Two talks for mid-week food-for-thought

Updated: Sep 19, 2019, 08:30 IST | Snigdha Hasan | Mumbai

Know the master behind the art of pottery and how natural calamities like floods can be avoided, in this special section

Dr Gurcharan Singh at Delhi Pottery Art Studio
Dr Gurcharan Singh at Delhi Pottery Art Studio

All about the founder of Indian studio pottery

OUR quest of moving towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle today is being fuelled by boutique labels fashioning terracotta bottles and ceramic dinnerware. But the project of giving pottery a modern avatar began in pre-Independent India, when Gurcharan Singh — fresh out of college after earning his bachelor’s degree with honours in geology — took up a summer job at a family friend’s Delhi Pottery Works in 1918. New Delhi was still being built, and the friend, Ram Singh Kabli, was a prominent contractor supplying bricks to the architects of colonial India’s new national capital. It was at such a momentous time that Kabali sent his protégé to study commercial ceramics in Tokyo. Singh returned in 1922, and through the crests and troughs of business against a turbulent background, he set up Delhi Blue Art Pottery, becoming a key founder of studio pottery in India.

Delhi-based designer and art historian Dr Annapurna Garimella will take the audience through this fascinating journey of studio pottery through Singh’s story in her lecture, Wabi-Sabi and Swadeshi: Gurcharan Singh’s Delhi Blue Pottery in Post-Independence Delhi. "Historically, no city has existed without being a centre for craft-making. So, I am looking at craft as an urban phenomenon," says Dr Garimella. The lecture, as the title suggests, will delve into Singh’s approach to studio pottery, which was informed by his knowledge and appreciation of Japanese and Korean practices, and his love for the vibrant blue glaze of the Sultanate-era monuments of Delhi. In fact, in his endeavour to marry the two for his idiom of modern Indian pottery, he sought out the tutelage of Abdullah, a descendant of Pathan potters, to learn the secret of the blue glaze. Singh established pottery research laboratories in Kashmir and Punjab, and went on to receive the Padma Shri in 1991. A fitting honour for the man for whom pottery was poetry.

On September 20, 6 pm
At Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Road, Byculla East. RSVP

Why we need to count our (natural) blessings


Himanshu Thakkar

At a time when a huge part of India is inundated with floodwater, while another part is battling drought, taking a long, hard look at how we have come to abuse our gift of water resources is the need of the hour. ABC of Water Management in India (A:Availability; B:Blessings; C:Challenges), a lecture by Himanshu Thakkar, aims to do that today, where the coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People will delve into why many of these natural calamities are avoidable.

"India is blessed with sufficient rain, mountain ranges where our rivers are born, local water systems, aquifers and traditional water wisdom. But we haven’t learnt to value them," says Thakkar, an engineer from IIT Bombay, adding, "Groundwater is India’s lifeline. But our policies and programmes don’t recognise it."

Closer home, memories of wading through the waters of a swelled up Mithi River earlier this month and before, are still fresh for most Mumbaikars.  "When the capacity of the catchment area — where wetlands and green cover play a key role — to hold, store, recharge and drain rainwater is lower than the amount rainfall it receives, it results in flooding. In Mumbai, land is considered valuable, but water is not," he sums up.

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