Sunday, March 16, 2014

Across the Seven Seas and Despite the Fiercest Storms

Have you ever heard of Noah? Well, you've definitely heard of his ark. Basically, the weather forecast of his day said there was going to be a devastating flood, and this forecast was bound to come true because the weather reporter was Almighty God. So, Noah did the most sensible thing he could think of- he built a simple ark, put a male and female of every kind of animal he found on it, and let the arc sail in the flood instead of letting it wash over him. After the flood, the creatures in the ark were released and they went on to start a new world. Basically, every living creature you see exists because Noah built a boat.

Then there's the tragic love story of Sohni Mahiwal.  The heroine Sohni, unhappily married to a man whom she despises, swims every night across the river where her beloved Mehar herds buffaloes. One night her sister-in-law replaces the earthenware pot, which she uses to keep afloat in water, with a vessel of unbaked clay, which dissolves in water and she dies in the whirling waves of the river. She could have lived happily ever after if she only had a small boat.

And then there were the floods in Mumbai. So many people stranded, so many loved ones lost. At the time, I used to live in Delhi, so the floods were just something I read about in the papers. But three years later, when I moved to Mumbai, I realized I could easily have been one of those people who lost someone close to them or spent hours or maybe even days wondering if they were okay.

I could never let the apocalypse come in the way of me and someone I love. I could never let the replacement of an earthen pot (or a mean sister-in-law) decide who I should or shouldn't be with. And I would die if I had to lose someone to nature's fury. Fact is, if I love someone I'd sail across the seven seas and walk despite the fircest storms just to be with them. it's as simple as that. If you've ever had parents, children, siblings, boyfriends/ girlfriends or even friends that you've loved with all your heart, you'll understand what I'm saying.

Being an architecture student, I try to find the answer to everything through design. I wish there was some design that could keep relationships from falling apart, but unfortunately the only design that can do that is God's design. All we can ever do is try to protect our beloved people and if possible, do it as creatively as possible. See, everyone wants to provide for and protect the people they love, but only sometimes do we have the presence of mind and the creative faculties to know what to do. Ask a man whose precious wife is sinking in depression and therefore mentally going away to a place he cannot reach. Ask parents whose children are growing apart from and soon the inevitable will happen and the children just wont need the parents anymore. Ask someone who works abroad and only gets to see his family once a year. Ask these people and they'll all tell you that they wish things could be different, they wish they could have done something to modify the existing situations so all problems can be solved. But they just don't know what to do!

And it's when you're desparate that you should start getting creative.

I'm an educated girl. If everything goes according to plan, I'll have a stable life by the time I'm 30. But can I protect my family from terrorism and violence? No. I just don't know what to do. It's strange, but people not half as educated as us sometimes know how to protect their loved ones from enemies. Take for example the  the Korowai people of Papua New Guinea. They build tree houses 40 meters high to protect their children from people neighbouring headhunter tribes.

Treehouse built by Korowai people of Papua New Guinea

If they can do it, so can I. I'll design a house for my family where no harm can come upon them. I'm studying to become an architect, after all. I promise myself today that I will go the extra distance- instead of settling for a mundane house that looks like a cage but can be invaded by just about anyone, I'll design a house that's impervious to any dangerous element. And I'll do it just so no danger or enemy can ever take my family away from me.

Incidentally, growing up in flats and having to move from one metropolitan city to another has taught me something very important about distances between people. One you leave a place, home become just a memory and it's not a place anymore. And like all memories, home fades too. In today's lifestyle, we can never stay fixed in one place. So the idea is to make the memory of a place so strong that all members of a family will treasure that common memory in their hearts and ache to revisit it. Make your house a playground so all the children can construct memories in it. Remember when you fell down from that tree house? Remember when mummy papa used to teach us in the lawn? It's these 'Remember whens' that ultimately keep a family together, so make a house with infitie possiblities for 'Remember Whens'. Go that extra distance so you'll never be distant from your family in the future. Because distance comes not only in terms of kilometers but also in terms of mind-meters and heart-meters. Living in a adjacent flats in a fifteen-storied apartment block slows down the heart-meter and mind-meter, so take the same apartment block and pour some imagination into it so the 'Remember Whens' keep piling up.

Interestingly, I'm working on such a house at present. I have a site near Santoshpur Lake in Kolkata and I'm building a house which which will ensure memories. It doesn't matter if the occupants turn out to be a young married couple or a family of four or a retired couple in search of their last home. This house will incorporate the outdoors and indoors in such a way that it'll forever live in the memory of each occupant. Here's the bedroom:
A rough model showing interior of the bedroom. There's a garden within the child's bedroom. The phrase "Go play in your room", is now full of new possibilities. The small study area is also in the 'outdoors' part of the room, so that you can study in natural light in an semi-natural environment.
(It's still a work in progress. I'm also working on a cave-like prayer area, a completely open dining space and an island-ish drawing room. The whole house will be a play area for every child who grows up there)

So today I'll make another promise to myself- I will always create living spaces that will bring people together instead of caging them apart. This will probably cost me a lot of clients in the future, but I'm willing to go that far so I can get as close as possible to the one I love.

So that was all about architecture. At this point you might be wondering why I have such technical ways of solving such an emotional problem? Other people will probably say they will swim across the seven seas and climb every mountain, so why am I just proposing to build a structure to get close to someone? The answer is simple. See, the fact is you can never swim across seas or climb mountains unless you are Tenzing Norgay or something. Ultimately, it's innovation and technology that connects people. Think about Facebook and Skype. Now, that man I mentioned who lives abroad and only gets to see his family once a year can see them everyday via Skype! So maybe he didn't know what to do about his situation, but somoeone did, and that someone took an emotional problem of distance and came up with an innovative technological solution. Everyday, some effort is being made to connect people over thousands of miles. But thhe mind-meters and heart-meters? There's no solution for that yet, even though I know that ultimately this will bring larger distances between people that however many miles. So I'm just trying to stay close to my loved ones by reducing the mind-meters and heart-meters. The houses are just a beginning. As I grow in creativity and intelligence, I will keep going extra miles just to get closer to the people I love. And you know what the biggest promise I make to myself in this regard, the promise that will eventually make closeness possible? It's "I WILL NEVER SAY THAT I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO". It's the hardest promise to make, but if that's the one I have to make, so be it.

Lastly- since the designer in me has not yet stopped babbling- I'll create a house based of Archimedes principle so that if there ever is a flood or a storm, my house will stay afloat. I'll be a protector and a unifier just like Noah, I'll sail my house to my future boyfriend's house so I do't drown like Sohni and the Mumbai floods wouldn't be able to touch my loved ones.

If you are not an architect, designer, engineer or inventor, you probably don't have any idea of the work thatll go into executing my ideas and keeping my promises. But I don't care about the work. Just to be close to someone I love, I will swim across the seven seas and brave the fiercest storms, because as I've said before, I'm willing to go the extra mile.

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