Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shiva and the Great Mughal

I just finished reading a couple of books. One is the third in Alex Rutherford's Empire of the Moghul series called Ruler of the World and the other is the first in Amish's  Shiva Trilogy, The Immortals of Meluha. While Mughal Emperor Akbar dominated much of my imagination during the first half of last week, Amish's human-like Neelkanth has managed to find a place in my heart over the past few days. 

I took to Rutherford's series because, though heavily fictionalised, it has done much more to fill in the shades of the characters of Babur, Humayun and Akbar than many history books have been able to do. And I was drawn to The Immortals of Meluha simply because of its cover - a trishul and Shiva, with his massive dreadlocks and with his back turned towards the reader that proudly displays two battle-scars on his shoulders.  

The heroes in both the books are very different. One is mortal, the other's immortal. One is the first Mughal emperor to have been born in Hindustan. The other, a tribal chief from Tibet, is the one people of Hindustan had been waiting for for hundreds of years. One is impatient to take charge and conquer. The other makes for a reluctant leader. One keeps friends at bay, the other makes 'brothers' of friends. One marries to build alliances and expand his territories, the other changes the laws of the state to marry the woman he loves. 

I love stories that make heroes, historical or mythological, look real. Both Akbar and Shiva bleed, cry, laugh, get angry and are entirely fallible. Both stand up to society instead of trying to conform to its laws. They worry about their people and the legacy they will leave behind. And while they are both great warriors, they believe in resolving disputes through offers of peace, instead of war. No wonder they make for great stories!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

As an editor at NID...

 I finally managed to get the copies of the three books I edited at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad last year. Creativity in print journalism is often limited to a set of good headlines and great page layouts. As journalists, we observe life so closely, scrutinizing its various flaws, that we rarely get a chance to step back and appreciate the beauty of the processes that make life, life. I am extremely honoured by the opportunity the NID had given me to look at design from a different perspective — from the point of view of the process, and not the product; as a means and not the end.

The compilation of Young Designers 2011 was an endeavour to present the works of 222 budding designers from 17 different disciplines. The range of areas of design their projects have covered reflects the growing need for design interventions in diverse sectors of industry all over the world. Going through the sheer body of the work that the students have produced was a process of learning for me, as much as it had been for them when they had tried to express their ideas through words and form.

 That design could be an aesthetic, a form, a function, an experience or all of them put together, was something I was earlier not aware of. While editing Young Designers 2011, I learnt that design solutions could be presented in forms as varied as documentaries, films, products, processes and services. It just points out to how little, we, as lay people, know and understand of design. Seldom do we realise that design is everywhere. It is both an art and a science. It could be in philosophy as well as in practice. It could be a method and a solution. And it could be both a process of creation and destruction, as we see in Mother Nature, who is, by far, the best designer in the world. 

I am glad I took up this project, for though it was difficult (I ended up editing around 200-odd 350-word pieces over a period of one week), it gave me, an outsider and non-designer, an insight into the workings of India's premier design institution.

Young Designers 2011 PGDPD ISBN: 978-81-86199-73-2; Pages: 240
Young Designers 2011 GDPD ISBN: 978-81-86199-72-5; Pages: 100
Educators @ NID ISBN: 978-81-86199-74-9; Pages: 80

Price: Rs 700 for all three volumes
Available at NID