Saturday, December 19, 2020

It’s Been Long

 As good as it looked when we started out, working from home just is not the same. We had a whole batch of interns come and go and it feels like I don’t know any of them! Of course that could also be because I was sporadic in my attendance of the zoom meetings but when I asked Sai and Ananya about it, they felt the same. 

So this term, we put extreme caution aside, trusted the interns to be responsible and decided that we’ve had enough of work from home and constant checking of our phones! It’s been a week and the studio is buzzing again, there is a palpable energy and there is laughter and jokes and big huge smiles! 

We had a long discussion in the morning today on art and architecture and life and all the connections between them - all of us standing in the kitchen and pondering over it all and that’s when I realised how much I had missed this camaraderie and easiness and these discussions. 

In a week I feel like I know them and can connect with them. On zoom calls, it took almost till the end of term for everyone to get comfortable and then again, I still don’t think we got to know anyone as they really are. Biggest surprises are Vibha and Prithvi who decided to continue the internship with us this term as well but this time working from the studio. 

We met Vibha at Mysore a few days before she was to join and I couldn’t believe the amount she talked! I had developed this impression that she was quiet and serious. And Prithvi who probably even trumped me in missing zoom meetings has been regular to office for a week now! What’s more, he seems to be opening up a little! Saptangshu is a whirlwind of never ending stories - most of which land him in Ananya’s ‘what-not-to-assign’ list, but the stories are super entertaining nonetheless! 

Even Mathew is more cheerful and talkative! When he had interned with and then joined as an architect, he was quiet and focussed only on what he is supposed to do. Now it feels like he has decided to let himself a little loose as well! 

I started writing this in the morning and took a break for lunch. That break just reiterated for me everything I was enthused about after the morning discussion. Lunch was almost 2 hours long or more because Saptangshu had stories and stories and the rest of us couldn’t stop laughing! 

More interns are supposed to join next month and if this mood is anything to go by, I think we are going to have an awesome, productive new year filled with new ideas and thoughts! 

Cheers to that! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Locked-down Woes?

This has been tough on everyone who loves working. Being locked down is starting to get to everyone but not always in a negative way. I know friends who are bored out of their minds and want something to do and there are others who are doing so many things it’s amazing! There are ones who are enjoying this downtime and ones who are more busy now than they were otherwise!

We at Sandarbh have been at work since no one wanted to do nothing. We have been at work on ourselves, skill building, raising our levels of understanding and exalting in our sketching abilities. We have been working on improving in many aspects right from our lettering and it’s been a fun exercise (especially as a critic!).
We started out with trepidation on Zoom not sure how useful it would be to stay connected and how productive the whole exercise would be. Only thing we were sure of was that we all wanted to work!
It’s been a fascinating few weeks now! From random conversations where we were more keeping in touch and getting used to this idea to actually trying to do work over it. As all of us discovered the first week, it’s not easy to stay focussed and work in the kind of situation we are in and everyone started complaining about the loss and lack of focus and thus not being able to close assignments.

In steps our ‘big boss’ and he takes overs and how! The last few days have been all about hardwork and building rigour. The assignments are short and time bound and everyone is on their toes! If I don’t check my phone for half an hour, I am inundated with at least a 100 messages! Almost feels like we are in the studio and are getting work done. Lack of focus is definetly not an issue anymore!!

It’s interesting how we have changed gears and even more interesting how everyone is reacting to this shift. From being bored and not having enough to do to almost knowing a project inside out and on different levels! We are all tired but the end of the work day and in a good way.

Hopefully the rest of the week will be easier with this newfound enthusiasm. Right now Amal summed it up well when he sair that the body and brain seem to be functioning at different levels! We are all in that boat with him!
Let’s hope they we get them back to the right levels before we have to do this in person! 😀

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Zooming into Sandarbh

I havnt seen a quiet time at Sandarbh in the last few years so I wasn’t sure what this lockdown would do to the studio and the energy that was so carefully built up. I of course didn’t have to wait too long to find out though!

We have been more or less on a lockdown mode from the last week. More than the corona pandemic, it was chicken pox (we are weird that way) which prompted social distancing for us. In a way, I think that oriented all of us to actually start missing work earlier than we thought we would.
So here we are on the 2nd day of the lockdown and having a meeting at sharp 9am via Zoom. Everyone was that’s perfectly on time. Way better than we do in office! The only late comer was our principal man!

Even Akshita who has never come to work earlier than 9:15 was there on time and armed with her notebook all happy to be seeing us all the way from Delhi!
Amal could probably have slept away a week more at least but he was as enthusiastic as he could be as well! Showing off his growing locks and beard!
Our most excitable HR cum client relations cum manager cum blogger cum designer and peace keeper, Ananya, was so totally herself! She set up the meeting, and was online with Ginger and herself very well positioned (light wise) and eager to start!
Mathew still needed to find his most flattering angle but he made up for the wide angle look by listening ardently and laughing at all the right places!
Sai was his usual self, let everyone squeeze a word in in the beginning and then laughed into his monologue for the next 45 minutes!
I was armed with my book with all the work to hand out (which didn’t happen), missed finding a good place to set myself up, had to share screen space with Sai (sigh) and managed to roll my eyes even during Sais monologue! Nothing could get more like office!
The best bit though was Shreya! Our brand new employee who flew in perfectly before they stopped that kind of reckless behaviour in these times. This was her virtually first day at work (pun intended). Her first office meeting couldnt have gone better though! We were all perfectly ourselves and super happy to be seeing each other after a whole week. Started off with her playing hide and seek on Zoom and then having her audio switched off but very intently nodding to what we were saying and she was not hearing! Nervousness does things to people! Thankfully she managed to figure it all out by the time we got down to business.

So Shreya, welcome to Sandarbh. We are exactly what you saw today and more. I’m guessing that oil will fit right into this creative madhouse! You tick all the boxes for it!
1. A little crazy ☑️
2. Creative ☑️
3. Just a little off ☑️
4. Organised in a chaotic way ☑️
5. Normal? What’s that? ☑️

Monday, February 17, 2020

Mathew's First Task at Work!

Excited and looking forward to my new internship and assigned my first job into the internship, I walked into an office where the principal architects were missing - apparently they had gone traveling

The first task assigned to me sounded pretty straightforward - I had to supervise and get the tiling done for a small washbasin area in a residence. The tiles were already decided and was on site, all I had to do was figure out a pattern and get the tile layers to do it.

So I started doing the job - making patterns and sharing it with Sai on WhatsApp, who would ask me to make small corrections, it was a to and fro process, going very well for my first day at work.

And then he says, you need to execute this on site, Mathew, be ready to do that tomorrow.

I was nervous, but excited - ready to take on this first task I was given.

But that's when the constraints set in - I needed 12 tiles, but I only had 10 on site. Also, the client, didn't like any of the initial patterns I had shared with him and needed a crisscross pattern using the tiles, which included a lot of cutting of the tiles - sort of increased the difficulty of the exercise one level higher.

But I got through it, the pattern was decided, planned for using exactly the same amount of tiles which was available at site, not one more, not one less. We also planned to cut the usage of tiles by not using tiles where the mirror would come.

That was when another door just slammed in my face. Vastu wouldn't permit me to place a mirror on that wall but 2 tiles had already been cut. I started to panic. The tiles wouldn't last, Sai was about to board the plane back to India, he wouldn't be able to see or be updated with the work, I was freaking out like crazy, sending Sai message after message telling him each and every problem. The reply.. one message. " Mathew, just stop ". I heaved a sigh of relief. I told the masons to focus on some other work. Maybe Sai won't ask me to work on these tiles anymore.

Next day, Sai has finally reached back at the office and I finally meet my principal architects. First thing Sai says to me is that I will work on the pattern myself. He could see the anxiety creeping back up on my face. He reassured me that this is a task which I can do. He sat with me and started to tell me how to work with it. The approach to handle the task, the mindset I should have and how to deal with problems. The morning talk gave me the confidence to rework the tile pattern such that the wasted tiles don't
The next day I was back at site. The most confident I'd felt for the longest time. Small problems still kept popping up. The material was running low. The masons had doubts on how to apply the cement or treat the wall. But no matter what the problem was I had the confidence to think about it and deal with it, rather than just freak out and frantically spam Sai with messages. A few hours later and it was finally done.

- Done by Mathew

    How it looked when it started
How the final product looks like



Thursday, December 19, 2019

Back to Bawa

We left Sri Lanka last year promising ourselves that we would be back. We had just not had enough of the wonders that Bawa had scattered across the country. We managed to visit and stay at many of his building but Kandalama is now top of the list. We havnt managed to go back yet though. But what I had not expected was to experience this in Madurai!

This site visit was decided a few days before we were to drive down and we were totally caught up with work before leaving. Though a work visit, when Sai, Ally, Ananya and I travel, we always make sure to know of the place to see and the places to have food at (this is top priority). This trip though, our research was done on the drive down and when we read about the Heritage designed by Bawa, that instantly moved to the number 1 place to see!

We drove into Madurai around lunchtime and since we were all excited and not really tired, we decided to go for a site visit that evening. Imagine our surprise when we were talking to our clients about Heritage and wanting to see it and she says that its the next door property and whats more, that the site was part of the Heritage property and was recently sold off to the public!

Highlight of the next day was walking through Heritage, the gardens, the rooms so tastefully and thoughtfully renovated. The clubhouse was beautiful. I felt like I was back in Sri Lanka walking through the corridors ending in the best vistas and peppered with courtyard with gorgeous trees. the play of light and dark was just as it should be. The big difference in Madurai was his choice of local material but the spaces and the essence which had left us in awe in Sri Lanka were all there leaving us in wonder at the genius of this man!

Bawa was on ironically one of the biggest inspirations when we started designs on this house because we were still reeling from our trip to Sri Lanka. And here we are now with the splendid Heritage as out neighbour!

Hoping that this modest residence for two very private, simple people live upto its neighbour!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Miss Beamish!


One of the brightest things in the studio is undoubtedly Ananya's smile. Full toothed, absolutely happy and totally infectious! You cant help but smile back and that too happily! 
You walk into the studio and if Ananya's not engrossed in her laptop, with her headphones on, working frantically to meet deadlines, you are certain to be smiling away just looking at her smile. 

Ananya is the Chief Marketing person, our ardent HR executive, the one who maintains all communications - between clients as well as between all of us. Maintaining peace and order especially in office and mostly between Sai and I as we 'discuss and debate' design ideas. So that smile of hers works like magic. 

You can feel it when you talk to her. You know there is that smile when you read her mails, you are happy and smiling like her when you go through her blogs. Her smile is her stamp and you will know it and will most likely be smiling now if you have met her, spoken to her or read er blogs. 

When Ananya got through the Teach For India program 2 months back and told us that she would want to give that a go, both Sai and I were truly happy for her and excited at her excitement. Its only when we sat back and thought about it that we realised how much we would miss her. Even now I cant imagine the studio without Ananya and her corner and that smile. 

But there is good news! Its Ananya and she can never miss out on anything so we will be graced with all of her 32 pearly whites every Saturday for sure and whenever else she is free and missing us which I am hoping is often :-) 
She would still be a part of Sandarbh. Managing all that she is involved and knowing her, a little more! 

The studio is ever transitioning for us  because of the number of interns who come in every semester. The constants for me in this has been Ananya, Harshita and Sulu. Now Harshita is not there and Ananya will not really be there. ( Sulu, ever so glad you are still there! ) 

Ananya, I am just glad right now that you are still in Bangalore and still with us! That smile of your will be something I so look forward to every weekend now! :-) 
Stay beamish always! 

Saturday, May 4, 2019


It's been a year since I officially became a part of the Sandarbh family, a year since the day I got my confirmation for an internship.It feels like a lifetime ago, so much has happened since and yet I remember the day in vivid detail as though it was yesterday.
It was a lazy morning for we were done with our internals but I was still freaking out trying to find an internship. In a last ditch attempt I decided to call a few firms to follow up - Sandarbh coincidentally being the first. Owing to network issues I stepped out of the house and dialled the number to be greeted with Sai's voice on the phone. The interview as one would call it was shorter and more informal than I had been prepared for. The entire team sat around the phone and asked me about myseld, my work and my life. By the end of the conversation I was offered the internship and had accepted it too. I remember being completely overwhelmed. The moment I entered the house, I told my mom I got an internship , barely believing it myself. It perhaps took the rest of the day for that bit of information to settle in.
And that was that. I was a part of Sandarbh and it's been quite a journey - there were great days, a lot of good days and some that I'd rather not recall. I miss the morning meetings around Sai's table discussing work or the evenings we all spent together just chatting away. Each person had their own place in the office, their own role, their own quirks. There's so much one could write and yet one blog doesn't seem nearly enough.
Lots has happened since I came back home too - a lot of the on-going projects were wrapped up and new projects have started (some still in the design stage while others are already progressing on site). The Sandarbh family grows day by day (quite literally) and like any family, there have been some bitter sweet good-byes too. But goodbyes aren't forever and this blog is a proof of that. Slowly many anniversaries will follow and each will bring a fresh wave of nostalgia - first day at work, first site visit, first client meeting... A lot of firsts that I couldn't have even imagined. And maybe this is the first of many more blogs to come, many more memories to share, many more experiences to write about...


It’s Been Long

 As good as it looked when we started out, working from home just is not the same. We had a whole batch of interns come and go and it feels ...