In individual conversations with our guests – each of them highly committed, experienced and renowned in their respective fields – we discuss the uncertainties as well as possibilities that the current pandemic has thrown up. We ask our mentors to share their perspectives on the three pivotal aspects of our lives: communication, learning and community.
Madhavi Desai is an architect, researcher, writer and a teacher. She was an adjunct faculty at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India (1986-2018). She has had Research Fellowships from ICSSR, Delhi, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, USA, Sarai, Delhi and the Getty Foundation, USA. She is a founder member of Women Architects Forum.
She specializes in teaching courses and workshops on gender and the built environment in the Indian context. She is a member of the nominating committee of the Berkeley-Rupp Professorship and Prize at the University of California at Berkeley, USA since 2012. She was also a visiting scholar in the department of gender and women’s studies at the University of California at Berkeley, USA in 2014.
She is the co-author of Architecture and Independence: The Search for Identity, India 1880 to 1980, Oxford University Press(1997), Architectural Heritage of Gujarat: Interpretation, Appreciation, Values,Gujarat Government (2012) and The Bungalow in Twentieth Century India: The Cultural Expression of Changing Ways of Life and Aspirations in the Domestic Architecture of Colonial and Post-colonial Society, Ashgate (2012). She the editor of Gender and the Built Environment in India, Zubaan(2007) and the author of Traditional Architecture:House Form of the Islamic Community of the Bohras in Gujarat, Council of Architecture (2007). Her recent bookisWomen Architects and Modernism in India: Narratives and Contemporary Practices, Routledge (2017). She is at present working on an edited book tentatively titled, Gender and the Indian City: Re-visioning Design and Planning to be published by South Asia Press. She has been invited to give lectures at several institutions in India, USA and Europe.
about the series
From material testing of ideas to embodied experiences and learning, to meaningful conversations and relationships, to finding and nurturing close-knit communities, these are the high-risk thrills that we chase.
The fear of the infectious disease, the scientific advice of maintaining socio-physical distance and the mis-orchestrated and mis-played lockdown have fallen on our adventurism like gigantic clouds of lead. Most, if not all, of what we know about learning and community now lies pinned down, wriggling, unable to move the way it used to. Fortunately though, we have our breath, bodies and loved ones to care for and tell us that we are alive and good.
While the evolutionary power of adaptability is firing away in all directions to find a conducive response to help us survive this threat, one of its inadvertent attempts is to rush to a sense of normalcy – doing things as we are used to doing them.
Although this may require extraordinary effort in framework, all three – the extraordinariness, the effort and the framework – are almost always considered insignificant; since even their acknowledgement is an admission of the prevalent threat and the fact that things are not normal. The prompt shift to digital platforms, be it schools, colleges, offices or businesses, is a case in point. Although the PR and marketing machineries’ cost saving on wine and tikka is understandable, the apparent opportunism in the incessant torrent of webinar announcements is unbearable. Yes it is good to keep going, but perhaps not so in unprecedented circumstances. Crises, whether presumed by an individual anxious mind, or perceived as clear and present by the collective intelligence, demands attention and care. Continuing to operate without pause, acknowledgement or conversation, betrays a society and mind that are in a state of perpetual crisis. As a popular post on social media states: “The virus didn’t break the system; it only exposed a broken system.“
Fortunately though, we have our breath, body & loved ones and we will walk home. Perhaps trying to prove that it is not humanity that is in crisis; instead, its economic model – our idea of “making a living“, the little worth that we place on life – that needs radical rethinking and complete reconstruction. Perhaps if we were to pause and breathe, we would see not only that the system has been broken for long, rather intentionally, but also that the system is supposed to serve us and not the other way around; that while we are worrying our days and sleep away in making a living, life already is… here and now… To keep them from being misplaced in rhetoric, we turn to our teachers. The opening series of Conversations at The Vessel is with our beloved teachers – mentors who have contributed to our emotional and spiritual upbringing, while bearing significant influence on our intellectual growth.