My feet are playing catchup with my senses,
Upar neeche, aage peeche
Sounds draw me in,
sights and smells, I drown in
Creasing my clothes
caressing my soul
Bombay to me is a cup of coffee,
I order it for the decadent sip
ignore the bitter after-taste
and wait for the caffeine jolt
It took three years
it also took infinite livelihoods, families and a community
to rest an inflated ego
the light no longer touches the air before a breath
it’s easy to see through the foundations of greed and ignorance
even multistoreys of indifference will crumble no matter how much you reinforce them
the tears of the inhabitants will rust away the steel
leaving bare sighs and exhalations
The velvet sky anoints another star
for every choked conscience
My nights are starry again
Hold me in place while I reach
into the crevices of my heart and
untangle the world around me
The dust motes float weightless
swaying with my every word
lit by the fire in the air
My whispers are now shrunken
by inhalations and exclamations
We are what we breathe
To sow is to set something in motion,
to scatter upon the earth for growth.
This season’s harvest has yielded a bounty
of mistrust and misplaced priorities.
ऊसर में बीज बोने से कुछ नहीं होता है
endless furrows are ploughed,
voices and dreams buried deep,
branching into an intricacy
transgressing decrees and demands;
this too, in the words of Anne Carson
is a miracle of mutual pressures.
in this battle of development and decay,
a seed is plenty to split a stone in two
anchored by the radicle root –
it’s power impervious to deracination
by the very crevice that welcomed it.
To know more about the ongoing dissent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so0qbBvaX2g
She lays wasted between retaining walls of concrete
diverted one too many times to retain her origins,
left to dry in the interstices of collective memory
owners of which dress her daily,
one new accessory of human consumption
she who broke free from ಅಗಸ್ತ್ಯ ಮುನಿ’s kamandala
ಕಾವೇರಿ is now trapped by human ಅಭ್ಯಾಸ, ಸ್ವಭಾವ
how does one discard disregard,
when she can’t anymore disregard discard?
how do you curtail the currents of consumerism?
she escapes the water cured walls
with help from the clairvoyant skies
ವಿಷಭಾವತಿ, a river no more
she’s transfigured into annals of human greed
flowing recklessly into homes that buried her
For more information: https://bngenvtrust.org/work/introduction-river-map/
Sources for maps: British Library online catalogue (survey map of 1800), google maps (1984 – present)
Architecture and the sub-conscious mind
‘Now if it were asked: “Do you have the thought before finding the expression?” what would one have to reply? And what, to the question: “What did the thought consist in, as it existed before its expression?”’ – Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher
I continue walking on till I reach the escalator. I shift the suitcase from one hand to the other, all the while listening to the constant buzz of the crowd around. I don’t look to see, I merely just glance to assess the number of people around the space. I step onto the escalator – These are actions that I’ve done before, in a mall, in an airport, in a hotel, the same activity in different spaces with the same elements. But what makes this one different is this – The ride doesn’t end. The escalator steps below me keep paving way for more and I’m on a loop. I don’t see an end and at this point, I don’t know how I even got here and now I look around to see and I don’t see the people anymore, it’s just me and the escalator and silence. Around me is a convoluted space, titbits from my past sights and experiences, it doesn’t seem foreign, quite familiar in fact and I look to see and understand over and over again, this sense of familiarity and – I wake up. Almost all of my dreams occur in places that don’t exist in real life, or at least don’t exist as I see them. The interesting thing is that, although my dreams themselves never repeat verbatim, many of the locations do and the loop manifests itself in different ways, spaces and people.
My mind is more open when my eyes are closed. I have realised this again and again over the past few years and I shall try to communicate the same through my words which I know will eventually fall through because each mind conceives this notion in different ways. That perhaps will strengthen the point I’m trying to make.
The design brief was given a week before and that entire day I had spent working on it, trying to understand the site and evolve a process for a design. The entire night, however, my mind spent unravelling all the work I’d done and left me with all that I associated with the site combined together such that there was a familiarity about it. It seems my mind can go beyond what I have seen and experienced and create an architecture entirely on its own with no memory to help with the design. All that I thought the design was, after a night’s sleep- wasn’t. That’s the effect the mind space has on you I suppose.
Not very different from the plot of Inception, is it? The architect in the movie conjures the most complex of labyrinths for the subconscious to fill with his projections, but the crux of her designs is that there is always a sense of intimacy, her designs have the ability to connect with the dreamer, making it comfortable for him to project his subconscious and inhabit that space.
The mind patches up the voids. This is precisely why the subconscious mind has been the source of major discoveries. We see things around us, we observe some more but the mind sees it all and stores it letting a few out now and again, just enough for us to either be inspired or realise something we’ve missed. Just enough to make us continuously learn more from our senses. Just enough and more for us to not just rely on what is tangible, but far beyond.
‘How does one think without language?’ A teacher once posed this question to the class and I was dumbfounded. I didn’t think it was possible. But you don’t need words to think of space or activity for that matter. The realm of our subconscious is the only place where we don’t need words to convey or understand things. Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory contends that the unconscious is structured like a language. The unconscious, Lacan argued, was not a more primitive or archetypal part of the mind separate from the conscious, linguistic ego, but rather, a formation every bit as complex and linguistically sophisticated as consciousness itself. For Lacan, modernity is the era when humans begin to grasp their essential dependence on language.
The mind does everything to stop the logical sequence of thought. As I walk through the hallways of my school, I recognize some aspects whereas some are alien to me. I move in the direction I know to be the exit and my subconscious mind alters it in such a way that I’m no longer moving to the exit instead to the entrance of my old school and the other doesn’t seem to be in sight anymore. Being in two places at once? Check.
The mind suppresses my every try to be in control and succeeds and at the end of it all, what occurs in my dream I assume to be my reality, even if it is just temporary. This is what every designer and architect dreams of – to supress the inherent human need to be in control and have a logical reason for everything.
Architecture is just as much about the irrational as it is about the rational because there are two parts to a human, the one that perceives and the one that conceives (both miraculously done by the same organ). Given any illogical scenario, we can find some familiarity in it because our mind contrives what we want.
Metaphor in architecture. Architects have lately been employing metaphors grounded in the physical world that we perceive to transform the generic ways of viewing a space by triggering the deepest pockets of our minds. Well aware that our brains are constantly making connections between the corporeal and the conceptual, buildings are designed to evoke emotions and memories.
The texture of the materials I’ve never touched and the sounds, sights and smells of places I’ve never been to, the people I’ve never seen before, find their way and inhabit the insides of my mind, making me a sum of my observations. My designs aren’t direct reflections of my dreams. They are either the start or the end of it and I have the power to bring together two worlds with a world of my own.
I am the master of my thoughts. I think I think I am, there for I am not.
References and further reading:
Spread even, your flesh against the gnarled roots
push against the carmine walls that caress you
you will learn to outgrow them
drape around the trunk until one can’t tell
where flesh stops and pulp begins
breathe in carbon, breathe out oxygen
remind yourself that you are a symbiont
move branches to give, but do not forget to take
take support to lift yourself up to the sun
and allow the sunlight to pervade,
penetrate the earth you’re growing out of
making visible the bodies that hold and nourish you
tame the blood coursing through your veins
move lightly, hear the whisper of the breeze
it will rustle your foliage, find stillness in its motion
breathe it in, breathe it out, breathe
and do not be afraid to ride the wind, for when you do
wilderness will grow out of the feet you left behind
We have an inherent tendency to label and scrutinize things, nothing can just be. From personality types to weird fetishes, we are forever cataloguing humanity. This activity of compartmentalizing, though divisive, allows different group sets to coexist. Psychologically too, we section our minds so that we don’t spiral into a whirlpool of dissonant thoughts and ideas. But what is to be said about the sectioning of societies and communities? They don’t align with the reasoning of propagating co-existence, in fact they do just the opposite.
What began as questioning this need to mentally delineate everything slowly transgressed into a micro level concern for the way we build and hence the way we live.
Reflecting our actions in the socio-political interface, are the layouts of our very homes. We obsequiously compartmentalize our spaces, overlook the importance of the commons and try to thrive in isolation, which I realize is a problem of the privileged. As a conscientious person of privilege, what does one do when excess space starts being a problem as opposed to a lack of it? How much space is too much space, and how much too little for coexistence? After all, how much space does a person really need? At the core of it we’re all social beings irrespective of our surroundings and as social beings, we group together, we talk and scream and create noise. Collectively, we are capable of a lot, but keeping quiet isn’t one of them, or so I thought.
Being in lockdown for months on end has left an unsettling din, that of silence. In the words of Murakami- ‘Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.’ The conversations have been scraped clean off dining tables and traded online, with rooms and partitions aiding this new form of social isolation.
It isn’t the house plan that is to blame as much as our need to appropriate it in this particular way that’s problematic. How do we facilitate intersections in our life so we aren’t distanced by walls and doors. To understand the progression of events that led us here, I mapped how conversations or the lack thereof rooted itself in my home.
How much space do we need, before we talk again?
It was what we’d always done before the pandemic. We commiserated ourselves with this illusion. We are so centered around our little objects – more so now with everything going online – be it screens, gadgets or books. We hardly spend time with each other without the interface of technology or a meal. It’s unbelievable the extent, that technology has pervaded our intimate spaces – physically and mentally – that we are willing to stand next to an end table for hours because that is where the only other working electrical socket is situated. It is the proverbial fourth wall in the performance of our lives, making us onlookers to things happening all around us. Technology, however is only one factor; but it does force us to question ourselves, ‘How strong were our relationships really, if we let words on screens blot out words from the mouth?’
There has to be something that draws us out of this isolation. The more we slice up our personal spaces, the more we lose touch with what makes us a society. In the built environment, the smallest change in the construct and structure of our habitats can influence a lot, more than we imagine. Walking across the house to talk to a sibling is a start.
We are outcomes of connections and intimacy, and that cannot be erased from collective memory.
It inches closer to my feet
as i find new places to hide,
where it couldn’t possibly reach me
it drips like honey,
slowly from my cream blinds
tasting reprieve from it’s container,
onto the sill and the floor
taking into itself everything in it’s path
know me well
hide and seek isn’t made easy with a rectangular floor plan
some prefer to be sought by the light in their own time
what use are large spaces,
if they can’t contain our desires and distresses?
Our hearts beat within the little space enclosed by our ribcage,
so why should we condition our bodies otherwise?
we are outcomes of intimacy
bred in nooks, crevices and curves
edges are a foreign concept,
even country boundaries follow the terrain
edges hurt, they are clean and perfect
and remind us of all that we aren’t.
Let’s talk now
before we lose our voices
and forget our tongues
let’s hold dear to our words and worlds
Let’s talk about the world
beaten down by politics
wrung and dried out
protectors turning perpetrators
perpetrators turning protectors
patrolling roads and patronizing rallies
Let’s talk about viruses and vultures
‘what are you more afraid of ?’
that’s an absurd choice set
‘well, we’re prey to both’
So let’s talk now
before we lose our voices
and forget our tongues
let’s hold dear to our words and worlds