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Time Travel

Our new travel column promises to unveil the world of art and architecture through the eye that wields a powerful lens, or maybe, it is the other way around, to give us an exclusive opportunity to view the world in full colour

Writing a travel column is like a bizarre time travel. All the imageries seem distant and the amnesiac brain struggles to remember, as fingers awkwardly dance on the keys. The past slowly starts to come back. I look back at my travels as a child, at what now feels like an epic
journey, going from Delhi to Rishi Valley School with my schoolmates on a 42-hour train journey in second class, reading Salinger with the world comfortingly whizzing by. It feels like a scene from an old Truffaut film – real, layered and in black and white. I remember being on a flight with my mother and sister, looking incredulously at the firefly of a city beneath, and wondering what if the world and gravity had a different plan for us.

Louis Kahn’s Yale Gallery, New Haven, USA

 Louis Kahn’s Yale Gallery, New Haven, USA

None of the thrill of travel has diminished over the years. As a designer and visual artist, my travels mean a lot more to me than mere nostalgia. Being amnesiac has many shortcomings, but not for me as a traveler. All the experiences have the allure of the first memorable journey,
though with an incredible sense of déjà vu. I hope that within this space I can share not just my bumbling journey through life, but one place at a time and the incredible experiences that came with it.

Eero Saarinen’s ‘Whale’, Yale University, New Haven, USA

Eero Saarinen’s ‘Whale’, Yale University, New Haven, USA

With writer for a mother and a painter for a father, my sister and I as
children were sponges for words and images, and the arts in general.
Music, theatre, dance, painting, literature, food and nature that inspires it all, morphed into one joyous experience. My veering into the arts was not a conscious decision. Over the years, I have developed an eye for details, my bane and my boon! When I am at an airport I am drawn to the web of metal and concrete holding together the building shell, or the details of the seating joinery; at temples the way the water spouts are seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the building; or on a road by the signage structure; observing details has now become instinct. In fact, I have picked up most from my travels, experiencing different cultures and developed a way of seeing that finds its way subliminally into my work. This subconscious assimilation has made me celebrate processes, the material and media while I have worked across the world, be it on an installation in London or a museum in Bhubaneswar.

Falling Waters, the Kaufmann Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright, Pennsylvania,
Falling Waters, the Kaufmann Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright, Pennsylvania, USA

If anyone had told me as a high school student that being in the arts will take you to places, way beyond your economic means and wildest dreams, its seduction would have been undeniable. However, over the last few years I have embarked on a smart little plan – to lecture at many of the places where I would have loved to study! I now live that student life vicariously for a few days every few months. For instance, I lectured at Yale University last month. Two fellow South Asians took it upon themselves to take me on an architectural walk around campus. I visited many of the iconic buildings I grew up reading about like Louis Kahn’s Yale Gallery and Eero Saarinen’s ‘Whale’ skating rink and public art, like the red mobile by Alexander Calder. The highlight of the tour was seeing The Kroon Hall, which sets a high benchmark for responsible design, and is Yale’s highest certified green building with a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating. It produces, on its curved roof, most of the electricity it needs. No surprise then that it is part of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. While the building does not stand out in the urban-scape of New Haven, but as you walk into the building, it is a complete visual treat. Large wooden beams in a sinewy fashion create the curvi-linear roof. The warm wooden interiors let in speckled light into the open study areas and lecture halls. It has the same restive and yet nuanced feel of a Japanese monastery or the pavilions in FatehpurSikri. All poetic architecture seems to play with light and form in an effortless way.

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