I was a young student of design studying at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi’s Accessory Design Department during 1997-2000. Although I had my school education in one of the good residential school in Pilani but NIFT was still a new concept. Coming from a small town Katihar in Bihar, I was still very lost in NIFT, in Delhi and in India outside the confines of my hostel and home. It was a world of abstraction, world which was beyond literal. In my place, the struggle to live everyday was a huge challenge thus there was no luxury of abstraction of thoughts. The day used to go in coordinating tasks at the level of surface that there was no time and inclination left to go beyond that. I was still fighting within myself to understand the entire thought process of design.
In this endeavor of mine, I had understood this much that seeing is one way of understanding. Understanding the reality well will also lead to abstraction was another thought. Thus, every weekend when there will not be scheduled time table for myself, I would gather some money (which was also difficult to come by) and go around the city in DTC buses. The journey will start with the day beginning at 9 am and would end with the fading of day light at 5pm. There are many memorable experiences from this journey out of which, one is very strange and something which left a lasting impression.
One day, I read in the newspaper about an exhibition at NGMA, New Delhi. I decided to go to NGMA. There was an overcast sky. I took my umbrella and left.
I got down at the other end of NGMA circle and had to walk quite a distance and it started raining. By the time I reached NGMA I was fairly damp due to rain. NGMA felt so silent, clean and sophisticated. The eyes of the ticket supervisor scanned me and my wet clothes, which without saying anything said a lot. I decided to get myself a little dry by sitting in front of an air conditioner. NGMA was just waking up. There were large microphones being taken inside. Mr. Dashrath patel was exhibiting his work. For me, it was just a name till then.
Since the place has just opened, there were hardly any visitors. Most of the people seemed like staff or organizers. I decided to go in. I remember seeing the ceramic pieces, paintings and photographs. There were large microphones placed. Within the gallery, there was this man, who was looking at each and every product and watching me keenly. After sometime, he asked me what is it that I am looking at or have I come to see something particular.
It was a difficult question. So I answered saying that I am design student and I read about Dashrath patel exhibition and I believe that he is a respected name in design so I have come to see his work.” What is it that I am looking for, I don’t know but I have decided to see things, places, performances, movies, art works and I believe that will lead to something. He took me around the gallery and talked about the objects which were there. He told me that it’s important to first look and then see. He also said that I should keep myself open to experiencing various art forms and be good at forming my own sense of design. And yes, he asked me the name of my faculty members and confirmed that I was visiting NGMA on my own and not on the behest of anyone else. I was left alone to look at pieces after a conversation which lasted 20 minutes. On the way out, I found many cameras facing the person with whom I was conversing and he was none other than legendary Dashrath Patel.
I learnt design during my design education, but I learn design everyday by pursuing my ability to look and see. I learnt not only through classroom, but classroom acted as the first level of thought which allowed widening my horizon and exploring many other thoughts. Seeing the places and soaking in the experience has been one way of doing it.
Image from http://cultaffair.com/dashrath-patel-jack-master/