We don’t usually believe it, or rather, we are dismissive of
this simple fact – that so much of how we live and work is influenced by the
environment we live in.
Recently I moved to another part of town. And in three weeks
I see many changes. I do not need to turn on the lights till after sunset. I
don’t use more than a fan on most days. And, well I just feel rather happy and
excited to wake up on most days and get on the job. (Of course it helps that I
am an architect.) I don’t need to keep running off to a coffee shop to feel at
home and peace from the everyday chores of living and working in a mad city
called New Delhi.
When I look out I see lush green forest, rain washed and
fresh. No traffic noise, and I can keep the windows open at most times. Fresh
air, a light breeze, and that famed notion of a crowded city, with people
locked inside their concrete cubicles just fades away.
I walk to the local market in the evenings and the mornings
some times. And when the rains pour down, it’s nice to sit in the balcony. I
can imagine winter already, morning sunlight streaming into my east facing
bedroom, and fog.
When I sit at my desk, beside a floor to ceiling window that
can be collapsed to take in the balcony, I don’t think, “another day at work”,
its just another wonderful day, to play with paper, pens, drawings, colour,
working on projects where you try to bring some of that easy lightness to
And as I write I recall the office of the Architect, Ashish
Ganju ,on a farm called Eco Options in Aya Nagar - sunlit in winter, shaded in
summer, a beautiful illuminated and inspiring space. You could hear and see the rain, the winter
‘s cold dim fog and its wonderful sunshine. Not air-conditioned, but
comfortable at all times and not large by any standard yet sufficient. It used
to be a joy to ride the 18 km to work at that studio.
These thoughts are what brought me to write this. We have
come to live in a construct, where the sun, the rain and the wind are to be
shunned - kept out of doors, and barred from ever entering the places we live
and work in. Akin to some unwanted disturbance.
And that takes a toll: on energy to keep them out, on the planet and
system that we continually modify to enable that control and on ourselves. Our
bodies are intrinsically linked to the winder systems, (every holiday you take,
every trek, every trip to pristine “natural beauty” is ramification of that
fact). If nothing else it is unhealthy.
Unhealthy for many reasons - removing and distancing oneself
from the ecological and physical construct that you participate in is one
reason. The other is the huge dependencies we come to internalize – on power,
on sterilsation, on preserving physical and mental health.
A large part of the ecological mess we continue to perpetuate
is fuelled by choices guided by these dependencies. We continue to reduce, and
diminish our capacity to assimilate and engage with the environments around us.
And this does two things-
1. It makes us irresponsible. You only have to step
outside your gate, to the street with its piled garbage, broken footpath, and
waterlogged roads to see the connection. We don’t care for what is outside our
2. We invariably want and thus possess (if the
means permit) more than we would actually need.
More and more we try to include or contain all that we need
or desire for living within the confines of our private worlds, each sealed
from the other and from the larger picture that we engage with less and less
over time. This is frightening, and if it were to operate at the scale of the 1
billion plus population we have it would be a sheer environmental disaster.
But that’s a much huger picture than I started off with.
Where I was headed out to was the simple idea that so much depends on how we
choose to engage or dis-engage with the environments we live in. The wind, the rain, sunlight – sustainability
isn’t about E-rated glass, and LEEDS ratings and GRIHA, or water harvesting, it
is about an attitude of how you live and where you live. Like all things, it
starts at what we all call home.
Labels: architecture, Delhi, dependancies, ecological, green, home, rain, sun, sustainable, wind