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...