Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Giant Mirror

"Indian architecture …. giving me, the Hindu idea of the illusion of things"
V.S. Naipaul in, 'India – A Million Mutinies Now'.

The first thing a newly returned expatriate/student/business-person/general loafer recognizes when he/she returns to India after a period of time spent anywhere in the first world, is the ubiquitous 'General Indian Building'. This arguably precludes the various romantic allusions to: the smells, the heat, the languages and even the state of our roads, one commonly hears. What is that elusive quality that attaches itself to our buildings bringing about a sense of pain, temperance, fortitude and, most often, absurdity?

Civic architecture having evolved over many centuries of renewal in most regions of the world constantly returns to the concept of ‘aspiration’ as the guiding principle in the provision of a public facade to our shelters. When we hear anyone in an Indian city complain about such metaphysical aspects of life here as; the weather, politics, cricket or a presently held philosophy, we first place him/her within a physical reference; household, school, college (if any) and current job status – And what comes immediately to mind when this inference takes place? - a reference to a building, most often encountered somewhere or, as occurs sometimes, a structure from the collective imagination of mass media. This aspect of our lives lends itself to some suspension of disbelief, especially for those who live in gated communities or work in firms such as Infosys. These folks, unless they work exclusively from home or the office and take a time-bound precision-effect sleeping pill for the times they travel to the international airport, still encounter the General Indian Building – a decrepit, faded, almost hallucinatory vision of the disease of apathy.

It seems axiomatic that cities with ordered, maintained and tastefully rambunctious buildings serve to keep their occupants in a state of mind that is divorced from a pervasive sense of depression and hopelessness. With all our civic problems these days, isn’t it pressing that we inculcate a sense of responsibility that will serve to make the violation of the compulsory upkeep of old and new structures in our cities a source of communal shame? With the rapid spread of new housing colonies and rampant unplanned urbanization, shouldn’t there be a uniform code on basic design principles for any and all buildings? I, for one, am fed up of encountering the obscenity that is the 'General Indian Building' everywhere I go.

1 comment:

  1. I personally would rather look at buildings which blend in to their surroundings but then good design cannot be afforded by the mass janta... its a privilege.. "General Indian Building" will also have 28 (states) different versions of general :)