SHORT TAKES
Architect as artist
Randeep Wadehra

Architecture, Life And Me
By Sangeet Sharma. Rupa & Co. Pages: xviii+164. Rs 195.

According to Christopher Wren, architecture "has its political use; public buildings being the ornament of a country; it establishes a nation, draws people and commerce; makes the people love their native country`85" However, this architectís musings-cum-autobiographical account portrays the concept's more individualistic dimensions.

Educated in Chandigarh, Bangalore and Lucknow, Sharma talks of various influences on his intellectual and professional development. But what strikes one is his love for the profession which, for him, is a combination of music and mathematics; he goes on to aver, "Like biography a building reveals not one but two authors ó the architect and the user". He describes buildings ranging from temples to campus to private, public buildings. While waxing lyrical on architecture, he uses such `E9pith`E8tes `E9vocateur as "tactile, vibrant, visual" and "audible", having a "flavor that lingers on in the mental tastebuds`85" And yet he has a problem with the German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, for describing architecture as "frozen music". A bit of dichotomy here? Nevertheless, the narrative is adorned with curious, cute and vivid phrases like "spatial pranks"; "His (late American architect and teacher Louis Kahnís) buildings surrender to it (darkness) as if it were inevitable"; and "Like his speech his buildings were also in metaphors." This book should interest professionals and lay readers alike.

The Unforgettable Decade (1938-1948)
By K. N. Vaid. Pages 84. Rs 200

The never-ending saga of India's freedom movement is like a river having countless tributaries, with new ones, like this book, joining the course at various points. Often one perceives the freedom struggle as one-dimensional, viz., Indians versus the British, forgetting the Indian princely states that were as oppressive, if not more. People's struggle against these continued long after India gained freedom on August 15, 1947. For example, the princely state of Faridkot became part of the Union of India on April 13, 1948. Originally named Baryam the place was given to one Kapura Mul by the Mughal emperor Shahjehan. Kapura Mul became Kapura Singh after Guru Gobind Singh baptized him. He founded Kot Kapura. Later on, when Sheikh Farid visited his place, Kapura persuaded him to settle down in a nearby place that became famous as Faridkot. Vaid has chronicled the princely state's history, especially the decade of "second freedom struggle" in a manner that it can be used as source material for further research.

Sir Chhotu Ram: the last days
& Ch. Matu Ram
By K. C Yadav. Centre for Study of Haryana History, Culture & Social Development.
Pages: 119 and 120. Rs 195 each

During our freedom struggle people from different backgrounds had contributed in different ways. Some preferred direct confrontation with the British while others chose less belligerent methods. Still others combined political activity with social reform. These two books highlight two leaders from what's now Haryana, who had worked within the extant system under the British for general good. Sir Chhotu Ram was a stalwart of the Unionist Party in the pre-independence Punjab. In fact, he had the distinction of being the only Hindu to lead the Muslim majority party. He worked energetically to promote the interests of the province's zamindars even as he kept religion and politics apart.

He was a vocal supporter of united India. Although the book purports to be a reconstruction of Sir Chhotu Ram's last days, it is essentially a compilation of tributes paid on his death by various sections of society including The Tribune, which give glimpses of his personality.

The second book is a biography of Matu Ram, who had made valuable contribution towards improving conditions in rural areas.

A son of Zaildar Bakhtawar Singh, he was educated only up to Class IV but worked tirelessly to promote education in his community. He was in the forefront of social reforms such as removing obscurantism, improving the status of women and making his community politically aware.

Both the books can prove invaluable as source material for further research on Haryana's nation builders.





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