When the “STOP” line at traffic lights means anything from ‘Stop wherever you want’ to ‘Don’t stop’ …
‘In denial of those traditions (of urbanism), most construction and infrastructure investments are being used to expand a semi-urban landscape that offers neither the benefits of rural life nor those of urban form.”
Books are delightful aren’t they..!? And here is a sketch I had done a couple of weeks earlier that fits those lines perfectly!
Excerpt from Welcome to The Urban Revolution: How Cities Are Changing The World by Jeb Brugmann.
We looked at people, we looked at places. We looked at happy families going about their lives at all hours of the day and night. We tried to buy stuff to add some colour to our own lives. We looked at people in some more run down houses. We looked at a little girl sleeping on a little mat that would fit her only if she sleeps hugging her knees. A mat she’ll soon grow out of (but will she ever grow out of her life onto something better?). We saw handicapped men singing in a circle and begging their keep.
We walked past all this and felt sad. But more than that, we felt conscious of our own privilege in life. Privilege at being able to afford our lives and having the freedom to pick out our way ahead. We also felt a little conscious of the change we can bring to the rest, should we choose to.
We spoke of architecture. Heard of it being spoken as an art – a beautiful response to the natural beauty of a site located in a fairy land, paid for by clients. We looked at some achievements, some discussions on the way forward, some different approaches. We forgot the reality we had seen. Maybe we chose to forget it. Maybe it is easier to run around in circles in a little box than to confront the world out there.
We did all this and then we walked out, hailed a cab and headed out to enjoy a sumptuous lunch at a tastefully decorated, beautiful little cafe forgetting everything. We moved on.
Or did we?
This post is based on the author’s impressions following a visit to the city of Mumbai for the Indian Architect & Builder’s 361 degree conference on ‘Architecture & Identity’.
Art Chennai is a series of events happening in the past two weeks here in Chennai. And I visited the photography exhibition at Elliot’s beach that features 2 exhibitions.
Nothing more interesting than some beach air, sand in your shoes, orange lights against a blue sky and some photographs half-buried in the sand. The best part? The purely ‘democratic’ nature of the exhibits, that were consciously located on the beach to allow access to everyone, in true sense. The exhibits:
- ‘Role models & power relations’: Refreshing, inspiring photographs that beautifully captured tensions that the minority ( in this case, the women and the LGBT community) experience in accessing public spaces.
- ‘Vintage Vignettes’: A retrospective exhibition on Chennai. Interesting black & white photos as well as the recent images taken in the same location, juxtaposed against one another is plenty of food for thought!
Oh, and I also got to cat ch up on some ‘me’-time sketching the exhibits.
Should you care to visit, the exhibits are on till this Sunday!
This started out as as a post on my “Recurring neighbour” inspired by the Daily prompt on Good fences, but considering I spend more time commuting than actually dealing with my real neighbors next door, I chose to digress.
So! Neighbours in a bus!You get to see a lot of people commuting, just going about their day to day chores, rarely bothering you. And those are the kind of neighbours I like best. So much so that I tend to sketch them as often as I can. And somehow passively, it offers a chance to encounter untold stories, windows opening out into the life of other people (only to be shut completely when the bus reaches a stop) and plenty of time to reflect. So here is a look at some of my chance neighbours:
Its funny how you can visit a place many times and yet be blind to its ‘placeness’. It took me 4 visits to Madurai to simply ‘unblind’ myself.
But then again, my first three visits were a complete rush with a zillion places to visit in a short time. Guess organised tours and travelling in a group doesn’t let you take in stuff. Or maybe I was just simply being cranky around people on all those occasions. Either way, there is no denying it. Madurai was one amazing place to visit this time.
Why? For starters, I stayed in the city itself – a paltry kilometer from the Meenakshi Amman temple that serves as the city center (Hotel Supreme, if anyone wants to know. Not the greatest rooms you can find, but then again you don’t exactly travel to a city to be totally cozy in a hotel, do you?). But, they did have a rooftop restaurant from where I could happily click away on my cam, having ordered just acoffee.
Secondly, my trip did not have a timetable for things to see & do. Hence my time was my own. That means walking around the city, walking to the temple on multiple occasions, at different times of the day and just people-watching. The pedestrianized street around the temples helped. Kudos to the municipal administration for this!
Third, love & worship Google, for it helps orient yourself & interact with the city in ways that no tour guide can do. I mean, c’mon, if I’m lead by the reins around places, there is no way I would look beyond what I’m shown, would I? So this is why I know how to spell Thiruparankundram and that it located south west of Madurai. Wikipedia helped me know some historic/ religious facts about the temple there. What the internet did not mention were the interesting pedestrian-priority streets around the temple.
Lastly, have fellow travelers in tow who share your interest. And that means people who are extremely patient with you when you stop every other step to click a pic or sketch or just take it all in!
Lastly, when possible, know the local language! My tip? First learn how to say ‘I can’t speak (the language)’. Saying that first helps establish a baseline for communication. Then sign language, nodding the head, wringing hands and dramatic expressions come in handy in speaking to locals. I traveled around Mexico just saying “No habla espanol”. That was the most useful thing I learnt from perusing four hours of Pimsleur’s Spanish (Yes, as you might have guessed, I’m lousy with languages).
And don’t bother souvenir shopping. These days, only postcards are original to the place. Apart from the place itself.
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(Pencil, pen & pastels on paper)