Sunday, January 9, 2022

Mathu bhai and Missile madam at Do Villa and Baara Maala

You realise how much is in a name when you are talking to one of our masons on site and they tell you that Mathu bhai has asked them to go to Baara Maala! You are totally at a loss of words for a few seconds but then know very well that there is no point in trying to decipher this on call or even asking him to repeat! By now you know that all you have to do is go back into office and say this out and Sai should be able to tell you what he meant was that Mathew asked them to go to a penthouse on the 12th floor! 

Then there is the time when Missile Madam sends them to ‘Do Villa’ and though we all now know who the missile is, Do Villa was something to figure out. Now we know which site that is as well! 

There have been so many such instances over the years which have fixed us. Highlights for me would be one which had me totally confused when I first started working. One of the workers came and asked me for a ‘bolob’ and I was totally clueless! He tried hand gestures and everything and I was still blank! Finally Sai had to figure out that he wanted a bulb! How embarrassed I was! 

One of the best though would have to be when the carpenters have a list of materials to be picked up to an intern and she went around the whole day to multiple stores to get one elusive item on the list - the ‘isscrew’ . It’s only later when she came back and reported that no store had that one item that Sai broke it to her that all they wanted were screws!! 

These incidents make for few of our funniest and most embarrassing anecdotes and we love relating these stories when we sit together at the end of a long work day. Talking about all these words - from ‘Perment’ to ‘Bum senna’ which usually has all then newbie’s flabbergasted!

And then I imagine how these same stories will be recounted by the workers sitting around and catching up in the evenings. They must not understand half our names or why we are so confused about everything! Would love to overhear that conversation sometime! 

For now though I am sure Mathu bhai and Missile Madam loved working with all of them at Do Villa and Bara Maala as much as they did! Till more interesting phrases and words to figure out!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021



One of the most distinct memories I have from my early days in Sandarbh was the first time I went to site.  It was my first day at work, and we had gone to take a look at this residence which was moving from the structure to the start of the finishes stage. There was grey all around, the colour of cement everywhere, but I take a turn and see this beautiful green canopy flooding the room through this large window at one end of it. I remember standing there, mesmerized, at how incredible the space looked with that window, imagining the multiple stories that the room owner was going to witness through that window. The window, brought in one factor that no other material or element that the room was capable of doing - time. As the house grew, and neared completion, I could see the world around it changing - the colour of the leaves, the way the sunrays came in, the blue of the sky, the growing kids playing below - all through the windows that framed the world around the home. 

- Ananya

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!

Mathu bhai and Missile madam at Do Villa and Baara Maala

You realise how much is in a name when you are talking to one of our masons on site and they tell you that Mathu bhai has asked them to go t...