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In your light, I learn to love
In your beauty
How to write a poem
You dance inside my heart
Nobody sees you
But sometimes I do
And that moment becomes Art
– Rumi

In my three-decade life as an Architecture-Design professional, indeed I experienced, experimented and enjoyed art literally in hundreds of forms, and the journey continues with new impetuses every day.

The arts college I went to – Sir J. J. School of Arts in Mumbai (Bombay, India then) was a fine college for creative studies – perhaps the best in State. In its sprawling campus in the heart of Island City Bombay all disciplines of Fine arts shared space. Drawing/Painting, Photography, Print-Making, Pottery, Sculpture and Architecture departments housed in imposing British Era stone buildings, facing green commons on which the old Cassia trees shed lovely pink blossoms in April.  Air would be heating up in the onset of the tropical coastal summer, announcing the approach of semester finals …  Vivid memories!  

Outside the classrooms it would be our chance encounters with chunks of marble chiseled away at the hands of anonymous aspiring sculptors, or a portrait class sitting in semicircle around a model, or an exhibition of hand-rendered architectural drawings made with German Rotring pens and transparent Japanese Fuji colors. The novice I loved exploring the Fuji booklet that looked like an airline ticket then, with super thin tinted paper strips inside. The paper wouldn’t look it, but would softly give its hues to water on contact. Fuji colors were just magical with their freshness and mild glisten, and more than skill, it was an art to use them with a hang. Later I saw drawings of that quality only in Paris and New York, hand-made by World-famous architects like Andrea Palladio. A few of our professors were exceptionally good in drawing.  Way back before projectors and laser beamers, they sketched away Greek Orders, Friezes and Amalaka features on the basic chalkboards, not knowing that they would leave an imprint on our minds of their ease, proficiency and the ever-so-light hand. By all means, along with History of Architecture they were also leading us to see what art of illustration meant.  

In those years of understanding the infinity and abstractness of Design (of 3-D space) many of us would often blank out totally overwhelmed, and leave the studio for a breath of fresh air or a puff outdoors in a hope that the awe would diffuse and we would find our lost way in the design exercise. But I also remember how some geniuses of us students actually saw a creative idea dawning upon them and turned it into gold in the days to come. They would be so charged and possessed, working 24/7 in order to etch the darn beauty on the sheet of paper before it slipped… We all experienced the famous – artistic, if I may – divine discontent. Fascinating! Young creative souls, nurtured by the surroundings almost like there was no other way!  

Architecture school was great, but no picnic. We worked relentlessly revising and refining our plans and elevations once, twice, sometimes three times or more, to satisfactorily face the design juries and to compete with the class. In the end, it felt all worth it.  

Looking back in a more mature (wiser?) peek, I realize now that a lot of that teaching and learning was in fact happening at the intuitive, subliminal level. It was being taken in without a tangible awareness, simply through observation, informal exchange and reflection. The passing years seem to have filtered out some of the insignificant, leaving the rest to be imbibed more and deeper, with a grain of salt. And the reflecting continues.

‘ARCHITECTURE IS THE MOTHER OF ARTS’ – That was the initial lettering practice in architecture school. My subconscious drew upon the proclamation recently, after decades. Somewhere along my creative explorations the lines between arts diffused. I now see beautiful overlaps lending shades of a new amalgam to the artistic vision. Music, dance, painting, literature … They all share their auras and I feel that architecture inspires everything!

By definition, Art is something beautiful, appealing, out of the ordinary and spiritual in essence. Poet Rumi saw art as the moment of seeing God. The fact is that Arts is an extraordinary moment in creativity, and also a dangerous one in the sense that it is hard not to deliver once you conceive…!