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.