Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Plight of Designers in India

You could be oozing gold for all anyone cares, so does Bappi Lahiri, but that surely does not mean you are classy. Or that you pay people for their work.

It seems to me, that designers in India especially generally tend to suffer for being designers. The problem with the entire thought process here is that people want to live in beautifully designed functional spaces, they love the idea of having an interior designer achieving their goals for them, but when it comes to paying the designer for their ingenuity, understanding and creativity, the immediate response (on completion of project) is, “What did you do? All these were my ideas, you just drew a couple of lines!” It’s so ludicrous, I cannot even laugh. Really? I drew some lines, I put them together so that they made sense. And for that, I deserve to be paid.

The psychology here is, “ I didn’t get anything tangible, why should I pay?” Go to a vegetable market, Aunty. When will people realize, that a designer sells IDEAS, THOUGHTS, CONCEPTS. He sells DESIGN. Design IS intangible, thoughts are Intangible, creativity is INTANGIBLE. Does it mean I should not be paid? No. Some people accept this argument and agree that a designer must be paid. But pay they will, after you give them five star quality work in five rupees. The “swastha ani masta” era is long past. You pay, you get. You don’t pay, you don’t get. Same applies for quality.

Recently, while working on a particularly hideous garage (which was to be converted into a beauty parlour), I came across people with the exact mentality I just spoke about. This is a girl I know since school days. 16 odd years of acquaintance and at one time a pretty good friend in school. That was the reason I agreed to take up the project.

I was taken to an ugly little outhouse/garage. It was falling to pieces. And this monstrosity was to be converted into a beauty salon. I took it up as a challenge. And according to me, I did a great job. I’m not the one saying this; anyone who has entered the place has said it. But of course, a project is not successful until your client has a word of appreciation for you. Which, I did not get. What, however, I did get in abundance was sleepless nights and a nasty, mean spirited excuse of a person to deal with. Big fat claims were made. Screaming matches over the phone. Her mother went as far as calling me a “cheapskate”. Of course, it doesn’t matter that she or her daughter do not answer calls and have not cleared their dues after torturing me for two months over something that should have been completed within 15 days. To make matters even more interesting, they threatened to drag me to the police WHEN THEY ARE ONES that OWE ME money. Pretty “rich”, huh.

The other point that is pretty bothersome in this entire fiasco is that these “convent educated” people while, dealing with anyone from the labourers working on site would say, “look at their level, look at our level”. Whatever happened to “dignity of labour”? Or is pulling out the underarm hair of complete strangers a more respectable job than a carpenter? On what basis do such people talk about “class” when they cannot even pay the needy people who spent days and nights getting that horrible excuse of a place functioning? They talk about quality, not taking into consideration the fact that they did not want to pay for anything more expensive than the most mediocre of materials and the place to be converted itself was falling apart. Add to that the fact that they made countless changes in the design. Once damaged, always damaged. You cannot cut a thread and then tie a knot and expect it to be as strong as a whole thread. Same goes for furniture. Conveniently, the designer was blamed.

The girl in question would scream over the phone, “I come from a good family, we are not cheats, we don’t hold back anyone’s money”. Her parents too would scream the same. No amount of screaming and shouting can change the fact that these people are in fact extremely cheap. The project was completed 1.5 months back, there is still no sign of the remaining payment after repeated phone calls and meetings.
They wanted me to “put my soul” into their work. They wanted me to “sell my soul” for a sum of twenty thousand rupees. I can only laugh at the sheer audacity of the expectations and pray to god, that these people pay in Karma, which they will.

Moral of the story: Money cannot buy you class, tolerance or the understanding of dignity of labour. No work is big or small, nor is the person performing them. The people that claim to not be cheats are in fact the cheats. Beware.

Monday, February 13, 2012

In That Corner

That empty space next to the Tv unit is an eyesore, a blank. It needs a dash of colour. Or that corner table in the crook of the perpendicular between two sofas. Or the barren looking console. We all have empty spaces in our home, which we want to fill, not with clutter, but with something to accentuate the surroundings. Even in a minimalist home, you will often find the corners are adorned with something, a big lamp, or an arrangement of dry flowers, just a simple set of vases or a recliner.

Corners are technically the useless spaces in the house, when one comes to think of utility. These spaces, however, when artfully decorated can add the glamour quotient or a simply, some character to the space. I have always been a very big fan of a colourful daree spread, with floor cushions thrown in and a small coffee table with little knick knacks in a corner. A hookah maybe. Reminds me of Morocco. Not only does it look very inviting, it can also be very versatile in terms of the kind of rug you use, the cushion covers and what you keep on the small coffee table. Make it look ethnic, indo western or completely minimalistic, the choice is yours.

Coming to the question of what to adorn those corners with? The often neglected space, where the maid makes a quick run with the broom and that’s that? No. Go crazy with some eartherware stuff so readily available in the market these days. They come in terra cotta finish, which you can make over in your own style. Bring out the artist in you, paint, personalize and decorate your home!


1.     1.Any  earthenware object you find appealing while looking at the wide array on display at the potter’s.
2.      2.Primer (which acts as a base coat for the oil paint. If you don’t use primer, the clay soaks in the paint and the final layer of paint ends up looking dull in a couple of days.)
3.      3.Oil paint (in my case, I used bright red and black. The choice of colour is completely up to your personal taste and the way you want your object to look ultimately)
4.      4.Gold bronze powder (this can be used to add a bit of drama or glow to an otherwise solid looking object.)
5.      5.Linseed oil (to mix the bronze powder with)
6.      6.Rag cloth, paint brushes and plenty of newspaper to spread on the floor)
7.      7. Turpentine (to wash off the brushes and paint off your hands)

Getting started:

The first step to any art activity concerned with permanent paints (oil based) is to spread newspaper on the floor space that you will occupy for the activity. After all, you don’t want a nice piece of marble flooring in YOUR house to look stained an ugly. Then clean out the clay statues with a clean rag cloth to get rid of any surplus dust or stray mud particles. Shake the primer well and paint the statue with a thin layer.  Make sure to fill in any nook or cranny which is not directly visible too.

Allow it to dry properly. Normally takes about an hour to dry, but allow it to rest for 2 hours to be on the safer side. Then apply a coat of the colour you want your finished statue to be. I’ve used bright red oil paint on all part except for the jewelry, the musical instruments and the turbans which I wanted to highlight with gold bronze paint. Again ensure that all visible and not directly visible areas are properly painted.

                                         The nooks and crannies that should be taken care of.

After the first layer dries, apply the second coat and let it dry. In the meanwhile, take an old palette or a left over diya used last diwali and mix some gold bronze powder with linseed oil. 

Make sure it’s not too runny or the white of the primer will show through. Apply a layer of this mixture to the areas you wish highlight. Let all the paint dry over night.
The next day, look for any patches or unfinished areas and touchup the paint wherever needed. 

Then apply black paint for just the mustache to add a defined feature to an otherwise neutral face .

VOILA! You have something hand painted by none other than you to decorate your home! Keep these on a coffee table with some throw cushions to go and you have a mini hookah parlour ambience right in the beautiful space of your home!
The red men would look beautiful against a dark toned dari or a yellow wall, or both. Or visualize a white room, with just these little beauties as the center of attraction. Who says corners are boring!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Business and Friendship are parallel Lines. And Always should be.

“I love the way you design, look at space, understand it, understand requirements and incorporate them into the design. Will you please be my interior designer? We are friends, don’t refuse, please?”

Did that sound familiar? It’s a common occurrence in ever designer’s lives. You don’t have to be an interior designer, it is common to all of the designing fraternity. We are all taken for a ride, by the so-called friends. There’s nothing wrong with taking up projects that mean dealing with friends. In fact, that’s how you start your own practice; go from being a slave to a boss to a free bird, who later turns into a boss. But make sure you clarify the terms and conditions well in hand. It is your profession, your bread and butter and there’s no reason why you should feel bad about asking for fees for your consultations.

Here I’d like to share one of the several incidences that have damaged my perception on taking up work for a friend. I’m always wary now of doing anything for “friends”.

One of my friends brought new property and wanted me to do up the interiors of the apartment. Knowing the kind of person he was (or so I thought), I only clarified my consultation charges and scope of services over text messages (which, by the way are not considered proof in case you wish to take Legal action). I never thought for a moment that the same loving, caring, brilliant guy would make my life hell 8 months later when it was time to pay up. Thinking he would not trouble me when it came to payments, I put in every last bit of effort in beautifying his home. Right down from meeting his finicky parents on every minute detail to selecting the accessories for his home, I did it all, without complaints, in spite of being employed full time, running for meetings before and after office hours in every weather. On one occasion even risking an important exam I had to appear for when the project was on going. The norm is to extract payments with every stage of work, but that’s something I did not do in this case because of the close friendship we shared.

Anyway, at my parent’s behest, I did broach the subject of payment in stages once, but was reproached with, “Don’t you trust me?” Well, I did and I paid for it dearly with my mental and financial peace. So 6 months down the line, his project was complete, with a few glitches as is normal for anything that involves a mixed bag of people.

Now came the time for fruitation, to get paid for the endless hard work I had put in to make a beautiful home. 6 months, it was my baby. I nurtured it. Conveniently, at the same time, he had his company auditing. He promised to pay as soon as that ended. I trusted. Waited. Then, he had some serious “financial crisis”. I trusted. Waited. Then he had to go abroad for urgent meetings and apparently lost his passport. 2 months, no news. I waited. But of course patience ran out.

He got back and I pounced. The situation had reached a stage where I could not extract money from him without involving my parents. His parents had suddenly turned deaf and dumb to my existence, behaving as though they did not know me. And my darling friend had gotten abusive to a level that still makes my skin crawl. Then there were fights on the project cost, following which a consensus was reached and an amount was fixed. I was called (I went with my mother, for moral support and also cause the person in question showed violent tendencies, suddenly). He was shamed into giving me two cheques, dated a month from the day of issue. I thought this was the end of my worries.

Just how wrong has been amply proven in the last two month. The cheques bounced. Mails were exchanged. Fake apologies on his part. Fake reassurances. I sat through it all hoping he would come to his senses. In the meanwhile, while he made claims of going through a difficult time financially, I saw facebook status updates about his new blackberry bold 4 which costs 30 thousand INR. That was the end of my patience. He had money for his whims and fancies, but when it came to paying someone for their work, he was broke. It spoke of his character in loud and simple words. That’s I threatened legal action when nothing else seemed to work. Life had fast turned into a travesty, revolving around getting him to pay up. Drunken scenes, abusive scenes, hate mail, I saw it all.

It’s been 9 months; I have got only 40% of the payment that was due to me. I see no end to this trauma. And why did I deserve this? Because, I trusted a friend. This was not the first time I was cheated of money that was rightfully mine, but only now did I realize that Money can break the strongest bonds.

Moral of the story: Never mix friendship with business. They are parallels. When they intersect, there’s unwanted fire. If you still must, be very clear on the terms and conditions of payment. Be adamant. If they don’t agree, they won’t pay and they are definitely not your friends.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mind how you save your numbers!

With the onset of fancy technology, we have fancy phones too. Gone are the good old days of keeping a pocket diary with telephone numbers, gone are the times, when people would delicately flick through the tiny pages looking for the systematically written names and number, then dial and politely wait for the phone to be answered and greet the one at the other end with a cheery “namaskar” or “hello”.

Going with the recent fads, I too bought myself a Blackberry. Ever the business tycoon. *laugh* So, the noob that I happen to be, I transferred all my phone contacts from the nokia onto the simcard as were and these went onto the blackberry the same way. Now as is the case with most contractors, I have several carpenters by the name “mohan mistry”, tiling guys by the name “sohan lohar” and electricians by the name “chawan”. Not such a co-incidence, most of the labour contractors use their profession as their last name. Here I’d like to share an incidence, a rather funny one that took place, with me.

While on site, waiting for the tiling contractor to turn up, I called him to enquire when his supposed 15 minutes would be up. “click” went the phone as the call connected. “Hailoo”, said the dude at the other end. I launched into a lecture, “Kya Loharji, Kahan ho aap, kitni der ho gayi. !5 minute hue na abhi tak. Woh Wakad waale site pe ana hai aapko, Tarun Gulati, Flat B-303.Do teen tiles tootey hue hai. Aaakar colour aur make dekh lo, jaakar khareedkar lao aur jaldi se kaam karo nahi toh paise nahi milenge. Main nikal rahi hun site per se.” Complete silence at the other end. I was about to launch into another lecture when there was a tentative, “Maaidam, main sohan lohar bol raha hun, Roheena Maidam k office wala sohan”. Mortification. Ultimate mortification. *nervous laughter*

“Sorry sohan ji, confusion ho gaya”. Of course, the nice and simple people these contractors are, he only laughed and said, “Maidam, kaam dilwa do, kuch ho toh”. I was banging my head against the wall all this time.

MORAL of the story: When storing numbers for contacts, take two minutes more to specify the name of the company they belong to, to avoid embarrassments of the kind I faced.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Open Letter to BIG BAAS, fi fi fi fi fi five. (To the Interior Designers)

This is my first entry for my new blog and in the spirit of Bitchwanti-ness AND from the perspective of someone whose field of expertise is interior designing; I shall talk about the BB5 house.
What I think is wrong with the house:
Take 1. You are put on a platform that slides into a hole(that’s what it looked like on TV) and next scene shows a massive wooden door sliding aside to let you in THE House. So what have we got here? An artificial lawn with Honey comb stepping stones. Very original! You expect to be let into a place that has a cottage, warm, natural look to it. At least I would, considering the entrance was about an element from our natural environs. The honeycomb.
Clearly, you are in for a nasty shock when you walk in and the place looks like kids went berserk with their painting kits. 
Let’s start with the flooring. It’s fairly normal. Standard beige tiles, what appear to be vitrified tiles. Your eyes travel upwards and you are shocked out of your mind when you see the yellow sofas, with boulder like black cushions. The next eye catching feature is everything. There’s a mad dash of bright pink in what is supposed to be the kitchen (sink-less to make the lives of the inmates utterly miserable). This brilliant piece of designing genius (which looks like it was designed for dwarfs, height wise) has an umbrella like structure hanging down from the ceiling, again pink. No surprise there. We are in barbie’s kitchen. Voila.
The Dining, is hideous to put in simple words. Pink in such quantities on the table is bound to cause loss of appetite, which is not what a dining table is meant for.


Moving on, the “ladies” bedroom is very predictably (and ghastly) pink. Why, I ask. Yes, women are said to have a general affinity towards the colour, but only till about the age of 5 would a girl want a PINK room. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but all the women in this house are well into their 20-30-40s. A dash of pink would have been acceptable and probably welcome. Unless of course you’re Pooja Bedi and coo, “this is so beautiful!” just because you have been paid a lot of money to appreciate such hideousness. The one feature I did like in this room though was the claw like structure on the backrest of each bed, keeping in mind the cat fights we are sure to witness with 14 women living under the same roof.

Then there’s the “boys” bedroom, which again is obviously done up in Blues and Greens. I am a girl and I love these colours. I want to ask the designers the reason for this partiality. That being besides the point, there is only one man in the house, that is Shakti Kapoor (who seems to think that purple nightdresses are meant for men). The space here is not well planned. There seems to be barely enough space to move around the room.

The “confession”room. My favourite part of the house. No offence to the women, I am one as well, but I believe that it looks like they were trying to make it look like the genitals of a woman. The vagina. I don’t, for one understand the point of the PINK swirls and the shapeless emerald green chair. What were they aiming for? To scare the living daylights out of whoever walks in to confess their scenes? Aaah, I seem to have hit on the truth there.

Then there’s the special quarters for the “captain” of the house. Here there’s blue and grey and white and black and a bed that looks like a cobra. Surely not the most soothing of shapes to sleep on.

As you put yourself through this kaleidoscope of colours, trying to find ONE dominating colour that creates a flow in the design (and give up), and your gaze turns heavenwards. And what have we here? The ceiling, lit as though you’re not in a house, but under the microscope of a loony scientist. Which in this case the inmates are, under the eyes of 52 odd cameras and the people on the other side of the TV. But that does not mean you forget that the people living in the house for the next 90 days are human beings too and although they are being paid to go through with these discomforts, a little care could have been taken with making the place more comfortable.

I understand you want to make the lives of the inmates as uncomfortable as possible, but keeping the washroom outside, at a 500 meter distance from the house is clearly stretching it too far. Same goes for the washing sinks, which are ideally supposed to be placed in the kitchen. BBoss has been taking “bad design lessons” progressively with every season. The first season we had a fairly tastefully done interior. Season 4 saw a well designed space, with white playing the underlying theme with dashes of olive greens and yellows making an appearance. The space did not feel cagey.
 The gymnasium in the BB5 house is a joke. One would wonder why they bothered having one. Probably some left over space.


I listed out what is wrong with the design. Now as a designer, keeping in mind the same colour scheme and concept that the designers had in mind, I will make a few suggestions as to what could have been done to make the place a little classy and soothing.
For starters, all the colours could have been toned down, used in their pastel tones. IF not, then they could have been paired such that they are at least complementary, instead of creating a hotchpotch of colours.

The flooring could have been wooden, since it is the biggest expanse, it would have held all the colours together, and even such bright colours would not have looked bad if they had one factor that continued the flow.

The Ceiling could have been plain white, instead of the glass and black they have used so liberally. That again would have helped maintain the flow. Lighting could have been more ambient, more toned down.

The Dining area could have worked better if they had only reversed the colours.The table could have been white and the chairs pink.

The Ladies room could have been done up in hints of gold and fuchsia, instead of the black, white and pink. The room looks like it belongs to kids, which in effect is not the case here.

The gents room could have been a combination of grey and blue, or black and grey. Subtle.

The “confession” room, with the same patterns could have been tastefully done up in black and green, rather than the pink and green. No one colour has any importance in that space. Big mistake.

The designer seems to have looked at nature as the concept, the free flowing curves give that idea.
But when they incorporated it on paper, clearly they did not pay attention to the essence of what nature is. Nature is calm, it is soothing. Most importantly, there is harmony. Something missing completely from the BIG BOSS house.

In their defense, the designers of this space will say that this was the client’s requirement. The aim of big boss is to cause mental trauma to the inmates in every possible way, to get them to fight for the benefit of a few cheap thrills of the people watching the show, that’s what gets them the TRPs. But it is the designer’s duty to create a space that soothes and calms and gives comfort. The big boss house this season is a shame to the community of designers.

Moral of the story: The kind of colours you see in the space you occupy affect your behavior, your mood and your conduct with the people around you.