Design in India

Advocacy, Design, Designers, Policy, Report, Evaluation, Monitoring

Design in India: The Experience of Transition

Chatterjee, Ashoke

C G Road is Ahmedabad's pride: a new shopping boulevard that turns its back on the crowded bazaars of this medieval city. Steel and glass store fronts, coffee shops, Pizza Hut, the latest in home entertainment, sportswear, fashion and ethnic chic: international brand names from India and overseas, flashing in neon to attract Ahmedabad's affluent youth to a 'happening place' that demonstrates the power of what is emerging as the largest consumer market in the world. It wasn't always this way. When I arrived in Ahmedabad in 1975, 'happening' meant sampling the street life of Manek Chowk, the heart of Ahmedabad's tradition as India's textile capital, around which revolved a rich pattern of community living and craft activity. It was in these lanes and marketplaces that Ahmedbad's craft and merchant guilds flourished for generations, giving the city a reputation that rivaled 16th century London. Seven bridges span the dry riverbed of the Sabarmati River which separates Manek Chowk and old Ahmedabad from C G Road and the high-rise sprawl of the new city. The traffic hurtling back and forth-handcarts and camel carts, and an occasion elephant, to compete with the city's passion for the newest in two-, three- and four-wheeled speeders-is symbolic of India's passage to and from modernity, of its search for a confident identity that can link 5000 years of history with a future in which change is the only certainty. It is within this experience of transition that design in India takes its meaning. Mahatma Gandhi, arriving in India from South Africa almost a century ago, establis...
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