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Imagine – A world full of compassion

I have been a proud vegetarian all my life. And not just a vegetarian, but a Gujarati Jain! I have never used leather products or even tasted honey as those industries harmed animals.  But I have always loved cheese, butter, paneer,dahi and chocolates. 

The roots of compassion were always there within me, but what was lacking was the knowledge and awareness about how cruel the dairy industry is. I knew that a vegan diet meant no dairy on top of a vegetarian diet but I had no idea why. I just assumed it was a fad or a diet for lactose intolerant people.

Suddenly, my colleague and best friend Ritwik(R), who was a hardcore Non-vegetarian Bengali, turned vegan! I was shocked and absolutely sure that this was not going to last very long! But to my surprise, this person who would have at least one non-vegetarian meal a day had turned vegan one fine day and he never looked back. It was from him that I realised veganism was not only a diet, it was a moral perspective. I slowly came to know about the horrors of the dairy industry.  I realised that cows, like humans, have to be pregnant to produce milk! And that they are raped and artificially inseminated so that we can have our daily dose of milk, cheese and butter. I was shocked and would experiment and bake vegan cakes for R on his birthday but not yet strong enough to give up my cheese and paneer.

Once we finished designing and  building NEXT school, Mulund ( I will write about that experience in my coming posts), R took a month off to try his hand at cooking. He had already been vegan for one and half years by then. Since he had not tasted dairy products for a long time, he had forgotten the taste of cheese and would call me over to give feedback. We did this to and fro for a month until we figured out the perfect cheese recipe. In the past few months, the only reason I turned a blind eye towards the atrocities of the dairy industry  was because I loved my cheese, butter, paneer and chocolate too much to consider giving up on them. But now that I knew that I could have guilt-free versions of all these things (which are also way healthier for me and way better for our environment) there was no reason to continue doing so. We were fascinated by food-science and slowly figured out ways to emulate cheese, cheese sauce, mayonnaise, butter, and even ice cream. This took a lot of time to get right as most recipes and guidelines online pertain to a Western palette. Once we got it just right, we started cooking dishes with these core ingredients. 

One of our first good batches of vegan cheese

I signed up for Veganuary 2018 – Veganuary is a pledge to stay vegan in January – and let me tell you, I had the most foodgasm-ic January of my whole life! Everyday we would experiment with a dish to add to the menu and we’d “test” it all by ourselves. It took us 3 days and 4 batches of brownies to get it right, but we persevered! I must be the first vegan to gain 5 kgs in the first month of turning vegan! 

And there’s been no looking back – I have been a vegan ever since.

Slowly we started calling our friends over to taste the food and give feedback. Their feedback gave us a lot of encouragement. It was my dream – retirement plan actually – to open a quaint cosy cafe – and now it was seeming more and more important to open one – because we knew lecturing wouldn’t make people turn vegan – only good food will! The reassurance that they won’t have to give up on those cheese, paneer, chocolate or even meat cravings will convince people and give them the will power to try and go vegan.

I am an odd Gujarati because I hate the idea of starting your own business. I really love my job as a designer. But this cafe was now no more a dream or retirement plan but a necessity for both of us. We had to prove to people that vegan food is just as delicious,  and it was much healthier for our bodies & much better for our environment. We decided to build a business model to figure out how much investment we will need. We told a broker to check out available shops in an exciting, up-and-coming retail development in Mulund. It also happened to be really close to our place of stay and work (a common theme in my life!). When the broker got back to us we realised that there were only 4 shops left to be leased out in the entire complex – 146 shops were already taken! This was when we knew we cannot just keep messing around in our kitchen any more – If we want to do it , we have to do it now!

We did not overthink it – or even do the regular amount of thinking for that matter! We chose the shop and paid the token amount as a deposit. I think it was around 4-5 days’ time between the broker getting back to us and us paying the token. Once we started thinking, and planning, and getting scared we had already paid the token for the space and now there was no going back, just moving ahead. Now, there were thousands of things to do – we had to form a company before we could sign our formal rent agreement, we had to open a bank account, apply for all the necessary licenses, start designing the space and start the work on site, hire and train the chefs, choose each and every tile, fabric, faucet,crockery and so much more. It took us 50 days in all after the first brick was laid to be able to invite customers to the restaurant. 

We played of all the following roles between the 2 of us –

  • Interior Design –  We designed the space & procured the materials ourselves. We wanted the cafe space to be very simple, modern and vibrant. We custom designed almost all the furniture in the dining area and we even custom designed the storage, work tables and some of the equipment in the kitchen. We worked directly with our steel fabricator on the kitchen equipment – this meant we could build at a higher spec and at a fraction of the cost of branded kitchen equipment vendors.
Imagine cafe, Mulund, Mumbai

You can check out the 360 view of the cafe here.

  • Project management and site execution-  We were there, everyday, coordinating the work at site. It was April/May in Mumbai and it was hot as hell, but it didn’t matter. We also placed all the orders for materials and managed the cash flow. It was made much easier with help from a good network of contractors and vendors from our day-job as architects.
Us on the first day at site
  • Raising investment – We pitched the idea to friends and family and raised enough money to make sure that we did not need a bank loan – this meant, long term, that the cafe was on very firm financial footing.
  • Graphic design and social media –  We worked on the branding with Keith – a long time friend and collaborator. 
  • Hiring & Training– This was the biggest unknown for the two of us and it proved to be the most difficult part to get right. The restaurant industry is filled with shitty employers which has led to a complete, systemic breakdown in trust between staff and management – this is for another longer post! It was hard work but we put together a very good team when we needed to start. 
  • Licensing – We had to get necessary licenses and permissions before we could start running the cafe from the health department, fire department, food safety authority etc. All this took a lot of research and follow up visits to the ward office. 
  • Recipe and menu design – We had created the recipes over the last 4 months – now it was time to be ruthless and edit it down to a menu that fit on a single page. We wanted to do a select few things but do it right.
These mozzarella cheese sticks are one of the first recipes we tried at home with our cheese and is now one of the best selling items at Imagine cafe.
Quiche – Another Imagine special inspired by its non-vegetarian version which R’s mom would make when he was a kid. Vegetables, unKeema and cheese baked in a buttery, flaky pastry crust.

Also for both of us it was very important that the menu was – Vegan and indulgent. All our core ingredients like cheese, mayonnaise, cheese sauce, butter are all made in-house. Our menu is loaded with cheesy stuff which is otherwise difficult to find in a vegan diet like burgers, pizzas, pastas, quiche, cheese sticks, cheesecake and even ice creams. You can check out our entire menu on our Zomato page. 

Loaded nachos – Gluten-free nachos topped with freshly made salsa, beans and our signature nacho cheese sauce
Freshly baked pizzas made with our special in house pizza base, tomato sauce and melterella cheese.
Hot dog – A chorizo-style Italian sausage served in a bun with caramelized onions, mustard & thousand island 
Unchicken Burger – Fried unChicken strips, masala onions, Sriracha mayo, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. A classic!

We bake and prepare all our desserts in the kitchen as well – there’s almost no outsourcing for even basic ingredients. 

Snickers का बड़ा भाई
Berry cheesecake ice-cream sundae – A scoop each of vanilla & strawberry ice cream served with a slice of blueberry cheesecake and topped with toasted almonds.
Classic Blueberry cheesecake

There is a popular vegan eatery in Berlin which has a big neon sign over the bar counter that reads: ‘no f**king salads’. Many vegan eateries conflate veganism with no gluten, no sugar and even no oil – this is very commendable and props to these places for trying to pioneer something new. But it’s not the kind of food we always crave. Sometimes we want that sloppy burger and we want to dip the fried cheese in some melted cheese.  Our menu has a lot of indulgent food. I think it’s important to know that you have these options and we believe the inclusion of these indulgent foods will help make the process of turning vegan and staying vegan a whole lot easier. 

Along with our dine in service we also sell our cheese, chocolate bars, cakes, pastries etc. To be frank – How often will you go out for dinners to a cafe especially if it is really far from where you stay? The bigger impact will be when our cheeses and butters reach peoples home so that they can use it in their everyday life as it makes people’s life easier and determination stronger to live a cruelty free life.

Imagine classic cheese
Just chocolate cake

Every week we do specials wherein we experiment with new vegan dishes so that even regulars get to have new dishes every time they come. We hold a lot of events and workshops at the cafe as well. 

Imagine chocolate bar – Loaded with toasted almonds & cashews
Topped with salted caramel

You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook for regular updates. 

Are you wondering about how my family reacted? Well my family was very supportive of my decision and did everything they could to help whereas R’s mom had started crying when she came to know that he’s turned vegan. It took them some more time but eventually they  got their heads around it and helped us by investing in the cafe as well. My parents were slightly skeptical about how I would manage both my day-job and the cafe but they got over that very quickly. My mom learned how to make vegan dahi so that she can pack a glass of chaas with my lunch everyday. She loves cooking and wholeheartedly experiments and cooks vegan meals for me. She veganises a lot of  Indian dishes like dal makhani, shrikhand, methi malai matar, strawberry basundi and even makes chocolate shakes and cold coffees for me. 

Starting Imagine has, for the first time in my life, made me feel like I am doing something for the greater good. The amount of happiness and satisfaction that we get with the knowledge that Imagine is helping people turn vegan or continue being vegan is incredible! This directly contributes to a world with less suffering and less environmental waste.  

If you want to know more about the benefit of turning vegan you can check out these movies,books and articles- 

To know more about benifits of turning vegan you can also check out these articlesVeganism is environmentalism, Veganism and health, Veganism – A compassionate way of life

and these documentaries –

Ethical – Dominion on Youtube, Okja on Netflix.

Environmental – Cowspiracy on Netflix

Health – What the health, Forks over knives, Game changers on Netflix

I will say goodbye for now hoping that you guys will at least check these movies and articles out with an open mind and take it from there. Also, do visit Imagine cafe whenever you get a chance!

Catching up on the last 5 years

Hi guys, 

So it’s been almost 5 years since my last post and a lot has happened in my life.

I am no longer an architecture college student. I have started working as an architect, built a few really cool projects, turned vegan, opened Imagine – Mumbai’s first vegan restaurant , found the love of my life and got married. 

It all sounds really glossy and nice but it wasn’t at all easy. I went through a lot of mentally stressful situations and had to make a few difficult decisions. Even though I don’t belong to a very orthodox family, at times  I had to fight against certain societal inhibitions and overcome them. And I am sure every person (especially every woman) in their 20’s is going to experience some version of this and I hope my blog will help them through their version of quarter life crisis.

I as a person have evolved a lot in the last 5 years. I have become much more aware of not only my issues but issues of others (people not as privileged as I am) as well. Through my experiences in life and using this blog as a medium I hope to talk about  the various issues in today’s society and my view on that.

This blog is no more going to be about just Thoughts and experiences of an absolutely common architecture student  but a lot more.

We preach, they practise.

I woke up today morning, planning to spend a lazy peaceful Sunday. Joining my family on the breakfast table, little did I know that the Sunday was not going to be that peaceful. My parents had the daily newspaper opened and were discussing the headlines which were about women harassment. They were discussing how walking on streets, using public transport, going to school or work, women and girls are subject to the threat of sexual harassment and violence. This reality of daily life limits their freedom to get an education, to work, or to simply enjoy their own neighbourhood’s. Not a very welcoming Sunday morning breakfast conversation, I thought. I decided to keep quite because I knew if I offered my disparate views it would directly affect my coming back home from anywhere time.

Hence, quietly sipping my coffee I wondered how putting restrictions on one’s girl child the solution? Definitely not when there are reports of women harassment in broad daylight. With surveys and understandings of what is happening around us, isn’t it time that the citizens join hands together to do something about the situation and not just sit at home discussing or waiting for the government to do something. Isn’t it high time people realize that government is just a governing body which cannot function efficiently without active citizen participation. So what can ‘we’ as the citizens do? Wait for the awareness to spread amongst men? Or wait for the day when every men starts respecting women? Or be a part of bringing about the change? But ‘HOW’ is the question?

Whilst I and many like me talk about the issue over social media, a group of students from Rachna Sansad’s Academy of Architecture took a step ahead and decided to get into action. Having taken part in an inter-national level competition in which the brief talked about designing gender sensitive public spaces these students took the competition to another level by creating an organization known as SUPERNARI, to not only create social awareness but also social participation towards understanding and thereby designing gender sensitive spaces. They at the macro-level put up a wish tree at a city level event called EQUAL STREETS in Bandra, in collaboration with an existing NGO called AKSHARA. This event helped them to understand the need of women and general public. Having known the needs of the women the next was to create awareness. For this, a group of college student’s along with volunteers from AKSHARA boarded an open bus in South Mumbai screaming out women safety slogans and holding up hoardings so as to stop gender inequality. Next, since they believed that awareness should be spread at the root level, they organized a poster making competition in the school ‘Our Lady Of Good Counsel’ in Sion on the theme of Women Safety.

Not stopping here, this bunch of students in reality painted the dead and dull Sion skywalk after taking the necessary permissions in an attempt to make it lively. It was a surprise to me when I heard about the enthusiasm of the onlookers and daily passer-by’s who happily participated in this event. This in turn helped in making the space energetic and vivacious. Also they exhibited the posters made by the students along the skywalk in an attempt to beautify it and spread awareness.

They adopted a three faceted approach which basically deals with solving problems at three levels namely: safety, comfort, and mindset. Their main aim was to encourage the use of public-public spaces by making them not only safe but also comfortable, via concept of place making and playscapes. Also, they aimed at introducing participatory planning to develop continuous and direct relationship between people and space and people and people and inculcate a self-development attitude so as to create a symbiotic relationship between the site and the people. Further, they believed that each city and in fact each neighbourhood is unique and requires a local response. Hence, they created a set of guidelines for designing public spaces in the future by establishing a gender norm for the same and proposing different types of value systems depending on the need of the area to aid building up of a healthy community and structuring up a hierarchy.

They demonstrated their objectives by redesigning on paper the area around Sion station which is a major transit hub and has a complex layer of all major typologies and a mix of various communities and proved as one of the suburbs where maximum crimes take place according to their survey.

I don’t know how big a change these small interventions by a bunch of college students has brought or how many minds have they changed but they without doubt have inspired me to be a part of the change in whatever small way I can. They have taught me that it’s important to start, to try without worrying much about the outcome. They have taught me to act and not just wait for someone else to try. Most important they have set an example which, if all citizens of our country start following, I am sure it won’t be long before we can tackle and find solutions for not only the issue of women safety but anything and everything else.

And so here I am feeling proud that it is my juniors who have taken this step. They have once again proved that ‘ACADEMITES ARE DYNAMITES.’ I have started with doing my bit by letting you all know that it is possible to BE THE CHANGE.

P.S. – For detailed information on their works check out their Facebook page SUPERNARI. Also if you want to take a step ahead and contribute to the change you can contact SUPERNARI to work in collaboration with AKSHARA- the NGO these students worked with and are still continuing to work with.

Is this really what we call development?

           As I stood at the window sipping my cup of chilled coffee looking at those devil machines digging deeper and deeper into the Mother Earth, I thought about everyone around me in my neighbourhood who were excited above the 54 floor township which is about to completely change the image and nature of my neighbourhood. Even I agree that it will change things but now the question is whether the changes will be for the good or bad?

            It’s not that I personally hate skyscrapers or glass buildings or have issues with them consuming high energy because I know that now with newer materials and technologies it is possible to design and build sustainable skyscrapers which help in catering to a high density. After reading about the pros and cons of skyscrapers I remember concluding that there is nothing inherently wrong with them.

            But the reason behind my unhappiness is that unless these skyscrapers are built already in a densely packed neighbourhood or where there is a huge unsuppressed demand, these buildings have the potential to drain life off the streets. There are numerous ways to structure a building envelope to house a significant number of people and a mix of uses without going up, up and further up. Also I am a person who has a strong opinion to have a healthy respect for scale. Imagine these 54 floor towers in a neighbourhood of buildings ranging from 4-12 floors at an average. Also what about the pressure on the infrastructure these skyscrapers create? Imagine the same 12m wide road after a sudden increase in the number of vehicles owing to these skyscraper townships. No doubt the building designs will cater to the problem of parking. And this problem is not only pertaining to my locality but exists throughout the country. I think it’s strictly essential to develop the necessary infrastructure first and then allow builders and developers to initiate projects of such scale and magnitude. Whenever builders market the project they only project things which happen within their walls but what about the streets, the parks, the other educational and health related amenities. What about the effect on quality of life with this sudden increase in density? What about the big picture?

            Do we really want the skyline of our city to be dotted with skyscrapers? Is that the only way to deal with the increasing housing demands? Shouldn’t we evaluate and reuse blocks of underused, unused and undervalued buildings as well as plots and populate those areas before shooting new skyscrapers? Should we ‘THE PEOPLE’ encourage these townships which are like closed neighbourhoods with privatized amenities or rather encourage social interaction through housing and use of common basic amenities beyond class boundaries?

            With too many questions and concerns but very few conclusions whirling in my mind I sat sipping my coffee looking at the machines doing their work and hoping that the people and the government realize the gravity of the situation before it’s too late.

The End…. or a new beginning!

THE END…. OR A NEW BEGINNING

As I sat cribbing over dinner about the college reopening from Monday, my mom surprised me with a question, “Dear, in the past 20 years of school and college reopening dates I have never seen you so upset and cribbing over it. You have always been excited about the start of a new academic year and always geared up yourself to overcome new challenges and to enlive new experiences. Her question sent me in a whirlpool of thoughts and revived hundreds of memories. I bought myself back to the present and replied, “Mom, I am not worried about the new beginning but I am worried about THE END. The end of my formal education.” It feels creepy to think that within no time I will graduate and step in a completely different world. Again, I don’t fear the new life, competitiveness, the responsibility, the challenge but I fear losing the amazing people I met in the past few years. These set of people do not only mean my friends (with whom I might still manage to stay in touch) but everyone right from my teachers, mentors, juniors to the non-teaching staff.”

After dinner as I sat watching our class movie and walked down the memory lane I remembered all the fun, the fights, the happy and the sad moments all of us had together. Right from arranging college tours to enjoying them, from being a part of the cultural events to working hard to make it a success. We never realized how these tours and events brought all of us close to each other. How those Secret Santa games played for fun built relationships. How dressing up as whacky characters and dancing to the tunes of the DJ till our legs ache built a treasure trove of memories. I wondered will we ever forget those amazing days spent in making fun of each other, helping each other when in need and those amazing NASA night outs and night ins!!!! 😛 How can we Academites forget the long nights at home spent working with our moms serving us endless cups of coffee (and as if that wasn’t enough helping me in my models!! P.S. all my trees in my models throughout architecture have been made by my Mom. Thank you Mom for all the help and support. ) At times, fighting with  teachers to get the submissions postponed and at times thanking them for doing the needful even before we thought about it. And there are no words to thank the non-teaching staff who were always there around helping us, smuggling T-scales and giving us keys to the classrooms to use them after college hours. Also the watchman uncle about which I wouldn’t mention online but has been extremely sweet and helpful.

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I owe this institution a lot. It has moulded me into what I am today. Hopefully one day I will be back here to give back something to this institution. So, keeping aside all my emotions and inhibitions I now get ready for my last academic year, cleaning my shelves with a flame of hope in my heart that this is not THE END…… BUT A NEW BEGINNING. 

My journey through four years of NASA

NASA! NASA! NASA! Everyone in my family, all my friends and most of the teachers are fed up of this word from the month of November to January. Family because I am never at home and social gatherings, friends because whenever there is a plan made I always have an excuse to not attend and teachers because they start getting continuous requests to grant submission and attendance concessions.

These are the three months of the year where my friends and family are my team mates and teachers are seniors who guide us throughout the journey. These are the days where we stretch our learning boundaries beyond our limits, working day and night, staying in college for weeks together willingly.

No doubt NASA helps us learn a lot of aspects related to architecture depending on the trophy one is working for, helps one make contacts, makes one meet new people belonging to different fields from architects, planners, historians, economists to government officials, helps one polish ones hand and software using skills etc. (The list can go on…) These are the things people generally join NASA for. But today, at the end of this journey when I look back I realize what NASA actually means to me and that its contribution to my life has been a lot beyond architecture.

(From this point the article becomes very personal, bear through it.)

I started my journey as a scared little first year, overwhelmed and awestruck by the stories I had heard about NASA and the folios I had seen. Till today I myself can’t imagine that this scared little girl who left LIK midway in her first year is done heading the GSEN trophy. I till date, repent for not making the right choice in my first year itself. This was the first lesson NASA taught me, ‘DO WHAT YOU LIKE, WHAT INTERESTS YOU AND NOT WHAT EVERYONE IS DOING.’

The second year NASA journey was a very special and long one with ANDC and GSEN back to back but one of the most memorable ones with uncountable hurdles which we all crossed together with an amazing spirit, never losing hope.  ANDC gifted me with a very special brother sister relationship. I never understood how working together day and night, sharing buttermilks and tiffin’s and covering up for each other made us love and respect each other so much.

Ahh!!  My second year GSEN.  The year of maximum troubles. Troubles of all kinds faced smoothly all thanks to my heading batch. Their co-ordination and management made everything happen correctly always. They entrusted me with a responsibility and it is this trust and responsibility which boosted my once lost SELF CONFIDENCE that I had made a right choice in joining architecture which I had lost somewhere in the span of those 2 years. AND THE MOST IMPORTANT, THEY TAUGHT ME HOW TO FACE PROBLEMS WITH A SMILE ON THE FACE.

In my third year we were one of the smallest GSEN teams in history. The women dominated team. The year where I actually learnt sharing the trophy responsibilities. A small family which in spite of a few squabbles here and there finished everything on time, all thanks to my heads. They taught me how to organize, manage and the most important where to draw a line, stop an activity and continue the next. It was the year when along with managing work I learnt managing people and their outbursts (which we all know are common during NASA.)  :p  A comparatively smooth year with an amazing site visit, chilly winter nights and loads of desert outings. And all this ended with the entire team going to the convention after a nice long shower!!!! (Though we still missed the train. I don’t actually repent that. Travelling in general dabba was an experience!)

Finally comes ‘THE YEAR.’ The year when we were known as ‘THE HEADING BATCH’ (The past tense is intentional.) Starting the journey with more thorns then roses, but attaining victory at every phase.

(P.S. – This is the most difficult part for me to write about.)

It’s been a year where I have lived with a cloud of responsibility always hovering over my head, inseparable, with me even in my dreams and nightmares. It’s been a year of a completely different experience of staying alone in a different place without other trophies and with mice as the only NON – NASA companion. The experience of not having the liberty to move out if one is irritated with the loud music or going and sitting in the niche when you want some time alone. I know it’s been worse for my juniors who had no place to hide from me!!! Always stuck with me on their head, shouting my lungs out!

But all these conditions literally made us live together as a FAMILY. Made us care for each other. We caught mice and freed them. Niche was replaced by walks along the five gardens, exploring a new neighbourhood, even getting lost at times and meeting amazing and the sweetest bunch of people ever.  Not to forget the awesome late night desert outings without worrying about the watchman’s shouting, every time at a different place and not to forget one of the best Christmas celebrations with an amazing Secret Santa and free dinner party!! Thanks to our amazing sponserer!! J J

This year NASA has given me two drastically different but amazing friends and the best juniors and co-head ever. Their smallest gesture of bowing down to me in RESPECT has become the happiest moment of my life. It’s been the best gift ever and no words can express how I felt at that moment. (Though I hate you all for making me cry in front of everyone.)

A journey which started smoothly ended with a happy ending with ‘THE LECORB’ back to where it belonged and to top the happiness of winning the unexpected and most awesome welcome in college.

These four years of NASA and especially GSEN has given me CONFIDENCE, RESPECT, SOME OF THE CLOSEST RELATIONSHIPS OF MY LIFE and above all AN IDENTITY. With the sound of ‘dhols’ and ‘academy naras’ still ringing in my ears and these 4 years flashing in front of my eyes, I will like to conclude by saying that NASA gives everyone a lot besides knowledge. This is my story and I am sure every NASAITE has their own special story.

DHARAVI – Sheltering people, nurturing dreams

         Mumbai- The city of Dreams, a city which never sleeps, is the financial capital of our country. There is no dearth of glamour, glaze and enthusiasm in this city. This city breathes life. It is “a place where everything is possible” especially the impossible. This city attracted numerous migrants from the 17th century from different cultures and continues to do so till today, with dreams they wish to build upon.

 

Dharavi by Sudhir Mishra is a story of one such very ambitious migrant RajKaran (Om Puri) whos been staying in Mumbai since 17 years in a slum called Dharavi located at what was then the city’s edge. It gives one an insight into the life in the Slums of Mumbai.

 

Rajkaran is a cab-driver living in a tidy, one-room Dharavi shack with his mother , his wife Kumud (Shabana Azmi), and their son. He yearns for success in business and a better life and hence is gathering funds to buy a small cloth-dying factory.  When one of his partners pulls out unexpectedly, Rajkaran reluctantly accepts a loan from the local underworld boss Tiravi, whose goons are suspected to be behind any number of neighborhood beatings and murders.  Now indebted to Tiravi, Rajkaran finds himself drawn into ever more shady dealings, to the despair of Kumud, whose brother dared to stand up to Tiravi’s tyrrany and was murdered for it.  Kumud finds solace in the peaceful company of her first husband Shankar, with whom she had parted ways years before, and who has returned to Dharavi helpless and partially paralyzed after suffering a stroke.  On the verge of losing his livelihood and alienating his family, Rajkaran grows ever more desperate and turns towards crime and petty stealing.

 

This movie paints a clear picture of not only the life of people in slums but also of our city Mumbai on its path of urbanization and globalization. During the movie one can see the present skyline of Mumbai in its making as the backdrop  of Dharavi which is now located at the centre of our city.

The movie shows us a glimpse of how vibrant the social life of people in the slums is. Though their life is like an open book, where no one can keep secrets from their neighbours, they enjoy their life by watching movies together at the chowk, dancing together in someone’s happiness and making the most out of their day to day work of drying papads and washing clothes by sharing the neighbourhood gossips. Though at a constant threat from the middlemen for their basic necessities the lead female makes sure that their ‘kholi’ is kept clean, organized and tries to give it a personal touch by adding a few potted plants and carpets.

Also this movie is an example of how the crime culture in Mumbai affected everyone right from the richest to the poorest inhabitants of the city.

 

Though the story of the movie is harrowing yet compelling, and though its focus is a depressing tale of defeat and loss, it somehow achieves a hopeful tone at the end. The movie shows that it is not easy to survive in this city but the only mantra which can help one do so is to never lose hope and continue to struggle towards achieving ones dreams.

download

 

(P.S. – Its my first attempt at writing a movie review. The reason behind writing this review is not to critic the movie and hence it doesn’t talk about the quality of acting of the characters but to learn something out of the picture the movie is tying to paint in front of our eyes. To relate and compare this scenario portrayed by the movie about Mumbai and specifically Dharavi 20 years ago to the present Mumbai and try and understand the reasons for this urban sprawl and the resulting conditions of the urban poor. Hope this movie gets you thinking because that is where it all starts!)

 

Yeah, I am an architecture student almost at the end of this journey to become an architect. You might have heard many horrendous stories about this architecture course. Working day and night, staying in college for weeks, going for juries looking like zombies, missing social outings and functions are some of the very common traits of architecture students. And all of this is absolutely true.

But all these events have taught me numerous things, given me innumerable good as well as bad experiences, taught me things beyond architecture and given me some beautiful stories and memories which are very close to my heart.

Today, I am going to share one such story with you. Architecture colleges are famous for matching up people who end up being life partners. Most of us by now, I am sure would have been proposed at least once by a guy or girl. But during this course I have been proposed by a guy to become his sister. Shocked? Even I was. Shocked, surprised and overwhelmed. I did not know how to react. It was beyond my imagination and expectations.

A year in architecture and I hardly knew that person existed in my class. Then at the start of my second year many of us refreshed and excited decided to take part in a competition. And here was that guy whom I barely knew, teamed up with me and made to work together. During these wonderful two months of staying in college and working, eating and sleeping together, covering up for one another I never realized how we came so close to each other.

Though I still do not know the actual reason which triggered this proposal, I am still amazed how sharing tiffin’s and buttermilks can make someone respect and love you so much.

It’s now been two years of tieing rakhis and accepting gifts and of this relationship with this very different person, with very different principles and very different ideologies whom otherwise I wouldn’t have talked to. And yeah, very emotional and moody too.

Today, when I look behind, I realize that this college and this course has given me a lot, that is beyond architecture, this being only one such memory out of all those and it plays an important role in making me what I am today.

AOA ROCKS!!

 BOL ACADEMY HALLA BOL!!

Past, Present and Future

In today’s world of our continuous race to find utopia, there has been a sudden realization amongst people that it is their own actions which has now lead them to grave environmental issues like global warming, pollution etc. This sudden realization has made people go back in time, and made them think where had they gone wrong? On thoroughly analyzing their doings people realized that in the hunger to make themselves a part of an utopian society, they forgot the earth, which is the sole reason they are alive. Instead of utilizing it, they exploited it. Instead of being sensitive towards it, they just kept fulfilling their under thought visions of utopia.  But what now? The damage has already started. Then some learned person reminded everyone of a proverb we have all learnt about in school, ‘its better late than never.’

Now there were people who reacted in different ways to this situation. There were few who in the greed to reach utopia, continued giving a deaf year to everyone. There were other few who in a try to save the degrading earth decided to go back from where they had started. 

But the main question is man, after progressing so much, after years of development how far can he go back? Is it possible? Is it feasible? Is it practical? And the main question, is it the solution?

Architecture is all about designing for the people with the help of the environment and not about overpowering environment.  But man doesn’t need to go back from where he started. Our traditions, our culture tell us how to harness the nature to the best in a particular context. Man must understand that, today, the context has changed. It’s no more possible to live in the present by blindly following the past. Our history must be identified as a progressive appropriation of rational foundations of knowledge. Historicity must be defined as the use of the past to help shape the present, but it does depend upon the respect for the past. * Every civilization has its own period of youth, maturity and old age and once it dies its necessary to continue ahead and not begin again from the start.  It’s necessary to not blindly criticize the new styles of architecture but to look into the commonsensical approach in architecture on the basis of traditional wisdom to achieve an outcome with relevance to the overall context, architectural sensitivity, availability of resources and technological advancements.

Hence, the idea is not to waste time replicating the past but to chart out the likely available futures on the basis of traditional and modern knowledge systems together, which will try to achieve the infinite existence of man on earth in harmony with the nature.

*The consequences of modernity – Anthony Giddens

TOURISM – An upcoming industry

Rapid advancements in technology, transport, science, communication and finance altered the way in which society viewed itself, and transformed it into an International Community. No civilized community produces all the things which it consumes which leads to an exchange within communities and nations. A nation deals with one or all the aspects of commerce namely, the production, manufacture and the distribution of the commodity, reaping a profit from their respective specialty. The nature of the commerce depends on the geographical nature of the nature. Some nations have few but abundant resources while others have availability of a variety of resources in a limited quantity. The economy of a nation solely depends on these resources.

Dubai is a very classic example of what I am trying to get at. Dubai’s economy was built on the back of the oil industry. Slowly, people realized that these resources are limited and being situated in a desert they had very few other commercial opportunities. Hence, the governments decided to diversify from a trade-based but oil-reliant economy to one that is service and tourism-oriented. They shifted their focus to building hotels and construction marvels. And the result is known by everyone.

On the other hand, Indian culture, being an amalgamation of traditions owning to its diverse geography, languages and religions, has accepted global influence.  The morphological structure of metropolitan Indian cities are a reflection of its multi-ethnic population base, the historic layering of its urban fabric, which lead to the merging of different cultures. This rich culture and history provides India with numerous destinations right from pilgrimage places, forts, palaces, tombs, architectural marvels to the breath taking natural scenic destinations like the Himalayas, 4000 km long coastline, deserts, coral reefs, islands, backwaters and metropolis like Mumbai and Delhi. But our country is yet not expanding the tourism industry to that extent. The resources of our country are spent in mimicking the trends in western countries. Instead, the resources should be spend in enhancing the already unique features of our country which will in turn automatically attract tourists.

Also it is very necessary to make people of our own country to realize the treasure of natural and man-made attractions they possess and make them respect it. For our country to progress it’s very important for the citizens of our country to change their attitude, to start seeing the originality and software of our country. To notice the meta – physical aspects and qualities the places in our country possess. The day when our citizens start seeing this hidden beauty and respecting what they have, will be the day when our country will turn from developing to DEVELOPED.