A Brief Overview of Pecha Kucha Night #13 (part 2/3)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post giving a brief overview of Pecha Kucha #13, held last Thursday at the American Center. Like I said earlier, our speakers this time were incredibly inspiring, each in their own way, and their presentations were not only insightful but also warm and humorous. Most of all, each of the speakers spoke with great passion about their work and the experiences they have had.

Kanupriya talks about how the rainwater harvesting techniques develop by JBF have made life easier for the women

Kanupriya Harish, a project director at the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, spoke about her work with developing rainwater harvesting techniques in Rajasthan, in areas that are some of the most drought struck in the world. She began by highlighting the problem with very powerful imagery, showing the critical deficit of water in area as well as the difficulties that the people, especially the women, face on a daily basis, collecting and transporting what little water (however muddy) can be found. She talked about how the Jal Bhagirathi is working with these communities to develop forms of water harvesting that revive traditions, empower the community, and enable them to take control of these processes and water harvesting plants by themselves. It was very interesting to get such a visual representation of the kind of work being done towards rainwater harvesting in the Thar desert, especially since similar techniques may be globally applicable and advantageous in other water scarce areas of the world.

One of Kanupriya’s slides depicting the crisis of adequate water

Muhammad Khan talks about the inspiring architecture of the Parliament building

Muhammad Khan, who spoke next, was the most entertaining speaker of the lot and had the audience in splits throughout his presentation. He talked about a recent visit to the US, where he came across several monuments and architectural contributions made by the last several Presidents, which made him reflect on India’s own architectural legacies. While we can certainly boast of some brilliant and inspiring examples of architectural wonder in India and especially New Delhi, these are all monuments of the distant past, built by the Mughals (like Humayun’s Tomb) or the British (Lutyen’s Delhi, where the Parliament still meets). Muhammad maintained that most recent examples of state-sponsored architecture has followed the rather conservative, stark and uninspiring design of the Yojana Bhavan and the Krishi Bhavan and other such xerox-copy Bhavans where most government ministries are housed. But why should governments build monuments? Because we need more public spaces that inspire, ignite creativity and thought, and also help build greater confidence in our governments, says Muhammad.

An inside courtyard of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, with inspiring larger than life statues of some of our greatest leaders

Kunchok Dorjee explains how migration is one of the major contributors to the spread of TB

Following Muhammad, Kunchok Dorjee, a doctor currently working with the Tibetan community in Dharamsala, talked about his work with the community to prevent tuberculosis and promote better health practices. He highlighted the problems faced by Tibetan refugees in terms of scarcity of proper food and shelter, which in turn can make these migrant populations more vulnerable to diseases, especially tuberculosis, which spreads easily and virulently. Moreover, the disease itself has mutated and developed into a multi-drug resistant form, which makes it much more difficult to counter. Despite the severity and widespread nature of this problem, there are also substantial efforts being made to counter it, including advocacy and information sessions in various community settings including schools, free treatments in hospitals and with educating and enabling the community to take ownership of these efforts.

Kunchok conducting health camps at schools and monasteries in Dharamsala

Ratish Nanda talks about the garden restoration at Humayun’s Tomb

Ratish Nanda, the next speaker, focused on the Nizamuddin Basti renewal project of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. His presentation was a beautiful visual showcase of the new approach to restoration advocated by the Aga Khan Foundation, which focuses on the revival of ancient techniques, skills and crafts rather than the introduction of new and modern materials that actually only serve to degrade these buildings further. He talked about how the renovation of Humayun’s tomb required them to first remove several hundreds of tons of concrete from the monuments, which had been slapped on to the monument over the last few decades in a misguided effort to conserve the building. Following its removal, they then worked with the community to revive ancient techniques of lime-mortar, facade painting and tile work in order to restore the building back to its former beauty.

Painstaking Restoration of Plasterwork at Humayun’s Tomb

It was interesting and unplanned that Ratish’s presentation spoke to Muhammad’s in some ways, in terms of the importance of public spaces that inspire. While one spoke about constructing new spaces, the other advocated the revival of those already in existence, both of which seem necessary pursuits. In some ways Karma Wangchuk’s presentation also had some resonances with these, since he focused on the idea of maintaining and reviving tradition, culture and religion through even the new monuments being built in Bhutan.

This is the second in a series of three blogposts giving an account of the PechaKucha Night last Thursday at the American Center. Stay tuned for third and final post, to be published tomorrow!

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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