly, to leave, on the paper the lines I would grow immediately to love.

Once I had perfected the pencil, then I was shown how to write. It was always engaging, fascinating, and hugely absorbing, as I traced invisible ideas(?) and watched them appear as lines and shapes and forms on up-till then white sheets.

When I put pen or pencil to paper, there isn’t always a thought, or a reason. Many-a-time it is just to watch, what the meeting of the marker and the (yet to be) marked will yield. A pencil in my hand, floating over white paper, and then marking it, slowly bringing things to the world that were not there.

A slow, but always fascinating, discovery.

The shapes where not always perfect, that was not the point, the image was not always complete, and most often I left off once the initial vision had formed, and I could understand the new appearance. I would even get bored.

But the fascination never really left. Every now and again, I would find some new toy, a thicker pencil, a harder lead, an oil pastel, paint , and watch how it would reveal new magic as it black marked paper. How it marked the paper in its own special way. Different from he way some thing else would have marked it

Later the fasciation grew to include pens, with ink, and nibs. ( though never felt tips or ball-points). The obsession was still the same, the flow, the mark, the appearance of things, where there was none, the appearance of things that had never been.

The appearance of things at the tip of my fingers, from nowhere.

There were worlds there to be found, shapes, ideas, lines, worlds, all slowly flowing out, with the deftness of a hand. It was always spellbinding almost.

It still is. Every time I hold pencil or pen over paper, I do not always know what I am want to do, or draw. Some times the hand takes it own course, sometimes the pen lets its ink flow, the pencil moves to uncover things. It is still a tantalizing thing. The pencil and the plain sheet. 

And then, some times you want to know what it would be like to actually do that thing, make it, erect it, see it for real, build it. Make it stand, and look at it, and make others look at it. (Walk into it, look out of it, stand on top of it, look into it.)

And find joy, the same joy I found when it flowed out the tip of the pencil onto paper. Find that joy again. Paper wasn’t enough any more. It had to be out there, that would be pure happiness. The same happiness, as when it first appeared under the pencil tip on the sheet of paper.

I design to re-live that discovery one more time.

I (also) design because I just love pencils (and notebooks), I also design because it just makes me happy!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A revist in ways more than one!

I did not expect this to happen. No, not exactly, but it is happy coincidence. I am sitting in the shade, this an early November afternoon, on a bench overlooking the little pond that dominates the main square in Paragpur a village in Himachal Pradesh. The water is still, behind a low pale blue wall, and gives no impression at all of life until the first of the fairly huge fish chooses to make its occasional loud splash and disappear again.

Across from me on the other side is a 2 storied building, grey slate tiled roof, white painted upper floor, and earthy red painted ground floor, a neat little projecting marking the separation of the two colours. Red, white and grey – a set of rather formal and complimenting colours. What strikes me slowly is their universality.

At the first instance this isn’t so apparent. But think again, red and white and grey, the Buddhist monasteries of Tibet, of Ladhak and Dharamasala, of Bhutan. The temples of Nepal. The Dzongs of Bhutan, the peoples’ houses, The colonial British buildings of the Raj, the Indo-Sarascenic Style, the Scot- inspired architecture of Shimla and Nainital, red-white- grey, St. Joseph’s College Nainital 1890, Dolmaling Nunnery, Dharamsala 1990.

This is not why I started to write, I started to write, because as I sit on the bench, to my right is a Sulabh Sauchalay, ( yes, I am coming back to that old post out of alwar: see blog post for March 2011) It isn’t out of place, it doesn’t jar, frankly other than an identifiable signboard one can barely tell the toilet from the rest of the place. No eyesore, no jarring, you wouldn’t notice it until you needed it.

It is quiet, it effortlessly finds its way into the frame of an ancient and delicately balanced village. With no disruption or intrusion into the spatial or visual experience of the village chowk and pond.

I have been sitting here for roughly three hours. Yes, the toilet is exactly 20 feet from where I sit, and feels perfectly in place. So does the red white and grey building across the pond, so does the pale blue pond wall, and the fish.

There are now four men sitting on the thin edge between the pond and the building, playing cards. The picture and the place both seem complete, and and yet in that complete-ness they seem like the perfect frame.

There is a reflection of the men playing cards on the waters surface, and I watch it from where I sit. A while ago there was an incessant whirring of the numerous toilors’ sewing machines on the street that leads out left from here.

In a quiet square, a quiet toilet, tucked quietly behind a well kept building.

And then I am reminded of the toilet at Humayun’s Tomb and the dastardly thing at the Royal Palace of Alwar. 

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