Posts tagged India
Creating the Jugaad Dishwasher, The X-Way

The X-Way was a 2 day workshop sponsored by Nokia and Microsoft that focused on ideas, strategies and discussion around improving Mumbai city. Ben & Andrew moderated the workshop, keeping it challenging as twenty creatives and innovators came together with many, many city ideas.

One of the interesting exercises was listing things we love and hate about Mumbai. It was heartening to see that the 'love' pile was so much bigger despite Mumbai's numerous faults.

When discussing Mumbai's numerous problems, traffic cannot be ignored. Everything to do with traffic and way-finding is contextual. Signage is missing in a lot of places. When pedestrians give directions, the meaning may be different depending on the tone of their voice, how they stand, hand gestures and language. Honking has varied meanings depending on frequency, tones, loudness and the length of each honk. The city is a hotbed of large scale issues and topics of interest.

My team eventually looked at pavement ownership as a microcosm of health and sanitation. How could we encourage and create value in a public space such as pavement. We were in posh areas of Mumbai, and even here we found street hawkers taking ownership of pavements (in a good way) keeping them clean and ensuring their part of the pavement was maintained. Eventually we focussed even further and came up to a sugarcane vendor. Could we come up with something to help him wash the glasses in his stall while he was busy doing a million other things like making the juice, serving and cashing. A lot of times hygiene and proper washing was way down in his priorities while multi-tasking.

The final concept after two days of guerrilla research and quick prototyping was the 'jugaad dishwasher' - a mechanically automated machine that washed glasses saving the vendor time and effort as he ran a one-man operation. The washer connects to the juice machine itself so it doesn't need electricity to run. Soap is optional here since most vendors do not use soap. Overall the 'jugaad dishwasher' concept could also work for other street hawkers, juice vendors and with a few upgrades could even save time in someone's kitchen.

Check out some photos of the prototype we made. The video below has a few shots of us talking to sugarcane vendors.

The rotating juicer translates into the up and down movement of the simple washer, which repeatedly rinses the glasses. The trough can be easily refilled and cleaned and occupies minimal space.

We made several quick prototypes using found and re-usable materials. Above is an image representing the juicer wheel. A simple mechanical addition to the wheel as shown above allows it to connect with with dishwasher out of frame.

More about the X Way here and here.

Arduino Yun Workshop

The two day workshop by Ankit Daftery was a great way to dig deep into the possibilities of the Yun. As an interactive artist, I'm already aware of various options available. Trying them out was empowering and surprising. You can make complex interactions with just two to three days of effort [as a beginner], especially at an affordable price.

This example converts two fruits into a drum kit, sort of a very basic version of the famous Makey Makey. Below is a short video of the test.

NID Talk

It was a healthy turnout of about 45 students, still in their first years studying Interaction Design. Talking about my work from the past six years helped me look at it in a completely different perspective, basically the breadth of different types of projects I've done, and what interested me the most. It was titled 'Mobile UX - What it's like to design and create iOS and Android apps today.'

Students were full of questions, which is a great sign. Post talk discussions brought up several interesting topics, such as power dynamics between designers and engineers in the industry today. One thing I always stress is respect - engineers are the ones implementing your work so a healthy respect goes a long way especially in large companies and situations when engineers are part of a client team. Another thing that interaction designers should strive towards, and something I struggle with everyday, is keeping up to date with the latest tech so you can converse intelligently with the team.

One of the stories I like to tell at such talks. Check out the full article here.

NID Bangalore is a R&D hub for design in India. Image Source.

Danger of a Single Story
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This brilliant TED video by novelist Chimamanda Adichie articulates what I often have to say about Mumbai while here in UK. Namely, yes there is poverty and yes we have slums - but these are proud people who are more than just the anonymous poor. They don't want your useless pity. When I make art about Mumbai I often have to defend my work and my position to outsiders because it is not the typical vision of what people imagine Mumbai to be, which is terrible disparity and nothing else. She is also quick to point out however, that all of us have at one point or the other indulged in a 'single story.' Whats important is to be aware of it and avoid it as much as possible.

Documentary: Bombay Railway

Bombay Railway is a two-part documentary by BBC 4 that paints a picture of an overcrowded train system pushed to its limit by 6 million commuters a day, full of people who strive towards their goals tirelessly, in the city of dreams that is Mumbai. I was a frequent traveller myself, so it was interesting to watch the documentary which is from the point of view of an observer rather than someone who has lived the experience. What we call "Crush" is the super rush hour that's also mentioned in the film, and the statistics and video footage is more frightening than actually travelling in the crowd. As an observer, the sight of 5000 or more people getting into trains meant for 1200 people within 30 seconds is a spectacle. As a participant it's an exciting, thrilling, and somewhat harrowing daily reality. The fact is that the local trains are cheap, charging about 1 penny a mile and the trains are always on time with a 97% efficiency, so despite the odds the system is dependable and vital to the normal functioning of Mumbai.

In the first part of the film, the stories about runaway kids living on Mumbai platforms sounds sunny and positive, giving the audience hope that things could turn out well for these children that have escaped abusive families. However describing a railway station as a "family" where you get to "be yourself" is overly optimistic and misleading. Most of these runaways end up being abused, drugged and treated badly. I have seen them being thrashed by cops or others on more than one occasion. Life for kids in such places is rarely a happy place.

Various other issues such as illegal hawking, crossing tracks, and the terrorist bombings are also mentioned. Below are a few screenshots from the film:

Elsewhere Places

Screenshots from the movie Mein Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, which takes place in a fantasy location called SundarNagar, which literally means beautiful-place. Bollywood directors frequently use scenes from Switzerland, Scotland and Mauritius to represent an elsewhere or ideal India.

Film Locations for Main Prem Ki Film Locations for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai Mohobbatein Locations DDLJ Locations No Entry Locations

Vegetable Sellers on the Train
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All kinds of stuff gets sold on local Bombay trains, especially in the women's compartments: vegetables, fruits, safety pins, cell phone covers, earrings, rings, bangles, sarees, stationary, dress material, make-up, evening snacks, you name it. What caught my eye this time was the last of the vegetable stock being sold off late in the evening - past 9pm. Within a few minutes everything is gone, because almost every woman in the compartment has to go home and cook for the family.

Local Train Signage
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Crudely painted stenciled signage from the relatively new Mumbai local trains. The 'Alarm' sign inside the compartment is pretty legible, but do the same in Marathi, and suddenly it is more difficult to read especially because it's partly scratched off. Alarm Signage Local Train

I can figure out the first and last word, it says apatkaleen (something) uplabdh. Then the arrow points to the footboard of the compartment door. A real puzzle, typical of the Indian government or should I say Railway authorities. I can guess it means 'In case of emergency (aapatkaleen) use this (uplabdh)' then the arrow pointing to the footboard. God only knows what it's supposed to point to.

It's an excellent example of the typical contradictions you face everyday in Bombay. The new trains have this cool new speaker system which announces the nearest station in three languages, and at the same time the emergency help services and signage are at this level.

Stray Factory
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Check out the logo I've designed for Stray Factory. They're an entertainment collective, who're into a lot of awesome projects, a majority of which are contemporary theater experiments in Chennai.

Want to see more? Check out this poster for a play called Dystopia

Update: Stray Factory and Indiblogger are hosting The Great Indian Blogologues to take blogs onto the theater stage for the first time ever. Any post of yours, be it a rant or a rave will be converted into a performance if you win! > Stray Factory is also in the press here.

Ramoji Film City
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An entire city of film sets, from Bollywood and Hollywood to famous monuments and what not. Located in the outskirts of Hyderabad the place seems to be more of a tourist destination than a place for movie directors to find their perfect location. Apparently, it isn't as popular as it once was in the film industry, but it's still an entertaining experience. A bright red tourist bus takes you around the massive place, while a guide rattles off the number  of movies and famous directors that have chosen locations here.

tourist bus at ramoji

Hollywood...!

Hollywood sign

This is called Hollywood st. for some reason, where the houses look western, perfect for a scene in a foreign country :)

Hollywood st

Jimmy's Drive In

Jimmy's Drive In

The gas station near Jimmy's:

gas station near jimmy's

A train engine which says Texas Mail:

texas mail

The wild west area has several actors and stunt men who perform an entire action sequence, blowing up banks, etc.

saloon

Now for the more local, Indian sets! A fort, or it would be more accurate to call it the entrance to a fort.

fake fort

Chikatpally police station, although the set was dismantled to some extent, it was worth a shot :)

Chikatpally Police Station

A fake airport, looks like what it may have looked like 10 or 20 yrs ago. Completely outdated.

fake airport set

Inside the airplane set, look at the number of tourists!

airplane set

One of the several palace sets, lit up at night.

palace set

Giant creepy statues that line some of the pavements.

statues at night