Letter to NID Yahoo Groups

Dear Amitesh,

(This is just that – a dear amitesh letter)

I was in NID in February and it was a shock to see how much had changed. I went through classic NRI blues – the place I came from is no more. NID is in the same place but I do not know what it is. But then I never did know what it was did I?

I was at NID briefly from 82-85. And those were AC days (Ashoke was right for NID in those days – and I still keep in touch with him, he has wonderful stories of the old days). And in the those days there was a constant red flag protest outside the gate. What was it about? I am not terribly sure. I was a bit out of it – the socialising with my peers took the life out of me. NID for many is their coming of age place and it is where they lost their virginity. Is it still the same? But then as I mentioned to a class in Israel in December 1999 ( that was the millennium Christmas that wasn’t – but that is another story) teaching them was a first time for me in one way: I had never taught a class so devoid of virgins. The students in Israel came into university after their military training.

I used to get a stipend when I was at NID, Rs. 600 per month. I paid a mess charge of around Rs. 125 a month. And ate bun butter jam at the Bakery on sundays. In those days we had no computers and we talked. Being in PD we looked over at VC and Textiles and wondered at their industriousness. Stafford Beer/ The whole earth catalog/ Fuller/ Omni was our companion and we listened to stories of the days gone by; of the exploits of Arun and Moon Moon Sen. Basically we never did very much. No I didn’t do a lot. Others did. And when I left NID I quickly lost my portfolio. Like a lot of my peers, that was over now lets get on with life. Many said ‘I will do anything but design’. Many said they wouldnt’ be caught doing ‘mindless repetitive projects’ – ‘redesign? we say no’ – ‘ad agencies? ugh!’. But that was my clique (Shal is at Focus Web and she is fiery), my group, and there were others at that time who though differently.

So what I have to say is to make the point that what I/we valued at NID has died . But not because of NID, but because of what you students have brought into NID. You grew up in a different India. And you are of the sort that will ask for Air Conditioning and facilities and comfort above all. You also pay very high fees. No we are different. You are RICH we were POOR. You want jobs- we (again some of us) spurned them. You love money, we loved people (sex, laughter and conversation). We wanted to be bad, you want skills.

I did my diploma project ( one army disposal shirt, dirty trousers, and torn sneakers) with Arun in Pune (Who lives in Melbourne too interestingly). Chu Chu, Milind and I stayed for a few months in Pushparaj in Koregaon Park in Pune. Pushparaj was a brothel – and the chap at the reception was full of crass shayari (‘chal rahi thi gaadi, udh rahi this dhool/ ek aurat ke belouj mein gulab ka phool’ – wah guru wah, kya bola re!!). Rs 300 a month we paid. In time Ketan and Abhay joined us. Life went on – we had udhar at all the local café’s and dhaba’s. Arun had a mac we called the pineapple – these were the pre mac days, I think it was the apple 1 or 2. It just sat there. We were pathetic in rendering (Arun had done the Spark for Kinetic just a while ago), and not all that hot at model making (though Chu Chu could go on for hours at a corner – which mayur called cornature) – not much skills really. But oh what passion – ponty, meola and Frank Herbert. Ah all that with vada pau and you have bliss.

But things are very different. I know because I have a girl/ current student from NID staying in my house these days. I hear about NID, and I listen- and I feel the horror of an old man, an expat and academic. I am irrelevant. NID shakes to a different music. But that I knew when I saw the new NID. So I have no words to offer – and can only smile when you Amitesh ask for us alumni to give our two bits. I can offer you words and a perspective – but cant give you a body for your picket lines. I don’t want to also – you are all a different species.

Delhi has hordes of new flyovers and a metro, NID has VR. Mumbai Airport is a mad house, NID has 5 or 8 times the number of students in 82. Every metro is teeming with shopping malls, NID has many canteens and eateries. India has 42 schools of Design (china has 240), and NID has many programs. The cities of India are abuzz, NID students want to work in cities. So what? Its not NID that’s changing – NO its just walking in step with India. And from the outside? It’s a madhouse, all of it. And this makes it the most exciting place on the planet. Not enough facilities? I saw different. As they say in southern Europe – give a design school facilities and kill the mind. Air conditioning in studios – why not? I don’t understand the fees you pay and I don’t understand your aspirations. But if you aspire to jobs in industry (which in my time was making a pact with the devil – and Neelam famously did a project with Maurya, and Suchi was heard to comment “ thus have the mighty fallen”) then you are welcome to your pejoratives. What? Speak up? CAD coolies, consultancy fodder, Alias Operator, Desk Jockey? Sorry? Nah I am irrelevant – I am unemployable, I have no skills, I shudder at doing product design/redesign. So the recent graduates who in the last few posts have talked about drop in quality – I challenge your statement. What is valued changes. And if an academic listens to Industry – I cant speak to them. Sorry, that’s my blind spot. For me the industry perspective is just an instrumental discourse. I don’t teach for my students to become fodder. Nope!

What I think is nice about what you are doing AS is the white light of your passion. In Korea and Japan talent scouts picked students off demonstrations and gave them jobs. You have a strength – don’t squander it on The Corporation.

Re does NID need to change? I have heard many great things about Koshy, as I have about AC, and Vinay. And I hope you hear great things about me. As for the rest – its not for me to comment.

Soumitri Varadarajan
Program Director – Industrial Design
RMIT University

Categorized as Learning

By Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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