Today a very inspiring person came to NID and spoke to us. It was none other than Dashrath Patel, the amazing painter, designer, sculptor, thinker, and above all, just an amazing human being. Truly humble, genuine, and from the heart. We first saw a movie about him, about an exhibition of his works at NGMA, Delhi sometime in 1998. The body of work he has produced in his lifetime is amazing. The objects and works of art were so simple and functional. But more than the movie, it was seeing him in person and hearing him speak. He shared some experiences of his life.
There is no design today. Today design is stylization. It is no longer in the context, and does not deal with the needs of the people. In the sixties, design was born out of the needs of the people.
When he was young, they doing a project for India Post, the post offices, they had a problem, that when they went to villages, the people were not ready to speak to them. He spoke about how to become a part of the village. When they went to the villages, all the doors were closed. He and his friends sat down and started eating. An old woman came out of the house, and he asked her for water. She said no, because she was of the harijan (low) caste, and no one would drink water from them. He asked “Do you drink water?” and she replies yes she did. Then he said, if you can drink, then so can I. She still said no. Then he asked her, do you digest the water? She said yes. Then he said, so can I, so give me some water. So she got him a pot of water. It was in Kutch and the water tasted terrible, bitter, and they had to walk twenty miles to get their water. But while drinking it, he was sensitive enough not show his disgust, as that would have hurt her. They asked them if they could read and write, and he said yes, so they got their letters to him to read out to them. He realized that the old woman was a talented poet, who could write beautifully. And so the village slowly opened its doors to them.
When I was young I waited for hours on the streets of Mumbai to see a car besides a fiat or ambassasdor. Today I see only foreign cars; we have become a dumping ground for outdated western culture. The developed world is dumping its defunct designs on us, and we think we are becoming developed.
In America once upon a time it was a thing of pride, that every person had a car. If that happens in India there will be no place to park, let alone drive. It is so true that we are becoming a consumerist society. We have to look at peoples’ needs. Earlier design was done for peoples’ needs, now it seems to be done for people’s greed and money. Earlier, for example, you bought a watch for thousand rupees, and it told you the time. Today the watch is for twenty thousand rupees, and it still just tells you the time. This is so true. India is unfortunately blindly copying all the things of the West, and we equate globalization with progress. This is going to be a horrible mistake.
The developed world has reached a bottleneck, and there is no further to go. But in India today there is still a small chance that we can change that.
The bullock cart at NID is over two hundred years old and was brought to NID by Dashrath. It is unique in that the wheels don’t have an axle. They move inwards and outwards depending on the roughness of the road. Sometimes the job of a designer is not to design, not to try and be creative, or be ‘different’. Sometimes, some things are perfectly designed for their purpose like the bullock cart, and our job is to just uphold that example of design.
Knowledge is not to manage but to use and inspire. So why call the library ‘knowledge management centre’.
In his young days he went to study in Prague and also lived in France. He never learnt the French language, and used to communicate when he had to by scribbling, and making small visuals.
The beauty of our country is the small things that people do, the way the fruit seller arranges his fruit,
It was amazing to see the man who was one of the founders of NID. The body of knowledge he has, the experience, and the humility endear him to one and all. Looking forward to more interaction with him on Monday.