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Ar. Geoffrey Bawa - a few memoriesBy Jaisim Krishnarao
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(A flash back to the 1970 s and my interface with this legend.)
It all happened one early morning, when I was sitting at my desk in JAISIM-FOUNTAINHEAD in Haddows Road, Madras, reviewing my days task when Mr. Uttam Reddy the owner of the property walked in with a large person behind him, “here is an acquaintance of mine – an architect from Ceylon – Geoffrey Bawa – thought I will introduce you both” and he walked away. The `visitor` sat down in front of me and we had a friendly chat. Ceylon was undergoing political turmoil and all non ethnic persons were asked to leave and Mr. Uttam Reddy had a friend who was a friend and India opened doors to refugees and here I AM.
The place I occupied incidentally was due to my structural consultant partner P.S. Sivasubramanian (of Gammons) who was Reddy’s consultant. Who in turn had one day invited us to share his office space, when he saw us roaming around without a defined identity of address? And from this space we had in a few years made an impact and created an identity.
I had a standard herald at that time, and Bawa walked in a few days later and in his inimitable manner quizzed “I must have a car, to travel around”. To which I asked what make? “He laughed and said why not a comfortable Rolls Royce?” He thought I would be taken aback. But only a week before a client of mine had walked in stating that his uncle had died bequeathing him a car – a RR and did not know what to do with it!
So I called him and asked GB to squeeze himself and off we went to the car shed where it was locked. He walked around it and with great familiarity got in and started the engine backed out and came around and shook the friend’s hand saying “Thank you now it is mine”. MSP I was the number- a black beautiful beast. And we drove back.
As the formalities were being done, he walked in again stating he had a client the SPENCER’s – a client of U R who wanted to renovate their existing hotel and could I assist. Spencer also wanted to see what he could do. So they gave him a couple of old rooms and one of the builders working with us came on and thus started the first step of design adventure.
Jaisim I want you to drive me to a large market. Moore Market was the destination. And it was amazing old, new, used anything one fancied was available. Out of simple curiosity picked up a few rice measures and a few loongies and other odd and ends. He had picked up a few youngsters from my office to help.
A few days later he said before we ask Balakrishna (the manager) to see I want you to have a look. So landed up in the premises and opened the door, it was a wonderland. The transformation that had taken place to each of the ordinary items into objects of artefacts’ with utilitarian values with subtle aesthetics was and Is a creation of innovative imagination. The Bedspread, the wastepaper basket, the curtains and all over was magical.
Next day it was inaugurated and the client simply signed on a new project as also renovating the existing hotel, another step. I was sitting in the lounge with him and he asked get me a stone dresser. And he made him chip the decades old mosaic stairs and gave it a rough finish. At this moment Pulogosundaram his structural consultant over the decades walked in and I got introduced and another path opened. It was in that lounge he made a few international calls and I learnt he was doing projects in Europe and many other places.
Nala ponappa and Narasingam got exchanged. Narasingam joined me and stayed at Fisherman’s Cove project office cottage site and Nala moved to Spencer’s. After signing the new project, the Chettinad palace on the river became his home with a RR Silver Ghost as the centre piece of the living room.
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