Five Lessons in Installation Art 101 with Puja Pandal Hopping!

A decade or so back when friends would say: “We are going to Calcutta for the Puja”, the Delhites would wonder what the brouhaha was all about. What was this connection between every Bengali and Durga Puja Pandal?

These temporary Hindu Temples come up for nine days in a year and block many roads all over the city causing traffic snarls and packed streets. One wonders, “What’s the rush about?” avoiding the affected streets. Life comes to a standstill specially in the last 2-3 days and even if you don’t step out, your newspaper stops coming, offices close early and the help turn up late or not at all.

The entire close to a million NRI bangla diaspora, seem to descend on Calcutta at this time, along with surrounding villages, taking the population a few notches more than 15 million at this time.

“You must visit the pandals at least once to see the art of Bengal” urged a young Bengali. I could visualize him pandal hopping on a two wheeler with his friends adding to the traffic and then jostling his way through the crowds in sweaty heat.

Amid the surrounding filth of last night’s disposable plates and soda cups, people waddled through to see a glimpse of the structures. Different thematic installations emerged. Some of the lessons are below from visiting a few:

  1. Recreations: Recreating a building of another city or a temple structure found elsewhere. Calcutta seems to be superb in this. The reverse engineering of temple design.
  2. Recycling: Used tires. Used medicine boxes. The Calcutta dump itself provides raw material for many structures.
  3. Sustainability: Straw, bamboo, & materials resembling straw and bamboo, for an earthen feel.
  4. Sparkle & Shine: Mosaics, Mirrors, Tin, Special effects lighting, colored lights.
  5. Pomp & Hype: World’s Largest… Biggest… Most expensive…. Gold sari of so many Kgs and Gold ornaments.

I recommend visiting these structures as a part of Indian Design education. The variety of themes, elements, material exploration and intricacy in detail is quite inspiring. The hygiene and man management are two issues which if tackled, could make Calcutta Pandal hopping superlative.




Your Design vs My Design

“Anyone can design” said the learned Professor, ” But not everyone can be good at it.”

Like Meryl Streep (sic), designers too are considered overrated for the work they do by many people.

The circles, squares, shapes and other random stuff which looks so simplistic is part of a finished composition, might appear “kiddish” to the average person viewing it.

They might get the “feel” and sense of completion but at back of many minds is perhaps the thought:

“Did I really pay so much for this? I could have done this myself. Wait a minute, my kid could have done that!”

And so we end up sometimes paying more for elaboration of ornament and lesser for minimalism.

Many people are drawn to well finished (intangible) product or design without really knowing what pulls them to it.

Designers too get caught in their own web and sometimes not know where to keep the pen down.

The matrix is not set. Beauty is not tangible.

I could have explained in detail, but I’d rather you go to a design school to learn.







That was a bad ending wasn’t it? That is what might happen when a non designer tries to design. A True designer, however, tries to finish the story.





Starting Point

“How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will.” Albert Einstein

After five years of blogging on “The Wanderer“, I have moved the some parts of the conversation to this blog, the inspiration still remains there.