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Calcutta on a chariot

Today is Rath Yatra. As an Indian, its tough keeping track of all our festivals. There seems to be one every single day.

A very cute deity picture appeared in the local daily as an advertisement and that is what informed us, the outsiders, of the event.

It is surprising how many such events a single city can have. Marketers opportunity indeed! Apart from a handful (a million?) of the population, there is not much involvement of the middle and above middle classes in these events, unless ofcourse there is some political affiliation.

Bengalis seem to like two things, one is things to eat and the other is intellectual pursuits. It is ironical however that a place which gives the world so much talent, itself hasn’t grown with the rest of the world.

Reading an eighth grade textbook with a neighbor’s kid enlightened me to some historic facts. Amid many yawns that history textbooks bring, it was almost like a modern day thriller.

In short here is what happened:

1500s: Europe wanted cinnamon for their bread. and silks. They form trading companies and set asea. They find Bengal, a treasure trove of natural resources, gold and silks.

1600s: they establish east India trading companies, after bowing a part of the profits to their queen.

1700s: last of mughal rulers died. British companies look at the divided princely states and start their policy of quietly  annexing states one by one. They promise to protect one ruler of a princely state from another, however, they annex one state after another.

1800s: Industrialization begins and Europeans want coal for their trains and markets for their “manufactured” goods. They kill the self sufficient cottage industry of Bengal and start sending in imported “manufactured” goods to the natives. An age of plundering and corruption begins. They take the 16 year old son of the last ruler, give him passage to the royal family in Britain along with a British military doctor, as his guardian. Shrewdly they get the young king to pass over the family jewels to the crown. The Kohinoor diamond included.

1900s: world wars happen. Britain transfers debt of war to India and exits.

2000s: Neo colonials, unscrupulous traders and political machinery still carries forward the legacy of loot and corruption.( I need to stop here, otherwise they put people in jail)

People tend to turn a blind eye (?) and carry on work as if nothing happened. Education machinery works overtime and kids are brought up to be prepared to be “educated” and mostly they leave the state.

Then some religious event happens and all unite to celebrate the forgotten prosperity and good times. Of some 400 years before.

The Rath yatra today, celebrates an event of 625 years before.

 

 

On being a World Teaching Assistant

Design Logo

Recently I got associated with a new title. It’s called a CTA or a Community Teaching Assistant.

According to Kate, our TA manager at Coursera, an online platform providing massively open online learning or MOOCs,” From October-December 2013, Bhawna volunteered as a Community TA (CTA) for the Coursera online course “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society.” This course emphasizes basic design processes, and includes design challenges that require students to apply course concepts to solve real problems. As an open online offering, it attracted thousands of student participants from all over the world. “

What do CTAs do? Well, we are teaching volunteers who according to Coursera website “have done exceptionally well on the last run of the course and have been invited back to help with the course.” Our duties include forum moderation and solving student queries regarding the subject and highlighting any issues that may arise to the Teaching Assistant of the university providing the course or to the Instructor, who is the Professor offering the course.

A recent study by Stanford and others have highlighted how CTAs are instrumental in building an “Esprit De Corps”.

While being associated with distinguished professors from reputed universities such as Wharton is itself an honor, learning through interacting with a mind boggling number of students is an experience every teacher should take. Not only we get to participate in the online offering of the course, but we also have our very own online TA headquarters, where we get to meet other TAs and Professors from universities across the world. An enriching experience on the ultimate learning level!

 

5 Myths of Design that don’t apply today!

Design is a relatively new field compared to Art. But with new technology and changing world there are 5 things that I learned (and later taught) at D-school which seem to have lost their relevance in today’s world and have become “Old School”.

1. If you can’t draw it, you can’t make it.

Nothing can be a bigger myth. This seemingly innocent statement that teachers use to encourage their fresh pupils to practice more drawing has lost its relevance compared to the Corel and Rhino equipped generation of today. Not only is hand drawing a skill that is used less and less, most exploratory work is done hands on or with CAM, rather than on paper.

2. Don’t use eraser, Don’t use scale.

Another Myth. It was fine till the first few lessons of drawings. Or in the era when you had ample time to sit and sketch endlessly by hand and communicate hand drawn designs. But beyond that, a clear representation of ideas is more important and so if it requires eraser and scale, so be it. Afterall it’s a now a “pre-sketch” for your CAD .

3. It should be your original idea.

It times of Co-creation, collaborative projects and open innovation; an individuals idea may be lacking compared to the richness a project gets from collaborative work which is designed by a community. A single individuals contribution could be worked upon and made better by others as well and no one person takes credit for the entire process. To think of it, an idea is only successful if others also believe in it!

4. Follow the process. Show the process.

While it may be a great idea to show a process in order to explain your final design to an international jury for getting an award and for other such events, Design methods can be very limiting and restraining, unless you allow them to be iterative and continuous. Most common people are not equipped to understand a design method, they can only appreciate the result and you can bring that to them any which way.

5. It’s all in the presentation

In a world of presentation , this is an understatement. The presentation is not a separate activity. It is not something you do afterwards, after the design process has ended. The presentation IS the design and part of the process and you don’t need to do many things to justify it if what you came up with is a great product!

Design Education in India — an interview by Creative Gaga

Quite a challenging task to change mindsets in Design Education in India. Reblogged.

Mixed Fruit Jam

1. How are the Indian design schools different from their international counterparts?
A major difference in design education in India and the west, is that, in the west, most design teachers are also design practitioners. However, in India, teachers don’t typically work in the field and hence lack practical and contemporary knowledge about a very dynamic field. Indian d-schools tend to “produce” students that have a similar style — which is the anti-thesis of a good creative education. The notion of encouraging students to discover and explore their individual spirit is lacking in India.

All of this may not be only the fault of Indian design education, but the very way our society is structured with respect to the west. Western college students are encouraged to be more independent by working to pay for their education. They are removed from the family “nest” at a younger age, and thus discover themselves…

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