Monday, December 01, 2008

LeT there be darkness…

It all started in a bank I visited long time back, when I was a student. I had to get some papers signed by the bank officials, was moving from one desk to another, trying to finish off the work. The movement of my file suddenly stopped at one desk. After waiting for half an hour, I asked the officer what was the next step. He gave me a dirty look and said that the clerk on the next table has to sign and put the rubber stamp on the papers. Surprsingly, the clerk who is going to give the ‘finishing touches’ to my papers was sitting in his place. Then what are we waiting for?, I asked. The officer told me that the peon has gone to get tea for the office. The peon has to take my papers from one table to the other which was about three meters away! If the peon is on leave, then I have to go back the next day!

That seems to be the problem with our administrators.

We are waiting for the peon to come and take our files from table to table, even if we can stretch our hands and pass it on…

My heart bleeds for all those who lost their lives in the terror attack here in Mumbai.

They laid down their lives so that peace is restored and all of us can live in peace.

Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar, Gajendra Singh, Shashank Shinde, Patil and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan (are few names that come to my mind) had families waiting for them.

What is the scene from the family’s viewpoint? The dear one leaves home for work and then you get a message about “bad news” followed by condolence messages and a long line of politicians with flowers in their hands, hiding their blood stains.

And then there is darkness…

Many newspapers gave this interesting piece of news:

Intelligence agencies had informed at least a year ago that the Pakistan based jehadi outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) was planning to attack mumbai’s five-star hotels after coming to the city via the sea. (HT-Dec1st,2008).

Fishermens union says that they had informed the police a month back that there is a plan to smuggle RDX from Pakistan through Gujarat, enter Mumbai through the sea and carry out terror strikes.

CNN IBC shows a report they made in Feb 2006 about a “sting operation” they carried out- to smuggle a box of contraband through the sea, land in konkan coast and enter Mumbai.

They did.

They successfuly reached the gateway of India with the box.

Nobody checked the box. It was a peaceful journey. On the way, they visited several customs offices, talked to the officers, studied the “patrol” boats and shared the findings with the viewers. Customs officials at one place had three boats but one driver, who was on leave when the reporters reached there. One of the boats was not serviceable for more than a year. The report showed some staff members enjoying their sunday siesta in the boat.

"What will you do if we smuggle some weapons through this area?" - the journalists asked.

There was no answer.

Another report says that the NSG took 10 hours to reach Mumbai. The only plane they could find was in Chandigarh at that time. I wonder what they would have done if a minister was also trapped in one of the hotels. Can 200 NSG men travel in two smaller planes? Maybe they will, depending on the names of hostages.

There are more questions than answers to this jig saw puzzle…

What stops our administrators to realize the dangers of leaving our coastline with insufficient surveillance, when hundreds of news reports had pointed to our “special enemy” sending many consignments of weapons, explosives, training personnel and material, beautiful currency notes?

Is it rocket science?

My hypothesis is that the “unguarded coastline” was by design - not by accident or negligence.

There might be a lobby in action either to keep the coasts unguarded or to keep the modernization plans (if any) postponed indefinitely.

We need facts:

The need of the hour is to study all the official documents related to our country’s coastline, how much intelligence warnings the administrators got and how much understanding we have about the various terror groups and their competence.

We will start with the “porous” coast:

How much are the authorities aware of the grave danger posed by the porous coast?

How many terror attacks have taken place so far, where the enemy smuggled the raw materials through the sea?

How many administrators have pointed out the seriousness of the porous coastline and the need for revamping the coast guard?

How many home ministers have handled these issues and how did each one handle the situation?

Did anyone conduct a study on the preparedness of our security forces at the coastline?

Did anyone shoot down any proposals of modernization? When? How many times?

Do we have such a shortage of funds that we can’t afford modern equipments for our security forces?

Where is the bottleneck?

Do we need a home minister who will show some common sense in learning from our big big mistakes and take steps to create a better equipped coast guard?

To have better security in key locations?

To make sure that we don’t sit on intelligence warnings?

After almost every terror attack, we read this news: Intelligence agencies HAD warned the state administration.

Is there a pattern there? Do the administration take all warnings very lightly, by default?

Do they laugh it off?

How much do we spend on security to our ministers, their foreign trips and their facilities?

There is something wrong somewhere, maybe mistaken priorities?

After all what Partilsaab said was true: “Itna bada sheher mein…….”. (small incidents like this happen on big cities like this!!)

LeT there be darkness.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One for the Road

Bottoms up:

Malayala Manorama, 6th July, 2008.

A very interesting news item with a title “Hartalinu Ernakulam kudichuteerthathu 3 kodi”.

This roughly translates to “Ernakulam drank up 3 crores on Hartal day”.

Ernakulam district ‘celebrated’ a hartal day recently by consuming alcohol worth Rs 3 Crores! There was a 30 to 40% increase in the alcohol sales on the eve of the hartal day. Which means all “Bevadas” in Ernakulam decided to stock up their favourite brands to celebrate the hartal day!

Beverages Corporation, which has 46 outlets selling alcohol, recorded a rise of more than 50% increase in sales.

Another interesting development was the price of chicken. From Rs 50.00 per kilo, the price rose to Rs 62 for the hartal rush and all sellers enjoyed a two fold increase in sales volume. A few days before the hartal, the market was facing a shortage due to a truckers’ strike, but the hartal rush solved all the problems of the chicken market.!

So many people are happy! All wine shops, bar owners, chicken sellers and all alcoholics—hic!

Who “ordered” the Hartal? Why? What did they achieve from it?

Who takes responsibility for the consequences of the Hartal?

What happened to the court ruling banning all such Hartals in Kerala?

Who wants the answers?

Filled up with our favourite whiskey and belly stuffed with chicken, we are too drowsy to seek the answers…

One for the Road:

There was one more news item, tucked in a small box in a last page, with a small photograph of a 59 year old man.

“Hartal dinathil 10 kilometer cycle chavitti kuzhanjuveenu marichu”.

Which means “Died after cycling for 10 kilometers on Hartal day”.

Mr. M. A. Augustin (59) had to be present in a court on the Hartal day. Since all bus services were stopped, he was forced to cycle for 10 kilometers. He fainted after the 10 kilometer journey, in the court premises. Policemen in the court rushed him to the nearest hospital, but it was too late.

May his soul rest in peace.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Ani Tithech Mrutyu

Prof. R.K. Joshi at the IDC-ICOGRADA design event, Feb 2007.

Prof. R.K. Joshi at the IDC-ICOGRADA design event, Feb 2007.

Prof. R.K. Joshi at the IDC-ICOGRADA design event, Feb 2007.

Prof. R.K. Joshi during his Calligraphy Workshop at IDC. September, 2005.

Prof. R.K. Joshi during his Calligraphy Workshop at IDC. September, 2005.

Prof. R.K. Joshi during his Calligraphy Workshop at IDC. September, 2005.

A Calligraphic expression by Prof. R.K. Joshi.

Image courtesy: Biju Neyyan, Sr VC student, IDC.

Image courtesy: Anand Bhandarkar, VC 1990-92 batch.

My adaptation of Anand Bhandarkar's work.

Image courtesy: Rajeev Prakash, VC 1988-1990 batch, IDC.

Image courtesy: Mr. Pankaj Sapkal (1990-92 PD batch)

Feb 14th, 2008.
Prof. R.K. Joshi's last rites were performed at the Sion crematorium, Bombay.
RK, as we called him, left this world on Feb 4th when he had gone to San Fransico for a seminar.
RK was a Guru in every sense of the word.
A great calligrapher, typographer, poet, teacher, orator, researcher.....there are no words to describe his genius.
He was a great source of inspiration to a large number of professionals in various areas of Graphic design- Calligraphy, Font design, Advertising, and many more like literature, theatre, fine arts, software, digital media etc.

I find myself lucky to be taught by him in IDC.
It was in 1990 june, I had joined IDC, IIT B as a student of Visual Communication.
Prof. Joshi opened up a new world in front of me - a beautiful world of letterforms. He used to talk very passionatley about letterforms...
He saw letters in a very different light, very very different from anyone else.
There was life, energy, mythology, movement, sound, form, meaning and GOD in every letter form.
All of us used to wonder when he used to bring old copies of U&Lc magazine to the class and talk animatedly about various fonts.... oh! look at that lowercase r of rockwell.....a of charter.........G of ITC veljovic........that "O" of poster bodoni............. Shoulder of "r", bowl of "g", descender of "y", tail of "Q"..............

It went on and on.

He was the most "expressive" teacher I have ever seen. RK supplemented his arguments with animated actions, great vocal expressions and movements. Sometimes, we all burst into laughter when he acted out themes.
Once he was explaining visual balance in letterforms and he imitated the way humans balance their bodies while travelling in bus. It was so animated and funny, but all the students who attended that will never forget how to visually balance letterforms.

He loved to use the word 'type'. Most of his sentences ended with that phrase "of the type".
When I started learning Typography more seriously, my friends used to tease me and urge me to add this phrase whenever I talk! Students, naughty as they are, love to make fun of teachers and we were no different. We used this term "RK of the type" frequently.

And there were the mimics. Students love to make fun and imitate their profs, however friendly and helpful they are! We all loved to imitate our profs and I was always at the forefront of these sessions! We used to make wonderful stories about each Prof and imitate them and RK's obsession towards A4 size sheet and "proper format" and "documentation" provided good ingredients to the fun.

In third and fourth semester, he was my project guide. I had taken a magazine redesign project in my second semester and it was a great learning experience. There were three students in the batch guided by him, working on three different topics and we met him every week. He had asked all of us to be present for all the three discussions. Later, I realised it was a great idea to listen and learn from other students' projects too. He urged all of us to take part in each others' project discussions and encouraged us to give suggestions.
At the beginning of the design project on magazine design, I was discussing my grid with him. I had measured the page area, column width etc in millimeters and all type specs were in pica system. Prof. Joshi explained to me the importance of standardisation- If you measure in millimeters, then measure everything that way. Then I shifted all my calculations to the Pica system (12 points to the pica, 72 points to the inch...). Calculations became simpler from there on! Later, in the industry I came across many magazine design groups where pica systems were used systematically.

As we moved towards the end of the project, he made all of us prepare a hand written project report, in A4 landscape, following the same format as the final printed version. He will take that report and spend a few days with it, reading each and every line of that report. When he gave it back, he had carefully gone through all the pages, text and visual and had given important feedback. Every spelling and grammar mistake was marked out, visuals had comments marked out.

I learned the importance of using correct language there.

Sometimes, we used to have unplanned discussions, and the topics ranged form manuscripts to drop initials to font design and poetry.

And then, there was "Binyas".
RK along with other scientists had worked on softwares for Font creation.
First was "Palatino" and the second one was "Vinyas" at NSCT, Bombay.
( A Bengali friend had pronounced it as 'Binyas' and the name stuck! )
Normally, font creation softwares like Fontographer and font studio followed the principle of defining font characters by creating the outline through a Bezier curve.
Vinyas followed a different principle: it allows the designer to create a spine first and then assign different brushes to it. It was good for calligraphic expressions and was great for typographic experimentation. I created a Malayalam equal thickness font as my Project-3 in this "Binyas" software.
It was a strange experience, the software at that time didn't support a mouse!
Now, people find it difficult to believe that one can design a font without a mouse!

He was the Head of IDC at that time, burdened with the duty of signing hundreds of official documents! We used to disturb him a lot with our "key permission forms" and requests for change of toner and all kinds of mundane things. I really wondered why we had to disturb a person like him for such mundane things!

When I joined IDC as a faculty, RK came to IDC once, when I was taking my first session on Typography. I had modelled some of my assignments on what RK had given us in 1990. I met him, touched his feet and took his blessings on my journey as a teacher in Typography. I told him that I have given the same assignment he had given us. Later, I arranged a discussion of my students with RK in IDC library where he talked to them at length about what designers can do for the world.
That was the time when the term "I.T" was getting very popular.
RK, with his animated actions, said "Nowadays, every child in this world wakes up and says 'IT!'

Then he gave me the MOST important lesson of life.
He said "I dont have any claim to any of the work I have done. There is a power up there - it is taking my hand and doing something. I am just a tool."
That was in 2000.

In 2007 feb, in the ICOGRADA-IDC event at the IIT convocation hall, he gave the next important lesson.
He gave a talk on his typographic research and work. One of the most memorable lectures I have ever seen - He finished his memorable lecture with a mention of Indian philosophy which talks about destruction of one's creation. The next slide showed his signature, which slowly pixelated into a white background.
The captions read: "I left the place as if I was not here before...".

The standing ovation was deafening.

Let me pay my humble tributes to a great legend.
My tears.
My typographic experiments.
Whatever work I have done in graphic design.
-All dedicated to HIM.

A quote from RK

Ek Akshar Likhav ----------------------- Write one Letter

Ek Tap Thambava --------------------- Wait for one lifetime

Mag dusara Akshar ------------------- Then another letter form

Ani Tithech Mrutyu -------------------- And Then there is Death

(Courtesy: Mr. Arun Kalwankar, ET, IIT B)

Like Prof. Nadkarni mentioned in his speech at the condolence meeting at IDC, we can't wish that 'may his soul rest in peace'...because he can never be resting in that sense...he was one of the most active people ever...
I was thinking............can we come to terms with a new situation......about going to a temple and we suddenly realise that the temple is there with an empty throne......the idol is not there....

The silence is deafening...