Its 10 years today

Hi renouncers,

(a letter to 16 people, who shared half a year with me talking about a sustainable future)

Its 2016 and ten years since I taught you the course titled ‘Spending Habits’. The pitch for the course was done face to face. You, all 60 of you were assembled in that level 5 room in building 87 (which doesn’t exist anymore – image of whats stands there below), and I got up to speak about the course. Did I show something? I remember saying – you have to give something up. I was making things uncomfortable – so you said. I didn’t think so. I was educated in an older mode of design education – where I picked up ideas of personal transformation. I used to teach by asking for one act of personal transformation. In India, at the School of Planning and Architecture where I taught for 8 years after design school, I had some pretty radical students. Shaving for the class, or dressing up as a beggar and spending a day on the streets were how two students pushed the limits. The personal transformation exercises – lets call them challenges – got very toned down as I moved countries. These days I often don’t do them. There is this distance that has crept in.



So the “giving up” took off. You gave up iPods, mobiles, showers, sugar and meat products. Fiona did cosmetics (she says so in the video ). I then began to struggle with your obsessions – you all wanted to talk about these amazing feelings of empowerment. People you spoke to about your giving ups looked at you quizzically. I looked forward to coming into class to just absorb the energy and enthusiasm. Was I witnessing the birth of some radical activists.

This is how I wrote about the Giving-Up in the course handout.

Provocation: Say NO

You can say no, it needs personal strength, and step out of your conventional/ normal ways of doing things. In this exercise you have to give up many things. Your success will be in demonstrating an effective departure from dominant discourse and in showing a ‘renunciation’ of worldly possessions.

I used to be very fond of the provo/ The Provocation. To shake you, unsettle you, challenge you. To make you angry and irritated. I had by this time spent quite some time (ferocious time?) with Ben. I couldn’t locate his blog so I have this from the-corporation-game blog. The B in the post is Ben – and we are reading a response to something in Ben’s blog.

So tell me how will you respond to Ben’s impassioned prose.

By the time I begin to get restive and want to move on from the giving-up exercise its three weeks. Its usually 3 weeks by the time I start to know each of you, and also begin to feel your mistrust decrease. We are getting good with each other. You were on this journey of being renouncers.

Our two other tasks were then for you to barge into homes and chat to people about how they spent their money. Then to make a board game based upon Monopoly. All of this is captured in the Video (thanks Fiona/Kath).

Which then brings us to the promise. Yes we said we would catch up in 10 years. Its ten years today. I have written to most of you – fb, email. You have written back enthusiastically.

This then changed things for me. I have been skipping (yes) and smiling in a very silly fashion. Its a few days since I instigated and activated the ‘promise’ – and suddenly its all worth it. We have travelled these ten years – and have been sporadically giving up all sorts of things. I am looking forward to our catching up – with partners and children no doubt. Plus with Eva and Milou from Holland too (on skype).

So until then.




By Soumitri Varadarajan

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

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