Community: In the Northern city of Amritsar, the beautiful Golden Temple of the Sikhs is to be found. The Temple is open to a constant stream of pilgrims, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sikhs from all over the world volunteer at the temple at least once in their lives, doing day-to-day tasks such as washing the mounds of dishes, cleaning, peeling onions or serving the pilgrims in the dining hall. A filling meal consisting of freshly baked rotis, dhal and chai is available at any time of the day and night. The sight of such a mass of people, gathered for the same purpose, peacefully eating and chatting together, made me understand what community should be.
Craft: These are the textile items I bought in India. The patterns were created using the ancient tradition of blockprinting, using intricately carved wooden blocks such as the one on the left. This craft is mainly centered in and around the city of Jaipur. I loved it that upmarket city chain stores such as Fabindia and Anokhi supported rural crafters, not only by buying hand-crafted merchandize from them, but also in helping them to set up and run small businesses. Fashion designers collaborate with the crafters to create items that would appeal to a modern market. The use of a Craftmark ensures true appreciation for and loyalty to local craft and crafters.
Calm: These 11 simple items are the worldly remains of Mahatma Gandhi. They are exhibited at the Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi, the residence where he was assassinated in 1948. This home is now a museum commemorating Gandhis life and final hours. The idea that the man who changed a country and the lives of so many people, could do this with such few material possessions, instilled in me a sense of calm. I realized that I don’t have to frenetically acquire things in order to live a worthy life.
This floral pattern is carved in relief on the marble dado level at the Taj Mahal in Agra, known as the most beautiful building in the world. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it in honour of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. About 20 000 workers laboured for 22 years to complete this exquisitely detailed garden tomb. The emperor kept on spending time and effort on the complex, so much so, that his son locked him up in a palace to stop him. This is where he died, in a room with a view on the Taj Mahal from across the river.
Compromise: I used auto-rickshaws (referred to as ‘autos’) to get to and from work every day. The autos cruise the streets, congregate at markets, and are equipped with meters. I was advised to be firm with the auto drivers; to insist on them using the meter and to drive safely in traffic. Therefore my first trips were accompanied by heated English/Hindi arguments which I always seemed to lose. To avoid insanity, I decided to compromise; to sit back and shut my eyes, and to not expect any form of consistency. I realized that every trip seemed to reflect the personality of the drive.
I recently exhibited a series of posters describing five important things I learnt in India. I fell in love with the typeface I used; Cochin. I especially love the italic version.