Signed up for a JB membership, for yourstruly’s sanity and bank-balance seemed to depend on it. Post much wandering among the quasi-baroque of Hiranandani, one finds JB’s shelves lined with plastic-pouched paperbacks through a window that disappeared to take its condensation very seriously. It is packed with a surprisingly well-curated collection, playing to all ignored, weird corners of the gallery.

Got initiated into Bukowski with Ham on Rye, finished Looking Closer over two weekends in the main library, nibbled on Hello, I am Erik, Designing News, I Used to Be a Design Student, and Drawing Type. Tried reading Don Norman again, and failed to find myself a very good reason to go through the pain of rolling all the three shelves off for it time and again. The department library is disappointing and noisy; not how I like my Sulaimani.

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It is in another ceramic studio, nine hours from Paldi, that Mr.D’s message arrives, bringing with it the news of MP Ranjan’s untimely demise. The message is an austere single sentence; one could see Mr.D struggling to type it out.

MPR took us through DCC at NID when we were unformed, idealistic teenagers nibbling at this alien, amorphous thing called design, while his contagious passion for a people-centred design practice was almost palpable, like the hot, humid Amdavadi air in the summer. Three and a half years later, I would interview him for my graduation project, and he would talk me through the enormous volume of grainy, digitised photographs from his early days as a student of design, his toy-factory years, the beginnings of DCC, Katlamara and Jawaja projects; images of an Indian design identity being shaped as if in a slow-turning lathe. It is this hands-on-designer in MPR that surprisingly finds scant mention in most media. Among the photographs were moments from field trips across India, making one long for times of simpler, more meaningful things, times when building these things was of greater value than the pedestals they were put on. His insistence on this greater purpose of design as a profession continues to be relevant even after five decades of Charles Eames’ ‘cardboard-computer’ vision for indigenous design.

His spirit will continue to inspire generations of people to look at design as a powerful tool shaping societies and livelihoods.

Anupam Purty shot the portrait for Dekho. The image on the right is from MPR’s archive.

Notes: DCC is Design Concepts and Concerns, the course helmed by MPR at NID. The Eames’ cardboard reference is from An Eames Primer, Eames Demetrios. See page 227 here.

It is by accident the first bittersweet glass of Sulaimani finds someone new to a city.

The ten-past-midnight cafe has a boarded up half-counter and a furlong-long menu up front, yellow ketchup bottles allover tabletopia and a dog or two writhing scripts on the floor, taking well punctuated turns. It is the kind of place where you find a stray grain off someone’s chicken-fried-rice on your plate of very honest chicken, or aloo paranthas wrapped around more aloo, and keep not looking at it with such exhausting deliberation you end up ordering another premature dish and drown it in nimboo paani. Then one goes up to the half-counter to ‘askforyourmenu’ and lets the shopkeeper concoct an acceptable version of the lemony beverage. One finds out the ‘tea’ part is the kind of affair wrapped in paper-bags, and continues to hold on to the glass until it gets awkward.

Listening to three parts Sedaris in Bombay.

Updike: The link doesn’t work anymore. I’m keeping the dead link. Maybe I will put it in a small mason jar and keep looking at it until the linkiness wears off and only the letters remain. Then I will clean the mason jar and transfer my collection of used ballpoint nibs to it and then look at them instead. Because we don’t do illegal stuff. And stuff.

On H&F, TVSchneider on universitified design education and prettiness, among other things.

Readying for a slight shift in coordinates, been working on fewer client-projects (the thinning enquiries help, a lot) and reading more off pixels and ink. Finished Murakami’s Underground after a couple years of turning the first page, Llosa’s Aunt Julia, Masters’s Genius in My Basement, and Dave Eggers’s The Circle. A cache of translated shorts from Murakami here, the beautifully designed, very-well curated Hopes&Fears, and most recently, Jina Khayyer’s shorts. Haven’t been able to pick up a copy of Colourless Tsukuru yet, owing to some little greenish, orangish pieces of papyrus not being where they ought to.

Monsoons are here.

The portfolio website stands updated with some new work, and a moving 404 page.

Talking to school-teachers about low-fidelity, hands-on publication design for teaching aids tomorrow. Towards the end of last year, I’d illustrated cover artwork for SCERT textbooks and a few (fresh, still wet) copies just arrived. This looks like a year of education-related projects, and I am looking forward to some cost-conscious fun.