Annie! I remember the first time I heard Arundhati Roy’s name. It was in 1996-97 when she won the Booker Prize for her novel, The God of Small Things. It was considered as a major achievement by a young novelist, Indian, mind you at that time. I still remember her frozen image on the TV screen, the curls dominating her delicate face something about which made her so different and stand out from the crowd.
About a decade later, I entered Architecture school. I was still fascinated and hugely obsessed with her. She became a one time writer, published that one and only novel, won the booker and was an architect by education. It was enough to be transfixed with her. In the very first week of architecture school, we, first years were gathered in the big seminar hall and shown “In which Annie gives it those ones”. When I saw the title I thought, what kind of absurd grammar error was that. Then, Arundhati Roy’s name flashed on the screen and I kept my patience. The movie seemed quite rubbish at that point to me because it showed the ugly side of architecture not the fascinating version I had in my head. Of course, my opinion about Roy hadn’t changed much even after the movie. I considered her quite the rebel that she was. The freaked out dots made their impression. Little did I know that in another decade, I would be called as someone bearing resemblance to Roy in my thoughts about Architecture.
In 2010, after completing Architecture school, I got hold of “In which Annie gives it those ones” and this time when I saw it, I resonated with each and every moment of that frustrated architecture scenario in India. The movie was from about 25 years ago, yet nothing had changed in our country. Roy, unsurprisingly had retained and sharpened her firebrand attitude along with the writing. I had been reading most of her work, articles in magazines, even attended her lectures that addressed Capitalism and Caste in Mumbai, debated with architecture friends on her thoughts and mine. We had fierce and fiery arguments in the college canteen and workshop where students dunked a basket ball through the timber trusses and dented them forever. Cheap plastic Chai cups and Maggi plates lined the student built brick forums and broken t-scales found their way everywhere. Those were the days! We still gave them “those ones”– bullshit theories on circular buildings and orientation of balconies with glass facades and iconic skyscrapers while parroting Charles Correa’s Kanchenjunga design principles. Design teachers spew the same old “concept” card at us, building technology classes saw endless doodling that featured in the college newsletter and the craziest ever sob stories on unfinished design sheets and models.
How did we survive? Honestly, it’s not something that can be explained in words. It requires flashbacks into countless memories and heads that turned sleepy and bright on any given day in the leafy enclave of the city. Everybody feels like Annie these days! Me included. Miss that rush of running throughout the studio and lecture rooms and alternating between different floors just on the pretext of finding people for their attendance. That part is over now. Long gone. The wildest have survived and sobered and the confused have gone berserk. Architecture does that, Annie did that then and he does it now. Hardly surprising to see Annie back into the news again after more than four decades, sprightly up and doing what he did best in the movie- Give “it” those ones!