My Ten Top Moments of 2017

Life is about living. A small part of it is of course work, as we strive to enjoy the rest of it through the rewards it brings.  The sweet balance of life and work is yet to be achieved, but here’s looking back at ten moments which highlighted 2017, cherished with the slow pace that choices and Calcutta has brought.

1) TAUGHT DESIGN

2017_09

The work part, “You Can Sketch” is alive and kicking. While there are hiccups brought by after effects of demonetization, GST and other government induced disenablers; some moments were very special. In the beginning of the year itself, I was contacted by a young girl for advise on NIFT preparation. Yes, she did finally get through NIFT. Yes, she finally got subject she wanted.

2) DESIGNED A CREATIVITY TEST

2017_062017_06b

A biggest issue I face is the selection of students for my workshops. Many people who want to learn drawing for the first time are unsure where to start. To overcome this, I designed a tool to check the level and aptitude of various participants.

3) MENTORED ON COURSERA

It had been a while since I mentored last on Coursera, being one of the earliest teams of community teaching assistants on this very innovative concept. So, when I was invited to mentor on “Planet Earth & You” course offered by University of Illinois, I took the opportunity to participate in the new offering.

4) MANAGED AN EVENT

IMG_20170414_140340919 (2)

If managing a group of 200 odd people is challenging, managing an all women group of 200 is even more so. Everything has to be perfect. While I was merely a treasurer of this all women support group, I soon found myself to be the quiz master, photographer and documenter for this monthly meet group. Poila Boisakh, is the New Year celebrated in Bengal, and was our theme reflecting in the backdrop, quiz questions, décor and also the dress code. I think I learned just enough to write a longish article on it by now!

5) HONED MY WRITING SKILLS

2017_07

Jeffry Archer was promoting his new book and T2, the local supplement of the English newspaper, The Telegraph, held a contest. The challenge was to write a story with a beginning, middle & end, in exactly 100 words. Not a word less. Not a word more. Out of 190 entries received, mine was one of the few chosen by their page editor to be featured on their page.

6) APPRECIATED ART

2017_05

Art & Calcutta go hand in hand. On one occasion of visiting an art gallery, hoping to pick up some of the famed art, I found myself the subject instead. I found myself observing a painting, on the front page of the daily, instead.

7) RODE A HORSE

How difficult can it be reaching the race course at 5:15 every morning in early spring? Not very. The air is fresh, it’s peaceful and add to that a like minded riding group and you are all set. The breeches were bought, so were the strong leather shoes and a stiff round riding cap. The trotting was not painful and a horse with a very human name, “ Mr Vijay Kumar” was allocated to me. It was a fine majestic horse with a shiny dark brown body and a tall countenance. After a week of getting accustomed to the horse, I decided to call it quits. The reason? The pain. Not to me, but to the horse? Each horse is held with a harness attached on their mouth, all the way to their teeth and to make the horse “obey” you need to pull the muzzle tight or loose as required. I don’t know whether the poor creature felt the pain, but I felt it every time I wanted to make it “obey” me. One day my instructor told me to whip the poor thing. I decided that it was the last day for me.

8) STAR GAZED

The year’s hyped astronomical event was the total solar eclipse seen after a gap of a century in America. In Calcutta we had an episode of a partial lunar eclipse.  I waited till 1 am to see the complete phenomena and tried to record it.

Then another star caught my eye one evening. Dusk had just descended on the quiet hazy evening. It blinked red, then green and appeared to give out flashes of light. Sirius is its name, the brightest star in our constellation. While my hand did shake to capture on manual mode, the colors it gives out are ethereal and almost unreal as if belonging to another dimension.

 9) THE EYE OF A ROYAL BENGAL TIGER

2017_01

The Royal Bengal tiger looked directly towards me. He was half hidden behind the leaves camouflaging his stripes. They are known to be man eaters. But I saw him from the safety of a partition wall, in the zoo. Alipore Zoo was built in the late 1800’s. He also shares the zoo with a white tiger. A lion and a leopard are the new occupants. Can sometimes hear them roaring at night. (I stay close to the zoo.)

10) TRIED DIFFERENT CUISINES   

 

Whether it is the bakers, the Mughlai cuisine or the seafood, in abundance you find it all in Calcutta. If I wasn’t online much of the time this year, I was probably eating some Biryani, the Victoria Vada or savouring an English Tea with thin sandwiches.

Looking forward to more feasts on the last year of the Calcutta exploration!

Advertisements

Lady In The Deluge

IMG_20170901_131517

LADY IN THE DELUGE. (Mixed Media: Pen & Pastels)

There is something about Calcutta which brings out the need for creative expression. The rain clouds over the sky for over fours months a year. Many times it rains when the sun is shining. Dull, dreary, this perhaps explains the slow pace of everything including traffic. The last week across the globe has been about floods. Everywhere. Typhoon. Tornado. Bursts of rain in Mumbai yet again, and of-course in Calcutta too.

Who is the “Lady In The Deluge”?

She seems to be an urban lady, dressed for a party. Wearing a cold shoulder dress, tattered at one sleeve. Her oversized umbrella doesn’t help in this rain and a stream of water finds its way down her arm. She makes a futile effort to save her smartphone from the rain, bu doubt if it would be of much use. Same with her garments outlining her silhouette. Doesn’t help. The sound of her shoes clicking on the gravel gets muted. She is perhaps trying to find the way to her car.

Is that her car? The one that is submerged? What are those pieces of paper stuck under the wheel?

In the background a couple of friendly colleagues document their adventure.

An empty soda bottle bobs along silently, trying to find its purpose.

END

How Colour Branding is working in Politics

Elections in India have become a huge gala of sound, noise and drama. Add the songs, events, digital marketing and you get a full 360 marketing campaign.

Today’s public held swearing-in ceremony at the state capital Kolkata, was fashionable.

The newly elected party had in huge doses, a political brand presence. It demonstrated people power, by the sheer number of human population surrounding the event and an association with a certain color scheme, liberally used in the decorations. For a State that boasts of as much  land territory and population as that of a small country ; a state language (Bengali) which has 211 million speakers in the world; a grand event did not seem unusual.

A creative like me with absolutely zero to borderline interest in the political scene, was surprised by the recent election campaigns used by various political parties. I grew up in the New Delhi area in the 80’s and 90’s, when every national event or visiting dignitary visit (there were plenty) had elaborate doses of tri-coloured flower & leaf arrangement or the “many-flowerpots-arrangement” of the horticulture department. While Marigold / Dahlias were usually denoting the Orange, the Leafy Palms represented the Green band in the national flag. I am forgetting what they did about the whites. Petunias, maybe.

In the national elections a couple of years back, while one party; (represented by the holy saffron hue bordering on fanta orange), tried to bring in the green and white in many places in its ad space, it was perhaps  primarily seeking to be identified with its lotus orange usp. Fanta, Vodaphone and other brands have successfully used the orange colour to show excitement and cheer in their logos.

The Bengal party, after branding the city with Blue and White (seemed to be borrowed from the sari of the Missionaries of Charity) and now adorning everything from lampposts, railings to the great event itself; exemplifies the success of its understanding of colour perception.

What remains unbranded perhaps is the rest of the contingent of the political nobles. Will it be a wonder if lack of symbolic colour translated to the lack in its personality? Or worse, the choice of a wrong colour could signal contrary emotions? Let’s wait and watch.

Baby steps to Branding a city

When these pictures were taken, the elections were in full swing in West Bengal, one of the eastern state of India. I gauge that the predominant Blue and white paint which is adorning each pavement, divider and most buildings, has been done in the recent past. And if you are traveling at night, be greeted by blue and white led lights twined around what would have been once, charming lampposts. Said to be reflective of the colors of the present ruling political party, it seems a bit overdone.

Other hilarious such instances which can be recalled in other states is a Shivaji statue sprouting up in all places and planned to be erected on an island in the Indian Ocean; another one decided to erect party symbol, Elephant sculptures, in her particular state.

Ironically however, the color choice is quite apt for the city. The colors are associative of the saris of Missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa who lived here many years. Blue and white are colors which are extremely soothing in the hot and humid weather. I recall standing in a fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan and looking below at the sea of houses painted in a hue of blue. The local boy informed me that “neel” a local coloring agent used for clothes is added to the white wash of outdoor structures and is said to keep the houses a few degrees cooler in this desert state.

So Yes. Blue and white is good, but in limited quantities. City populous and artist community opinions should be considered before widespread branding affecting the city space. Maybe some out of the other 20 million who inhabit this city could have good ideas on what their surroundings should be like.

 

Visual Merchandising “on the go”

canvas_one

The culture of India is diverse and we seem to thrive in the diversity. Every time you travel to a new state, city, town or even a lane; you would be thronged by a sellers with various wares. In some cases though, the quality could be questionable, but our ingenious sellers find ways to display, present and sell their wares.

Whether its a mobile shop “carried” from compartment to compartment of a local commuter train; or a pavement side display of something that would grab your attention, whether or not you require the products; your journey would be a moving canvas of color and variety.

Major audience? Women, naturally!

How we “Make in India”

Nothing Happens unless something Moves.

Albert Einstein.

Last autumn, I got the opportunity to take a “Makers” workshop for a bunch of management students. They considered it as “craft” exercise. The aspect of making was new to some of them.

We started with the material most familiar to them and many people across the world and that is Paper.

For the next Makers Workshop we introduced Plastic and this time the group was clearer with their understanding of how to use a material

The next trimester, we introduced a Hackathon competition and the brief was to use basic material such as ice cream sticks and rubber bands to create something that demonstrates the conversion of potential energy into movement.

mit_nasik_02

Our group of students was now prepared as they tackled this subject in a limited time within our “Makers Space”. The selected few from these got the chance to explore innovation in a multidisciplinary group at an MIT event at Nasik.

mit_nasik_01

Envisioning MiSiDiCi

Recently an acquaintance was nominated among st finalists from across the globe for his Innovative Idea at the Smart City Expo held recently. He informed us with delight on his return, that India had been given an honorary prize for the work done in the sphere of Smart Cities development.

“The World is taking notice even when back at home we have criticism!” was something what was discussed.

While it is a no brainer for any ordinary urban educated citizen of India  (guilty author) to create a list of cons and criticisms, what if the government had used the Design Thinking approach to simplify, clarify and expand its vision such as the one below?

Make in India:

Could it be envisioned as?

When you visit your regular shop/buying place, most things that you need, like and are useful are made in India.

Digital India:

Citizens are able to make informed decisions, work together, collaborate and share ideas through an unseen network which comes to them rather intuitively and without added cost with respect to their privacy. Responses during emergency situations and life and death moments are seamless and efficient.

Skill India:

Two kinds of skills will be developed simultaneously, the one that ensure jobs and more importantly the ones that create jobs, without added burden or costs of skill development.

Clean India:

When you walk out from your home to work in the morning, the streets are clean, the air is pure and fresh and no encroachments are hindering your path. You are healthy and feel good about your environment. You don’t feel hesitant to drink water from the community tap, because like everything around, that is also pure and clean.

One request: Needed a place where we (All stakeholder: Billion plus citizens) can share views and talk to each other, apart from the social net. Billion People= Billion plus ideas= Fast Track Improvement = Happy Country!