Architecture, to paraphrase a great poet, is an act of falling in love with the world, despite history. The story of BV Doshi's life has been one continuous act of falling in love with the world despite the vicissitudes of the trajectory of his life. The many and various threads of his life are woven and presented in his characteristic exuberance in the book, Paths Uncharted being launched today.
BV Doshi's stature as architect and planner has been such that any judicious and well-informed assessment of modern Indian architecture just cannot proceed without his name along with those of Achyut Kanvinde, Charles Correa and Raj Rewal. He has been an inspiration to an entire generation of Indian architects.
Doshi's architecture is celebrated justly for "combining certain enduring values of modern architecture with research into the substructure of Indian traditions." He is credited with transforming the primary lessons of architects like Kahn and Corbusier to deal with the searing climate and needs of an ancient civilization.
Architecture had not been a priority in the Raj; architects would arrive in India fully trained in 'classical' and 'Gothic' details with some 'oriental' information to erect the buildings needed by the Raj.
It was this milieu in which Doshi and others had to carve out a niche in making buildings in the 50s and the 60s. If Doshi's guru, Le Corbusier, was irascible and iconoclastic and full of new ideas then Doshi was all this and more but in a gentler Hindu manner. This gentleness is Doshi's heritage from his extended Vaishnav family in Pune where he was born. There are scenes in Paths Uncharted from this extended family that lived in the old-Pune house with 'a forest of staircases' which makes a moving reading.
It is perhaps the same gentleness that has helped Doshi to become a revered institution builder.
Building an institution is as complex as ushering a revolution- to paraphrase Mao, it is not a dinner party, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery, and it cannot be advanced softly, politely, plainly and modestly! Doshi gives glimpses of this in the Paths Uncharted in his usual brusque generosity to the reader by giving perspectives on how CEPT and Sangath were nurtured by him.
There are also close-ups of his many projects and people who are who's who of contemporary art and architecture in the book.
But, as someone has said, our great and glorious masterpiece is to live properly-all other things-to reign, to dig up treasure, to build- are at the best but little aids and additions.
The Paths Uncharted gives a sense of order and tranquility in the life of Doshi even when it is sailing, at times, in turbulent waters. And that memory of BV Doshi, that of a stoic in all seasons, will remain his greatest gifts in the minds of the people who have known him as a professional, as a teacher and as a wonderful human being.
The city-based writer specialises in writing on architecture