A woman of substance, Dr. Kiran Bedi was WADe’s Guest of Honour for the launch event on 14-May-2016 at Leela Ambience Gurgaon. She is India’s first and highest ranking woman IPS o cer who joined the Indian Police Service in 1972. Her expertise includes more than 35 years of creative and reformative policing and prison management. She worked with the United Nations in New York as the Police Advisor to the Secretary General, in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. She represented India in International forums on crime prevention, drug abuse, police and prison reforms and women’s issues. She holds a Law, Masters, Doctorate degree. She has addressed audiences at the American, British, European, Indian Universities, Corporate and Civil Society groups.
She is a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award (also called the Asian Nobel Prize), and several other national and international decorations, Dr. Bedi is an author of many books, has her biography ‘I Dare’, anchors radio and television shows and is a columnist with leading newspapers and magazines. She is the founder of two NGOs, Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation, which reach out to thousands of under -served children, women and men in the areas of education, vocational skills, environment, counselling, and health care to the urban and rural poor. She played a signi cant role in India Against
Corruption, a movement led by Shri Anna Hazare. On 22 May 2016, Bedi was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
Dr. Bedi gave a powerful Opening speech for WADe India – India’s 1st platform for women architects & designers. For those who have missed it, here is Dr. Bedi’s message to Architects & Designers of India:
I want to thank Vertica & Madhu because this is the first time I have got an invitation for attending an event related to Women in Architecture & Design. I loved it because I love this profession and my respect for what you stand for. The country needs you.
Everything today needs a design, a soul and a spirit. Everything needs to come to life. While a man is a contributor, it is the Woman who is the giver of life. Every building is about life because there are people living and breathing in it. It’s not about male or female monopoly but it is human nature. Nature has designed women differently and we should celebrate our design. While we need both, sturdiness and design, softness and concrete, the role of women in design & architecture is very important in shaping the lives of people, of neighbourhoods, of the institutions, of
the culture, of the country in many, many ways. Therefore, I have come to WADe India out of respect for what you do and stand for. Secondly, I am so happy to see you united in a platform.
Architecture is not just linked to concrete visibility. Architecture is also about behaviour. 10 years ago, I was invited to Switzerland to receive an award called – Joseph Beuys Prize. It was for Architecture. I was surprised because I have not built any buildings, but that award was for ‘Social Sculpting’ for my prison work. It looked at human work of socially sculpting people. So design is not just about building structures. When you combine & match the external design with the internal design, a piece of art is created.
I remember, I had just taken over as IG Prison when an architectural drawing was sent to me for approval. It was the new design of the Tihar Jail. It had to be signed and sent to PWD construction works. I was told the study was already done by my predecessors and I just have to sign. It’s too late to re-examine and recheck, they stressed. I refused to sign it unless I re-examine. I made it clear that I am not signing something which needs to last much beyond me, without even re-examining it. I was then called by the then home secretary, who was also a lady. She insisted that it was too late to re-look into things and there were no funds, yet gave me 48 hours to get back.
I didn’t wait for 48 hours. I had already started working in the prison and had noticed that the current architecture of Tihar Jail didn’t meet my needs. It had no Yoga centre, no dining hall, no activities, only dormitories. I could just lock them up, that’s all. It was built in the early 50’s post independence by the British. Prisons were nothing but holding institutions then.
Locking them up was what they did. I opened them up and told them to read. Since there was no classroom, I use to remind my prisoners of the ancient Gurukuls where students would study under the shade of trees. That’s how I started calling Tihar an ashram. Fortunately for us, we had very old rich trees, Banyan trees, Peepal trees, so I would say every tree is a classroom. But I needed a classroom when it rained or to protect from extreme heat. I used to go back to the barracks and the barracks had to be converted into classrooms. It was very important because I cannot do without education. Whichever institution I have run, education has to come in, so we used to convert it. So when I looked at it, it didn’t have a classroom, no prayer room, no compound wall where I can speak to the prisoners, because that’s my job to communicate with about what were their programs. It was not meeting my needs, nor was it meeting my changing needs. The new plan that they asked me to sign was that same as it was today.
The architects who designed the plan for Tihar Jail had surely not applied their minds. Somebody has done a fast job and thus I rejected it. I was then called by the Union Home Minister. But I stood my ground and told them to put on record that I have rejected it, because I cannot be part of something faulty which is to stay for 200-300 years beyond me. When he asked me what I want, I requested for 3 months time.
“I have a building in the rural set up where we have a rural school. I had Ar. Lauri Baker to do it for me. That building doesn’t need an air conditioner, it’s built with local materials and a lot of air circulation. It is such an amazing place. I had no idea of this; I just told what I need. So I think that’s the partnership we are looking at.”
I knew a gentleman architect Mr. Basu from School of Architecture & Planning and asked if he could take this up for us. We needed funds, which I promised to find, but the plan needed to be relooked and our emerging needs should be met. Good news is – I succeeded and the new plans for the prison now incorporates yoga center, play school for children, a dining hall, a proper modernised kitchen, a compound etc. This new design became a trendsetter for new prisons in India. Now many schools of architecture and design connect with me to say that they are designing prisons. I have retained those designs that we had worked on because it was a treasure for me, for being able to make a contribution.
What I am saying is, we are in a business of ‘Living Lives’ and that, building plays a very important role. I urge you to be a voice – a voice which creates and instils life in whichever building you build, whether it’s a government building or a corporate house. Create a design out of your own creativity. Ideas come when you reflect, when you read, when you think, when you share, when you want to create something exciting, when you want to meet the higher purpose of that, it’s not just the cost but something which is original. And that’s where I feel, women architects can play a major role.
As I told you my story, I want to share my mantra. It’s a concept called DRIB.
D stands for – Be Different and better. How you are different and better is what your role is. If you look at my story, I was different and better because I was concerned about what I was doing. For me, it was not a job to be done; it was a mission to be met. So as architects, you all have a mission when you create an institution. This is something which is not to be forced but to be thought over, reflected even though working within your deadlines. Mona Lisa’s painting was not done in a year; it took the artist 16years to bring that lightening smile on that face.
Second, R is – to Reinvent. When we don’t continue to reinvent our lives, it gets boring. The plan for the prison was boring because those bureaucrats, engineers or architects were just boring. They were just copying and were not re-inventing
Dr. Kiran Bedi with Vertica Dvivedi, Founder, WADe India, India’s platform for Women Architects & Designers
Third I, – is to Ideate. I don’t mean have self-doubt but share your ideas and ideate. Then the ideas will become very creative.
This is the mantra of my life – Be different and better, to continue to re-invent. Coming to you today was reinventing for me. As a young student, I had read ‘The Fountain Head’ by Ayn Rand as part of my English Honours. My most favourite character is ‘Howard Roark’ who refused to change his architecture design to just anything just because a client is requesting. I fell in love with your subject. And I cannot be what you are because I cannot draw. I cannot design, but I can question, I can find faults in it if it doesn’t meet my needs.
And then my mantra also says don’t have self doubt but have ideas. And Ideas come with yoga, through breath, through meditation; ideas come through sports, travel, nature, silence. You can all find your own ways of where your ideas come. Everybody is different and everybody’s need is different. Search for yourself, what you do when you get ideas. I know myself and you know yourself. I cannot be you and you cannot be me.
And finally B is for Browsing – Constantly Browse and keep on educating. You need to be a network, a powerhouse. Men and women architects, both of you should join hands together and be a voice on retention and creation of Indian arts and culture.
I have a building in the rural set up where we have a rural school. I had Ar. Lauri Baker to do it for me. That building
doesn’t need an air conditioner, it’s built with local materials and a lot of air circulation. It is such an amazing place. I had no idea of this; I just told what I need. So I think that’s the partnership we are looking at.
I believe you are preservers of this country, of this heritage, also creators of something original and unique as Indian Architecture. May you all stand out wherever you are in Human Architecture, Mind Architecture and Hand Architecture! I Wish you all the very best!
For an elaborate coverage of the event log on to www.wadeindia.com.
“The architects who designed the plan for Tihar Jail had surely not applied their minds. Somebody has done a fast job and thus I rejected it. I was then called by the Union Home Minister. But I stood my ground and told them to put on record that I have rejected it, because I cannot be part of something faulty which is to stay for 200- 300 years beyond me.”
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