Programs and space for creative people.

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This Stage of Vulnerability

A gigantic thump called for a necessary pause ten minutes into meeting with visiting Jaaga DNA collaborators. Those of us in the Studio made full eye contact, ready to leave our electric shock absorbing yoga mat’d steel tables that house our forever connected, nomadic laptops. I cautiously opened our 2cm thick, ‘Beam Red’-painted wooden door. A door that we usually latch closed come late afternoon to keep some of the mosquito mob at a distance. Mosquito mob is to Jaaga crew as Jaaga crew is to Foody’s (Those who know us know this is more fact than opinion). “Is everything alright?” synced with the view of a bison board that clearly fell from some floors up and Freeman, who was a little taller than the displaced industrial weight. Freeman responded, “Hey Shaona!” with his charming smile and not much worry on his face. We commenced with laughter, glad only the bison board had a chip or two. Our collaborators, one in person and the other on Skype, had no questions. They were clearly familiar with the spontaneity of our space. Shortly after, we saw flashes of light going off in the Studio. We look back and up at Akshay squatting out of the now visible Audi space, separated by bison board seconds ago. This was the first out-of-my-head realization that we really are moving from a place I’m quite attached to. I arrived at Jaaga’s Shantinagar location during one of my most vulnerable periods of believing in important career decisions I’d recently made. Vulnerable as in the abundance of possibilities in an unfamiliar city, a different culture and foreign networks far from home. There was this woman Archana Prasad and a place called ‘Jaaga’ that I’d heard about multiple times upon moving. Seven months into living in Bangalore, I had a very specific reason to reach out to Archana in finding a fitting home for recycled art intervention workshops I’d been experimenting with around the time Bangalore’s waste crisis took international spotlight. Kiran is the first Jaagarnaut I met. We discussed the material make up of audio/video cassette tape and where our accents come from. I will always remember Archana and I’s first conversations. We spoke about ‘What ifs’ just as much as our backgrounds and what our original meeting was called for. What if there was a university categorised by current social and cultural issues, in which majors were subcategorised and interchangeable based on specific problem solving needs? What if we were all exposed to more intentional design education from childhood? Archana shared her admirable journey as a local Bangalorean preserving her roots, her arts background and exploring different dimensions of our globalised generation through various creative ventures, all along saving up enough rupees to do so. Most remarkably, during a February 5th, 2013 meeting, Archana shared her key takeaways from The India Report, written by designers Ray and Charles Eames in 1958. The India Report is a timeless research-based deliverable on localized design education, asked for by the Nehru-led Indian government, which sparked the establishing of NID, India’s first design higher institution (1961). Definitely give the Report some time if you haven’t already. A unique mix of sounds and sights are common in our Shantinagar space. Bison board falling is an extremely rare one, but the combination of Double Road auto rikshaw horns, BMTC grumbling engines and whiny bus brakes, carrom disks skating across local wood, a 3D printer at work, cheers from getting Arduino-jumped LED lights working, the generator powering up, Berlin singing with an accordion, the melody of multilingual conversations, Traveller’s Meet mic checks, Courtyard Cafe’s looping playlist is normal. I’ve refrained from easily including more overlapping sound bites. The concentration of risk-filled ideas, variety of passionate people and an optimistic aura makes Jaaga feel unmatchable for projects that are changing the way masses think. Jaaga attracts a specific type of personality. Many are bound to leave Jaaga with a definite date of return, whether virtually in hours, tomorrow by scooter or a flight abroad six months from now. Brene Brown, researcher and scholar, says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity” and also, “Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure”. Jaaga is as vulnerable as many of the people that travel in and out of our space. Our crew travels together quite often, from unintentionally falling asleep talking during overnight train rides to last minute planned Durga Puja pandal roaming down the street from our homes. Our last big trip together was to Kerala for the INK Talks. Meeting Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray Eames, at his Powers of Ten workshop was one INK highlight for me. In the 24 hours following the workshop, Eames visited Jaaga and our crew attended Eames’ talk at the Herman Miller office. Eames included a picture of our current space in his presentation. A slide sharing the essence of our modular and rectilinear architecture in relation to the Eameses home. Nearly ten months after being introduced to The India Report, the Jaaga crew was sitting with a humble man whose family indirectly spoke of, 55 years ago, a culture Jaaga is on a mission in shaping. After all presentation guests left, Eames shared stories with us and some of the Herman Miller team. One story was about how his grandparents were hanging out with Indira Gandhi at the World’s Faire in New York. Another was his insightful take on ergonomic principles of design sparked by the amount of lefties in our group and the chairs we were lounging in. These types of happy surprises happen in the Jaaga stratosphere. The next Jaaga mission is underway, openly guided by our visionaries who believed in the need of a Jaaga four years ago. We’re central Bangalore Penthouse and Karnataka village farm bound. Once future tense ‘What ifs’ team discussions have reached present day to-do lists. Our space has multiplied. Our crew is more like a family everyday. We’re in an important stage of vulnerability, together and confidently. We’re not scared of change. Vulnerability in such exciting times calls for a lot of bouncing up and down, learning by doing and history in the making. Our intentions are the same and our given evolution is naturally accelerating with the times. New combinations of sights and sounds are Mars Orbiter speed ahead. Bounce with us.