Weâ€™re super stoked to announce that planning for the twelfth edition of Pecha Kucha Night in New Delhi has begun! Like last time, the event is being planned in collaboration with the American Center, and will be held at their premises in Connaught Place on the 11th of October, 2012. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pecha Kucha, the phrase is Japanese for â€˜chit-chatâ€™, and is a fast-paced, fun and informal presentation concept and format developed in Japan, where designers and architects talk about their work using 20 slides and speaking for 20 seconds on each one. This highly visual, rapid form of presentation proved so successful and entertaining, that it has migrated into a wider range of subjects and speakers, from travelers talking about their holidays to authors reading excerpts of their novels and policy advisors talking about their work.
Over the last few days, in preparation for the event, Iâ€™ve been reaching out to speakers to discuss their presentations and so on. In so doing, Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to meet with two of our finalized speakers, Muhammad Khan and Anvita Arora, and had really interesting conversations with both. While we talked about very different things – architecture in Muhammadâ€™s case and urban transportation in Anvitaâ€™s – there were similarities in some respects, related to the ownership of public spaces in urban contexts.
Muhammad, a law and policy advisor to the Minister for Environment and Forests, is hilarious and talked at breakneck speed about an eclectic range of different topics, including the difficulty of not eating paan on a campaign trail, the transformation of governance in India over the next few decades, and the role of architecture and culture in inculcating a sense of national pride and belongingness. He also talked about the role of government in everyday life in general, and how we need to rethink and examine this more closely. For him, he said, the role of government is about making peopleâ€™s lives simpler. Give people basic infrastructure and necessary ingredients for sustenance and safety, and their lives will be both simpler and happier. Beyond this, he argued, the government should also aim to inspire and uplift the country, moving beyond mere developmental policies that seek to serve the lowest common denominator, and investing in spaces that do more. They may be utilitarian, but they should also be monuments to our achievements, something that we havenâ€™t really seen any examples of in a long, long time.
My conversation with Anvita, the founder and CEO of iTrans, was equally as interesting and wide ranging, though we talked more specifically about a single subject – that of urban planning in India and her efforts to make it more sustainable. We talked most about the planning and infrastructure that support the cyclists, pedestrians and public transport commuters who make up more than 70 percent of the traffic in Indiaâ€™s cities, and the many challenges that lie therein. I was unsurprised but still shocked to discover the multiple levels of policy making, bureaucratic hurdles and citizen resistance to even a simple initiative to support cyclists in Delhi. We also spoke about the fact that, given the hierarchically-entrenched culture of the city, the change is usually only expected to come from above, when urban elites demand it. For example, as a close friend (and cycling enthusiast) wrote in a recent Firstpost article, Delhiâ€™s growing culture of high-end cyclists has made previously unconcerned motorists more aware of how they treat this new breed of cyclists, since â€œthey may just end up being â€˜somebodyâ€™.â€ I had a lot of my preconceptions about the success and failure of the Delhi Metro and the BRT (to name a couple) called into question, and I came away from our talk bursting with a sense of wanting to know even more, to understand this complex network of urban transportation better.
Luckily, I will be working more with them and the rest of our speakers over the next few weeks, as we gear up to bring you the next Pecha Kucha Night in Delhi. Even better, they will all be contributing brief thought pieces for the blog, so stay tuned for more thoughts from our speakers. Visit our event page on facebook to join the conversation and attend the event, and follow #pknd12 on twitter for more updates.