While sitting inside of my Toronto apartment, I was thinking about what makes living in a

building here so different to living in an a building in India. This got me thinking about the difference in the small every day-to-day actions and activities that set the living conditions apart.

I began to dissect every single thing in viewing site inside my apartment beginning with the wooden chair I was sitting on.

I thought back to how little wood was used across India because of the humid and rainy weather they receive. I also thought back to the heat and high temperatures that we all felt while travelling, reflecting on the cool breeze of the air conditioning running through my apartment. One very crucial living condition that we all made adjustments for was honestly the heat and the weather. Placing our bodies in very different environments is one major change already, but to have exposure to high temperatures creates more stress on the body. I thought about how comfortable I felt while sitting in an air-conditioned apartment, but I felt strange at the same time. I could not help but feel as if I was using such an unnecessary machine and resources simply to cool a space. It caused me to immediately turn off the air conditioning and open up some windows. In that moment I also thought about the word itself “air-conditioning”. A machine created to condition our air. It seemed very odd to me that by paying some money, installing a machine, and by pushing a button that I could control my environment.

After some long thought, I was trying to place myself back onto the roads and train in Malavli and I had a memory suddenly rush to my head. I was remembering the experience of watching two gentlemen fall asleep on the fast and bumpy train. I remembered their precise and complementary head movements moving back and forth at a synchronized pace. Their heads were bouncing with the train in harmony as if they became attached or part of the train.It reminded me of how I would always see people in Toronto riding the subway on their commute home and decide to take a short power nap. This again reminded me of the comparisons and similarities of people and transportation and how regardless of the location, people are the same.


Enjoy the Good Side

Coming back and living back in Canada feel so surreal, when it should been the opposite, I feel that I should go back to Malavli because I have to make sure I catch on of those ground crabs, to make sure I did lock the door or even to pick up my lunch from the yellow house. As soon as I walk in my room, I was happy to see all my stuff again but at the same time I realize how useless some of the stuff is. I feel that I discover how the other part of the world is living and coming back to Canada where everything is quite, organized; where I don’t have to turn the heater of the washroom before using it, where I will not get food poison from eating a hot dogs form the street; seems like dream of everything been perfect and no reason to fear anything no reason to feel the excitement of life.

I have been thought that every situation has a good side and a bad side and to learn to live life you will have to be aware of the bad side but enjoy the good side, here in Canada the bad side is so hidden that sometimes it doesn’t affect you directly and then you are living in a “good side” for ever you will start to overlook the meaningful stuff. My point is that you will never learn to appreciate the good side you live in because you don’t have the contrast of the bad side. In India I learn to enjoy my fan in my room, I learn to appreciate the naan I got in the restaurant or the rotti I was giving for lunch, I learn to appreciate the 50 rupees I had because I could buy a littler of Aquafina water and 3 packs of chips.

The first purchase I made back in Canada was new sunglasses, and when I bought them it was different, I knew that for once in my life I have to take care of this glasses I have to not think of an object that I can always buy if I loose them, but as a privilege that I am buying sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun. yes it may sound absurd to think of a sunglasses this way but that is my point, even the most meaningless stuff have a reason for been there. I hope this way of thinking doesn’t go away with time, because it makes me feel that I am still living in a live where there is a bad and a good side.

the good side the bad side.

Yes – No – Maybe So

Flying half way across the world to India, it was crucial that we must enter this new world with an open mind; as soon as we shut our selves out the experience we all gained would have never existed. Before departure almost everything I heard from people were connotative and in my own mind I was picturing a very large slum essentially: even though I knew there is always a division of class. Nevertheless what I experienced was like nothing I would have imagined or read about.

Behind the scattered garbage and burning heaps, the true beauty of India belongs to its people. Coming from a western vantage, I had come in with some negative interpretations of what to expect but I was blown away when I got experience the real side of India. One of the most interesting things to me was what I called the “Indian Bobble” which consists of a head bobble with out moving the neck and just the head. This reaction is common to all people of India and a response to a question that has to be interpreted by the opposing person; I picked up on it quick and started to do it myself by the end of the first week. The interpretation of this bobble can mean all of the above: yes, no, and maybe. Like I have previously said the people of India all do this, some even did it as a understanding and or acknowledgement to what you’re asking. The mannerism of India really intrigued me and I think are something that lacks in Western Society. Another thing that I learned and would like to impose in to culture is not to say “sorry” as often: as Canadians apologize way too much. This overuse of the word “sorry” means we lose the integrity of when we are actually apologetic. Instead of saying sorry the Indian culture just acknowledges a small bow or signal to show that it was accidental; some even did the head bobble.

All and all there are many things to take away from this trip, but the people and their behaviours towards one another memorized me. I would go as far to say that I am in withdrawal and find it hard to come back to a city of individuals and not community and smiles.


As time passes by, the memory of India is getting blurry, while what I learned will enlighten me and direct my future. As an artist, I often work individually. The Indian program gives me a great chance to work in a team. Although I still prefer to work individually, I appreciate the help and lessons from my team members. I got better understanding about design through the observation, listening when we are working: design is about people, their wishes and trying your best to make their wishes become true. Teamwork is about discussion, argument, negotiation, show understanding, and working out together.

Indian is a country I want to go back to visit again someday. I saw the potential and energy of this unique country: Indians are very open and respect to others. By others, I mean the people from other countries, as well as other species. I believe this will lead them towards a not necessarily economically developed country, but an even better and happier future.



This trip gave me an experience that I could have never imagined.  It exceeded all my expectations and gave me a whole new outlook to the world itself and most importantly a whole new perspective to the different kinds of people that you can encounter with an open mind.  For me India was an eye-opening place to experience that I was missing in my life to further grow as a person and as well grow in my art practice.

Coming back to Toronto I could not stop thinking about the array of different contrasts we have as a Western society compared to India.  The biggest comparison I encountered was the different natures of people that exist in the world.  I am not talking about race but rather depicting the way we present ourselves towards others.  Since coming back from India I could not stop thinking of Toronto as a “grey” and “blue” place while my eyes were still not adjusted from India’s “gold” and “orange” tones.  These colours however can describe the two different places accurately in my eyes.  Toronto being described as grey and blue portrays our sinister and conceded citizens while gold and orange can describe the warm open hearts and bright smiles the citizens of India have.  Of course I cannot draw such drastic conclusions from the kind of people there is however with the factor in mind that even though we were travellers and interesting for them to encounter, they were still sincere when we were greeted warmly.  From observing Indian citizens interactions, it is clear that the people are down to earth and knew what was important in life and was not.  Indians had an outlook in life that put people’s well-being first and materialistic objects second.  I find in our Western culture we lack the integrity to distinguish between what is important and what is not which leads us with an attitude towards life that is not “down to earth” but rather a perception of arrogance.  I found coming back to Toronto I had a difficult time adjusting to the ways we interact with others.  I was still greeting people with smiles or a nod but of course here in Toronto, I would get confused or sinister looks in return.  Our Western society is a place for individualism and lacks the realization that we are all here together in this world.  In India, not once did I not feel at home and it was because of the strong sense of community I felt anywhere in India I visited.  India cherishes the people the citizens are surrounded by and I hope with my experience I can bring that to our society.

I thought I would come back with a new outlook in my practice as becoming a bit of designer but what I learned was even greater than a few techniques to improve my art with the eyes of a designer.  I came back with a feeling of such accomplishment because I realized that the design and art I helped create was not one for myself but for one who needed it more.  As a sculptor, I realized my art I created was just for own self.  After my experience in India, I was never more proud as an artist of the work my group accomplished and I realized it was because for once it was not for my “Westernized conceded self” but rather for someone that needed the beauty of art in their life more than I did.  This was because at the end of the trip I learned to look through the eyes of an Indian citizen with their morals and judgment.  Coming back to Toronto I am excited to start creating art for others to improve their well being than just my own.


After a much needed weeklong nap, I was finally able to reflect on the world-wind of a trip I had just experienced. Returning to Canada was a bittersweet endeavor and I believe each student on the trip left with life changing outlooks on the world. Although in many ways I’m happy to be home, in my privileged environment, I can’t help but feel a little depressed over the course’s completion. For me, the end of the trip marked a pivotal point in the conclusion of my undergraduate, but it also revealed the possibility of design outside of a university setting. Working with new, and different personalities was both a challenge and a rewarding insight. This trip no doubt gave me the new perspective I have been craving the last few years.

Returning home, I was faced by many people with one simple yet loaded question; “How was your trip?” As I settle back into my life, post-India, I met this inquiry with generic answers, like “awesome” or “great”. However, I know the truth to be much more complex then this.  India was incredible, beautiful, ugly, rich, poor, hot, cold, fast, slow, friendly, insightful, frustrating at times and full of surprising contradictions. My feelings for the country are neither love nor hate, nor are they ambivalent. I feel deeply for what I have learned and experienced, and can’t shake the feeling that I will one day return.

Final presentations and graduation celebration

After in field presentations, we returned to Malavli. Students had time to rest and shower and then put on their traditional saris and kurtas. Raksha and Moshi (the fantastic ISAC cook) helped the women put on their saris.

From left to right: Mike, Maya, Vanessa, Sarah, Felipe, Monifa, Zimeng, Arielle, Anna, and Kylie in our saris (women) and kurtas (men).

Felipe explains the final design his group created with Sadhana and the community.

Mike, Vanessa, and Arielle present the playspace their group designed with KESBO.

Mr. Ali, founder of KESBO, presents a certificate of completion to Anna.

We then went to the studio where students set up for their formal presentations. Savita, Mr. Ali, and the founder of Chetna joined us as guests, along with ISAC staff. The students created digital presentations capturing their entire process from beginning to end product. This included the interviews they conducted with key stakeholders in the community, sketches, keywords and insights, finalized budgets, as well as other activities and inspiration that happened along the way.

At the end of the presentations, ISAC staff presented each student with a certificate of completion in recognition of their work over the last three weeks. Both the ISAC staff and I talked about the uniqueness of this pilot program and how excited we are to make this happen and continue to go forward in the future. We recognized the time given and opportunity granted by the partnering organizations. With out their openness and willingness to give students access and flexibility, the program would not have been possible. We also talked about the students’ tremendous work and commitment to seeing their projects through and giving something of meaning to their adopted communities.

From the studio, we traveled down the road to a rented facility, where ISAC set up a lovely meal al fresco in an open courtyard. We ate delicious food and celebrated the end of a successful program and amazing, enlightening experience for all of us. Our guests from the partnering organizations joined us in the celebration.

After dinner, ISAC surprised us with a DJ. We spent the rest of the evening perfecting our Bollywood dance with Raksha as our dance leader showing us new moves, as well as traditional folk dances. We danced as the stars came out. This was a perfect ending to great experience – total immersion in Indian culture mixed with diligent, rewarding design work and a lot of fun!

Presenting the final results and giving the projects to the community

The final day of the course came very quickly. Today, the students presented the finished projects to their partnering organizations, key stakeholders, peers, instructor, and ISAC staff. It was a full, exciting day. A rented bus picked us up in the morning and we first traveled to KESBO. Here the students celebrated the opening of Unity Park, the playspace they co-designed and named with the boys and Mr. Ali. The students described their inspiration for the project and demonstrated its various uses. Then they invited the boys to play! We all enjoyed playing in the new space – from trying out the swings and monkey bars to testing the tire obstacle course and racing each other on the racetrack. The best part was watching the boys of all ages and abilities use the play structures together and help one other.

The students were thrilled to see their design come to life and completed. It is functional, it is in keeping with the limitations and challenges of the climate and landscape, it utilizes mostly reused materials, and came in under budget. The students put their own blood, sweat, and tears into building the playspace – from digging holes to mixing concrete, moving boulders to playing and working alongside the boys under the intense Indian sun.

The playspace was completed for under $200 CAD. Most importantly it included the ideas and input from Mr. Ali and the boys, who will be benefiting from it the most. The students completed an implementation plan that explains to the boys and Mr. Ali how the playspace was designed, how it can be used, and ideas for future expansion.

Then, as a group, we traveled to Sadhana. We were greeted even more enthusiastically than usual by the many children who have been a part of the Sadhana student group’s activities almost everyday for the past two weeks. The students displayed the banner created by the kids, as well as printed business cards and letterhead, which together highlight the versatility of their new logo design and identity for Sadhana.The surprise element to the presentation was the arrival of the freshly printed saris and kurtas delivered by Ravi, the textile printer. He arrived on his motorcycle to personally deliver the finished textiles.

The students talked about their experiences designing with Sadhana and the surrounding community. Savita talked about how much she and her staff learned from the students and about what design can encompass. She is pleased with the design and how it can be used to further the work Sadhana does to fight for the rights of all people, particularly those living in the cantonment areas. Savita handed out roses to each one of us thanking us for our work and contribution the organization
and the community.

Throughout the project the students learned about the power of imagery and the importance of a clear message to further an organization’s work. They worked through the challenge of distilling a huge amount of information and complexity to not only design a final image but also include the community and staff in the process. They took a logo one step further by integrating their design into culturally familiar forms – the sari, kurta, and henna. By doing so, they gave it more dimension and the opportunity to communicate in a way that just business card or poster alone could never do. Their work will help to visually unify a community and strengthen its message so that it can be heard and positive change can continue to be made. The students did this in under three weeks and spent less than $100 CAD.

Mehndi Night

On Thursday night, we had a night of mehndi, designs on the hands and feet using henna. ISAC staff member, Farooq, invited his daughter’s friend who is a trained menhdi artist to the yellow house. She brought her books of designs and allowed each person to pick out a design for their hands and/or feet. She is busy this time of year, doing henna for weddings, as well as other for various festivals. She works quickly and is very talented.. We all loved the henna designs that she did for us.

Arielle has an intricate design drawn on her hand using henna.

Monifa, Arielle, and Vanessa show her mehndi designs.

Last working day

Today was the students’ last full day to finish their projects with their organizations. The KESBO group set off early to finish painting the climbing structure and tires and to create the rope net. Yesterday’s trip to the hardware store for more paint and rope produced a rainbow of colours. The boys requested bright colours, specifically: yellow, pink, and lime green to complement the swing sets, which the students have already painted red, yellow, and blue.

By the end of the day, the playspace was completed! The students painted the structure and tires and weaved a strong, colourful net for the boys to climb. They created a running track down the middle of the space, with a green starting on on side and a red finish line on the other. The finished product truly transformed the space. Before the paint could dry, the boys were already creating out their new playspace – laughing and playing together

A pile of used tires of various sizes is transformed into a colourful obstacle course.

Arielle, Vanessa, Anna, and Kylie create a knotted rope net strong enough for the boys to climb.

Mike paints a green starting line for the race track that extends down the middle of the playspace.

Muneer tries out the new tire swing.

The Sadhana group divided into two. One group set off for Sai Chowk, a town three train stops from Dehu road. They met with a Ravi, textile printer and owner of Surabhi Textile Printing & Designing, who agreed to create a silkscreen and screen print the group’s design onto two saris and a kurta. Monfia, Zimeng, Raksha and I had the opportunity to look at samples of the kind of work Ravi produces, which includes everything from hand painted saris and hand embroidered embellishments for traditional wedding suits to t-shirts for rock bands.

After learning about the work the students are doing for Sadhana, the Ravi decided that he would not be making a profit on the project. He agreed to complete the printing with less than a 24 hour turnaround and charge just for his costs, because he wanted to be a part of this project. He explained that he received help to start his business and now that Surabhi is a successful company he enjoys giving back – the students’ work is just one of the various projects he chooses to sponsor.

Looking at samples of the Surabhi Textile Printing's work.

Zimeng looks at an example of one of the silkscreens the Surabhi has created for a detailed fabric design.

Samples of hand embroidered beadwork.

(from right to left): Ravi's brother, Anil, Ravi, and the rest of his team at Surabhi.

The other half of the Sadhana group traveled to Dehu Road to work with the kids from the cantonment area. Using their handmade silkscreen, carved woodblocks, paint, ink, and fabric, Maya and Felipe invited the children to create the Sadhana design with their hands using paint and fabric. Collectively, they created a banner and printed handkerchiefs boasting the newly designed Sadhana logo. This was one more way the students included the community directly in the process of designing and creating a representative identity and message for Sadhana. The children’s involvement summed up the participatory design process – fun, chaotic, a bit messy, but ultimately rewarding and resulting in an authentic end product.

Distilling the message – students create a versatile visual identity for Sadhana

The Sadhana student group is striving to create a strong visual symbol that will represent Sadhana both to those it works with in the cantonment communities, as well as externally to politicians, other cantonment areas in India, and international organizations about the importance of pushing for human rights for all people. Through research, testing, and iteration, the group has developed a final concept and is working to create several ways is which to use this visual identity. Through traditional dress on a printed sari and kurta, as a woodblock design that can be used with henna on the body, on t-shirts and small flags, as well as on business cards, letterhead, website and on Facebook.

Zimeng and Maya sand blocks made from a freshly hewn Banyan tree. The students visited a local lumbermill in the morning to get woodblocks to use for carving their design.

Monifa traces the group's logo design for Sadhana onto the woodblock.

Zimeng carves a woodblock that will be used as a stamp for henna and for printing on fabric.

Maya prepares two 8ft long peices of sari fabric onto which the group will print their Sadhana symbol.

KESBO building day 2