An odd Brit who made India his home

Coming out from the screening of Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Laurie Baker was a renewing and refreshing experience.

Published: 17th March 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th March 2017 02:55 AM   |  A+A-

Coming out from the screening of Uncommon Sense: The Life and Architecture of Laurie Baker on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Laurie Baker was a renewing and refreshing experience. It was as though I had been transported back in time, reliving all those memories from the past. Maybe it’s only when you see things spelt out in front of you in black and white that you realise how valuable old memories really are in one’s life.

I felt this sense of ‘being there’ as I watched each shot of the movie unfold, narrating the story of this strange Englishman who made India his home. Later, as I was waiting to go home, I remember people coming up and telling me how much they really appreciated and enjoyed watching the documentary and how fortunate I was to have had such amazing parents!

Yes, as children, we cherished the times we spent together as a family. Be it on vacations, or at home or along with dad at the work site, there was always cause for cheer as he would keep you entertained with his numerous anecdotes and stories. With him, there was never a dull moment. I remember the time when we went out on one of our usual Sunday drives. We were lost somewhere in the foothills of Agasthyakoodam, it was getting dark, and there was the noise of a wild elephant in the distance. Daddy was not perturbed by any of this and was egging us on to go further into the jungle. Such was his enthusiasm for exploration and adventure. The timely intervention of the local people helped us escape from a major disaster.

The open-mindedness of our parents helped us think for ourselves. They allowed us to do pretty much what we wanted and never imposed or thrust any of their ideas on us. I remember one of his students saying, “Daddy never really taught us. If you learnt from him, it was really learning through a process of osmosis !” How true this was, it was his way of life that really taught you, and showed you the way forward. The greatest lesson we learnt from him was to treat all people with equal respect, irrespective of their social position.

Even though he faced a lot of opposition from fellow architects and engineers because of his ‘radical, innovative and  unconventional ideas’, he was able to overcome such hurdles by his uncanny way of taking things in a humorous way and going ahead with the belief that what he was doing was right.  He was definitely a role model for us showing us that life is to be enjoyed and lived to the full.
Oh, and the documentary—a must-see!

Tilak Baker
Email: tilak@cds.ac.in

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