Carrying on the Ranjan legacy: please publish the NID craft documentations

Dear NID community: alumni, present, future students and staff, and associated

It was extremely painful to learn that MP Ranjan left us so early in life. He left too many ideas in their formative stages, far more ideas in their just about-to-hatch stages, germinating seeds of ideas, and most of all he left us lonely, lost and guide-less.

MP Ranjan was not a person who just preached. His brilliance was in his positivity, his encouragement, his gentle and not-so gentle guidance to the right path and action. Always armed with his charming smile MP Ranjan had just that one small correct idea that would gradually open up the tunnel of ignorance into a steady stream of knowledge, truth and light. He was always trying out his ideas and ready to be with you when you tried out yours.

As a researcher and content editor with NID from 2002, first with the Exhibition Design discipline and later the ‘Handmade in India’ project, I was lucky to be part of the NID fold. 2002 was a year of pain and turbulence for India, specially Gujarat and I felt a similar situation inside NID. There were mistrusts, misunderstandings, accusations and despair on the campus. Most of all there was a lot of unhappiness. But the strengths in the form of Suranjan & Vikas Satwalekar, Siddhartha Ghosh, SM Shah, MGD Nair, Nina Sabnani, Balaram, Sethuraman, Errol Pires and, of course, MP and Aditi Ranjan, worked tirelessly to bring hope and positivity to NID.

I do not have a selfie with Ranjan, sadly, I do not have a selfie or photograph with any of the NID stalwarts but there are memories of their extreme strength, passion and love for their NID. Like many of you, I have seen them think, plan and design for NID, with their full commitment and eagerness, have seen those ideas crash, have seen these stalwarts crash but never fall. They would rise up again with more positivity, ideas and practicality. They would go out of their way to help students explore, believe, dream and dream. They would love their student’s ideas with more passion than probably the student ever had. Many of you would have several wonderful experiences of your own.

Working with Aditi and MP Ranjan as an editorial team member for the ‘Handmade in India’ opened me to their humility and passion. Aditi would sort out all administrative problems related to the project as she and Ranjan considered it their responsibility, they would not let the team spend their time on admin affairs but concentrate on work instead. You could always find Aditi working away in her chair and Ranjan popping in the room any time of the day and night – to discuss, joke, share or just argue with his dear wife. The special bond Aditi and Ranjan shared was something we are all aware of, they were inseparable. The ‘Handmade in India’ project probably involved the largest number of NIDians and non NIDians to have ever worked together in the history of NID. And, the book is a huge success – and what a success! Such a treatise of love would probably take half a century to come about again.

All those NIDians mentioned earlier gradually left the NID campus to let NID build a new chapter and a new identity. I remember especially one meeting with Ranjan, Aditi and Errol at the main gate over chai where I had innocently said “Ranjan, don’t leave NID, what will happen now?” and with his characteristic twinkle, he had smiled and said, “It should be closed, turned into a heritage monument, and preserved as a museum.” He wanted NID to be dynamic, discover its new role with the contemporary times, and keep evolving. Ranjan did not believe in stagnancy.

Part of a team of NIDians since 2002 who have worked to give space, recognition and identity to designers in the Indian museum world, I had met both Aditi and Ranjan several times over discussions of the state of museums in India. If there was ever any doubt or despair from my side, Ranjan’s smile, enthusiasm and the spirit to venture into the unknown goaded us on. His spirit kept alive the endeavour to bring design, light and colour to the derelict museums in India.

Between 2008 and 2010, the museum I worked with tried to reach out to NID to publish its years of craft documentations and diploma projects. Through the museum, we wrote several letters/emails, had many discussions but the senior staff at NID always said, “good idea”, “we should do this”, “but we have copyright issues to sort out”. An established and well recognised museum was ready to share its resources, extend its hand in the publication of these stories and documentations of age old traditions of arts and crafts in India (some of which have died out with time) but every email, letter and discussion led to frustration. The museum gave up and I was rebuked. But I will never forgot the look of despair and sometimes anger in Ranjan’s eyes, I didn’t have the heart to tell him at the main gate failed attempts but he would immediately gauge from my expression. He would however tell me to keep on and never give up. Hope NID has even able to sort out the copyright related issues by now.

The Bihar Museum, which opened on 7th August in Patna, Bihar, had a team of young NIDians – Akanksha Jain, Sushtrut Patgaonkar, Sumegha Mantri, Tushar Jain and Yashmi Prasad – in the design team. Oh Ranjan would have been so proud of them! To know that super juniors of his have created the most accessible, exciting and dynamic gallery for children where there is freedom to touch and climb objects that communicate the history of Bihar would have been a pathbreaking moment for not only Ranjan, but all his contemporaries who have fought so hard to give recognition to the design world in Indian museums. This is the first time so many NIDians actually worked on such a prestigious state government museum project. If only Ranjan had not been in such a hurry, there would have been several such success stories that he had sowed the seeds of through his years of hard work.

So dear NID community – most of us would be aware of MP Ranjan’s attempts in bringing the history of NID, its designers and its years of unparalleled research out into the world. I eagerly insist if we could somehow try to convince NID to come up with a plan to publish, in a digital form if books are expensive, the years of research painfully undertaken by generations of designers in the form of craft documentations/research/archival projects and photographs related to these, it would be a worthwhile tribute to one of the most loved design thinker and educator of not only our country but the world. 

Thanking you

Warmest regards

Poulomi Das

Handmade in India: A Geographic Encyclopedia of India Handicrafts
Handmade in India: A Geographic Encyclopedia of India Handicrafts

5 thoughts on “Carrying on the Ranjan legacy: please publish the NID craft documentations

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  1. Thank you Poulomi for this post. Indeed a plan to be materialized. I was fortunate that my craft doc (done in 2007) was selected to be published as a student publication. I worked on more research and refinement from 2008 – 2011 (on and off) and today a full manuscript with good photographs is ready and unfortunately lying unnoticed in one of the shelf of the R&P department since 4 years. Ranjan was in one of the R&P review meetings we had for this craft research called: Himroo – A Traditional Textile of Aurangabad. His feedback and guidance has always shown the ample possibilities.
    I have been following up with R&P, but things always get to a stand still!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for bringing out the true nature of struggles one went through while at NID.
    Indeed, besides being wonderful thinkers, great humans, inspiring teachers and passionate people both Ranjan and Aditi managed to keep going despite all odds and continued working relentlessly for their love for design in India.

    Strangely, for people like Ranjan who lived design in every way putting all efforts into this cause, it has been a long thankless journey. Thankless because it did not get him the recognition and the status he deserves. In his talk Ranjan speaks of design getting the recognition at the Padma awards. We designers know it’s a tall order, as our government models at present do not recognize ‘design’.

    Many of us believe he went too early not just because there were still tasks he wanted to accomplish, but also to collect his ultimate recognition due – the Padma. 🙂 Ho! Ranjan! This very struggle of yours gives students and alumni like myself the true belief that Design in India can make a difference to a country like ours. You had that magic which influenced so many of us into living life with this belief – your belief.

    Speaking for myself, recently I was reflecting on the loss of my father with my team, recollecting on what made me who I am? And the strong answer was: All those people whom you encountered in your daily life, who influenced your destiny just by giving you a small hint or just by talking or showing you something and strangely you didn’t have the sense to realize and recognize how that moment changed your destiny. And two people who stood out for me were my own father and MP Ranjan. Notably, neither Ranjan nor my father were close buddies or people I interacted with frequently or those who gave me advice in difficult situations. But they are the ones – my heroes and my Padma goes to them.

    To add to your note on museums and the importance of design, I would be proud to add that our firm Lopez Design is involved with the Bihar Museum for the brand strategy, identity, communication strategy, print, way finding & signage, website and social media. Among the key drivers and conceivers on this project are NIDans Jonak Das, Sujatha Shankar Kumar and Deekshit Sebastian. And let me tell you, we are proud to be designing and producing solutions at par with the best in the world. Truly Indian, truly world class. What gives me greater pride is to recognize that this seed was sown in us by the likes of Ranjan.

    Liked by 1 person

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