Charles has left the building

I sit in the vast, wonderfully constructed expanse that is the Portuguese Church. It is the funeral of India's most revered urban planner. Of course he was our finest architect.

But he didn't just build buildings. His vision was to build cities. As I look at the white-washed walls, the overall slant in the church structure, the stained glass in the awning, the vast 'breathing' space, one begins to get a sense of the man's work.

I knew him well. The daCunha and Correa 'pariwars' were close for a very long time. Charlie (as his friends called him) and my father were college buddies. My mother thought he had one of the finest minds she'd ever known. And his nephew Gyan 'The Good Road' Correa and I are 'chaddi' buddies. He was eclectic in his interests - from the films of Eisenstein to the etchings of Picasso. Perhaps it was this curiosity about most things that made him such a fine creator.

I look around me. Apart from his old friends, every functioning architect has come to pay their wishes and mourn the loss of this great man. The tasteful, the tasteless, the crass, the garish, the modern, the post modern, whatever style architect, has admitted to the influence of Charles Correa.

The late Charles Correa during a lecture at Maxmuller Bhavan
The late Charles Correa during a lecture at Maxmuller Bhavan 

In one corner are a bunch of fledgling architecture students. This interests me. Were they kids on an internship with his firm? Or young turks, on a pilgrimage to pay homage to one of the 'masters'?I have a view about the young. The arrogance of adolescence. There is complete disregard for legacy. The young truly have no romance about tradition. "No he was inspirational,", one of them says, "His ideas about light and space will never date"

Correa even at 84, wasn't just creating. He was inspiring. A man ahead of his time (pity our politicians never truly appreciated that). And I think about the issue of staying relevant.When does a man call it quits. Sport is unrelenting. Your body goes, you go. The cerebral is a touch more touchy. When is your time up? Are you overstaying your welcome. Not everyone is a Woody Allen or Clint Eastwood. But the young always sought him out.

Apparently he was to go to Spain to lecture in an architectural institiute there.He was unable to go. So the students, flew to Mumbai to meet the maestro. As we attempt to leave the church, we are caught in one of the city's snarling jams. That's the one thing even Charles Correa couldn't do — control Mumbai's traffic!

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

    Leave a Reply