Crazy For Symmetry
Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

David Stairs There’s a little place in the Indian city of Agra famous as a testament of a man’s love for a woman.

Objects That Fly and Float
Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Malika Soin The title of this essay is inspired from Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s magical realist short story, “Light is like Water.” In the story, through textual narration, the reader visualizes the transformation of an everyday apartment setting to a sea world with floating objects. The realistic function of light is to brighten up a space […]

Can Non-Europeans Innovate?
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Editor’s note: To celebrate the first anniversary of the Indian Journal we’ve invited our friend Sumandro to share his thoughts on contemporary discussions of the Indian concept “jugaad.” Sumandro In a recent essay, Hamid Dabashi has spoken out against the continuation of the obnoxious (colonial) practice of identifying European socio-cultural artifacts as the universal form, […]

Why India Does Not Need Me
Saturday, December 1st, 2012

David Stairs As I come to the end of ten months of articles about India, I am a little sad. It has taken an effort, at times, to stick to my original purpose, to observe everyday design in action on the subcontinent. There have been both discoveries and disappointments, but that seems normal— much like […]

Animals in the 21st Century Urban Environment
Friday, November 2nd, 2012

David Stairs I once saw a mounted policeman in Philadelphia charge down a street at a full gallop chasing a felon. In my neighborhood, South 9th Street, there were even a few remaining stables. This was, of course, a 17th century city that late in the 20th century that still had a mounted police unit. […]

Monday, October 15th, 2012

David Stairs Workers unloading a truck at night America, land of gizmos and gadgets, began its history so labor poor that it accepted the evil of slavery for more than three centuries before its Civil War eliminated the scourge. India is very different.

No Trees, No Future
Monday, October 1st, 2012

David Stairs This article was suggested by Chris Stairs, who is also responsible for some of the photos Urgent entreaties, Sankey Tank vicinity, Bangalore Trees and diatoms, two of the things we most need to sequester CO2 and produce oxygen, one macro the other micro, are both under constant pressure from human activity. Global warming, […]

Making Tea
Friday, September 14th, 2012

David Stairs In the tea shambas of the Kanan Devan Hills Company, Munnar When it comes to tea, the Indian place names roll off one’s tongue: Assam, Darjeerling, Ceylon. Tea is grown in many other places, but it is in India that it became a world-class cash crop, under the avaricious guidance of 19th century […]

Desperately Seeking Sari
Saturday, September 1st, 2012

David Stairs “Oh Mother, today I remember the sindoor on your forehead, the red-bordered sari you used to wear, and your eyes—calm, serene, and deep.” —spoken by Bimala in Home and the World, by Rabindranath Tagore On the matter of women’s dress, there are two approaches in India, traditional and westernized. There’s not much to […]

The Indian Bathroom
Monday, August 20th, 2012

David Stairs Sign for women’s washroom in Hindi, English, Urdu, and Bengali. The water is held by the right, or eating hand. As goes its plumbing, so goes a nation; in this we do trust. The Romans supposedly poisoned themselves with lead piping, while Africans often don’t use pipes at all, preferring pit toilets and […]

330,000,000 Superheroes
Thursday, August 9th, 2012

David Stairs Special thanks to ajantriks for help with this article. Hindu temple, Chowdaiah Road, Bangalore On the weekend The Avengers opened in Bangalore, one week prior to its release in America, theaters were jammed with middle class Indians flocking to view the latest exploits of some of their favorite heroes. Whatever you may think […]

A Commercial Society
Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

David Stairs Adolf Hitler once referred to the British as “a nation of shopkeepers.” But the Brits had nothing on the Indians when it comes to small business. One needn’t look too far to notice the importance of commerce to India. It is tantamount to a religion. I remember how focused Indians in East Africa […]

Friday, July 27th, 2012

David Stairs Madhya Pradesh, in north central India When one thinks of France one automatically pictures the Eiffel Tower; New York and it’s the Statue of Liberty; India and 9 out of 10 people will say “Taj Mahal.” India is home to many other significant sites, including many of World Heritage caliber. Think here of […]

A Ride on the Yesvantpur Express
Thursday, July 19th, 2012

David Stairs Train travel in India is popular. Is it any wonder? Domestic flights cost ten times as much as trains. In fact, train travel is SO popular here, that it’s hard to reserve a seat if not done well in advance.

Design in the Sacred City
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

David Stairs The Ganges looking north Benares. Varanasi in modern parlance. This is the holiest city of Hinduism. The Ganges runs through it like the rainbow bridge of Asgard, but it’s so much more useful to the common man.

Pottery Town
Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

David Stairs Among the upper castes individuals might change their religion, but lower down the scale a particular caste in a locality, or almost an entire village would be converted. Thus their group life as well as their functions continued as before with only minor variations as regards worship, etc. Because of this we find […]

Planning the 21st Century
Monday, June 25th, 2012

The idea of planning and a planned society is accepted now in varying degrees by almost everyone. But planning by itself has little meaning and need not necessarily lead to good results… Does the plan aim definitely at the well-being and advancement of the people as a whole, as the opening out of opportunity to […]

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

David Stairs If you asked people to name the most durable material in the world, many would probably say steel. If you asked what is the most flexible they’d say plastic or rubber. If you asked them to describe the most economical they might say clay. Efficient? Glass. Now, suppose you rephrased your query and […]

The Little Town That Time Forgot
Monday, June 11th, 2012

David Stairs Auroville’s “symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection,” the Matrimandir Pondicherry, former French colony of India, has an interesting history. Like the former Portugese colony at Goa, now one of the most chic destinations in India, Pondicherry was not a part of British India and, therefore, did not become part […]

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

David Stairs The central idea of old Indian civilization, or Indo-Aryan culture, was that of, dharma, which was something much more than religion or creed: it was a conception of obligations, of the discharge of one’s duties to oneself and to others. —Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India Woman on a Pondicherry street Each morning […]

Day Market/Night Market
Thursday, May 31st, 2012

David Stairs My Mother used to shop at five different places, less out of vendor loyalty, which disappeared in America in the ’60’s, than to get the best price. Most of her retailers had grown to large conglomerates; gone were the independent grocers, butchers, and pharmacists of the mid-century. Flowershop at night, Mallesvaram

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

David Stairs “If the machinery craze grows in our country, it will become an unhappy land. It may be considered a heresy, but I am bound to say that it were better for us to send money to Manchester and to use flimsy Manchester cloth than to multiply mills in India.” —Mohandas Gandhi, Hind Swaraj […]

All Hail the Autorickshaw!
Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

David Stairs Motorcycles are the primary means of personal transportation in Bangalore. Every intersection is clogged with dozens of bikes and scooters impatiently waiting to break away when the light turns green, and when it does… off they roar like a swarm of angry hornets!

Jugaad Formalism
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

David Stairs “The search for form demands an investigation into values and qualities that Indians hold important to a good life.” —Charles and Ray Eames, The India Report, 1958

Visit to a Coir Mill
Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

David Stairs Febin standing by a pile of rope I just returned from a week in Kerala. On Monday morning April 2nd I was passing through Alleppey when I noticed a coir mill, or rope-making factory. Remembering that this was a rope-making region, I asked our driver Febin if we could stop at a mill. […]