Japur and Delhi

With all the hectic activities this weekend in Japur and Delhi from riding elephants, a crazy bus driver, wrong hotels, amazing dancers with a billion pots on her head, good food, weird tour guides, people trying to rip us off, interesting airline names, lots of shopping and almost missing the one and only thing we wanted to see: the Taj Mahal we were still able to have a great time and with a “cherry on top”, got to meet Jon Hamm.

Weekend in Jaipur Agra and Dehli

Following our second week in India, we took flight to Jaipur and visited the Amber Fort. We enjoyed elephant rides to the top of the hill where the building rested. Like any ancient architecture there is meticulous detail to every aspect of the red sandstone fort which was also garnished with marble. Following that we took a 3 hours bus ride as we rushed across Rajasthan to get to the Taj Mahal in Agra. It felt all to surreal to me standing infront of such a significant monument, it is recognized anywhere in the world almost immediately  So to stand infront of the building and walk aside it was spectacular.  As a added bonus we also seen John Ham, Donald Draper from Mad Men, which was an added bonus. We were there at dusk so unfortunately the blue sky’s of India were washed out but I really had hoped to capture a picture with the moon behind the building as if they were both two giant white marble moments in tandem. However it closes at 7, so we were herded out like sheep; Nevertheless a breathtaking marvel.

OCAD U Visits Design Abroad: India course in the field

On Thursday, we were visited by OCAD University Vice Preseident of Academics Dr. Christine Bovis-Cnossen and Dean of the Faculty of Design Dr. Gayle Nicoll, two champions of this pilot Design Abroad: India course. In the morning, Christine and Gayle visited the students working with KESBO. They observed as the students shared the next iteration of their playspace design with KESBO founder, Mr. Ali. They toured the KESBO campus, and the students showed Christine and Gayle the site of the proposed new playspace, which will include a climbing structure, swing sets, and a tire obstacle course. A game the students taught the boys at KESBO as a group activity and way to transcend language and culture barriers is “stella ella ola.” Christine joined in this large, joyous circle game that included all of the boys and the students.

OCAD U VPA Dr. Christine Bovis-Cnossen and Dean of the Faculty of Design Dr. Gayle Nicoll observe as students present their design sketches for a proposed playspace to Mr. Ali, founder of KESBO, school and orphanage for boys.

The students' concept sketches for the new playspace.

Arielle Bourret-Klein, Mike Lewis, Anna Kolesnikova, VPA Dr. Christine Bovis-Cnossen, Kylie Thompson, and Vanessa Hausman tour the KESBO grounds together.

Christine and the students form a large circle with the boys from KESBO for a game of "Stella ella ola."

In the afternoon, the OCAD U VPA and Dean visited the student group working with Sadhana. They met the founder, Ms. Savita Jadhav, and then toured the nearby cantonment area. They observed the students meeting with various members of the community as they asked for feedback about different symbols representing Sadhana and its work in the cantonment areas. The symbols stemmed from the participatory design sessions conducted earlier in the week with the community and staff members of Sadhana. Based on this stage of the process, the students will further develop other iterations of the symbol as they work to finalize a strong visual representation of Sadhana and its mission.

Students survey cantonment area residents to get their feedback about different symbols representing Sadhana and its work in the community.

Design Abroad: India instructor Sarah Tranum, Felipe Sarmiento, Zimeng Lu, VPA Dr. Christine Bovis-Cnossen, Maya das Gupta, Dean of Faculty of Design Dr. Gayle Nicoll, and Monfia Charles in the cantonment area near Dehu Road, Maharastra, India.

Participatory Design in action with KESBO

The KESBO design team worked from their research and interviews to determine a direction for their design project. They found that the creation of a designated play space is a needed and wanted addition to the KESBO campus. While the boys who live at KESBO play in the open space between the main building and dining hall there is no designated space that encourages interaction, especially between boys of different ages and abilities. This led to preliminary ideas and sketches of potential built structures that could encourage creative play across age groups and athletic ability.

They brought these sketches to show Mr. Ali and the boys. Through discussions, further questions, voting, and sketching on the part of the boys, the team was able to find a clear direction for their design proposal. The next step is further refinement of the concept incorporating the boy’s drawings, comments, and Mr. Ali’s feedback and discussion of available materials and resources.

The team shows preliminary sketches for play structure designs to Mr. Ali.

Aftab, ISAC staff, helps the students delineate the site of a designated playspace on the KESBO campus using lime powder and string.

Arielle shows the boys the different ideas for play structures at the site of the new playspace.

Each boy voted for his favourite design by placing a stone on the corresponding sketch.

The boys voted twice: first, en masse, and second with a secret stone ballot with each boy choosing his favourite design without the other boys seeing his vote. Both votes were tallied to determine the most popular design.

The team then asked the boys to draw other ideas they have for the playspace. Several drew a cricket field; Aftab and the boys explained the basics of the game to Vanessa.

Bollywood Dance Lessons!

Raksha, ISAC Program Coordinator and Bollywood dancer extraordinaire, taught us the moves to a popular Bollywood movie song. We danced, sweated, laughed, and perfected our routine…next step Mumbai Bollywood Studios!

Raksha shows us a sample of one of the popular Bollywood dance moves.

Raksha leads us in dance - she is a great dancer and teacher!

Gathering insights from Sadhana’s key stakeholders

Students working with the human rights organization, Sadhana, delved into ethnographic research today, interviewing key members of the organization and the surrounding community. By designing specific questions and ways to interact with their interviewees, the students gathered important insights about what the organization means to those its empowers.They will use this information to shape their design process as they work to develop a strong visual identity, which will encapsulate the strength and impact of Sadhana. Maya, Felipe, Zimeng and Monifa will return to the community tomorrow to take their research to the next step.

Zimeng interviews one of Sadhana's social workers, who works closely with the community on various human rights issues.

Monifa talks to Savita Jadhav, founder of Sadhana, about the the communication needs of the organization.


Today we went to SADHANA,and interviewed their social workers, community delegates, and the founder. SADHANA is the organization works for fighting the equal human rights for cantonment area in India, which is district used to serve British and Indian military. India today has 63 cantonments in 17 different states. As a design group, we are considering to design a logo for SADHANA, which could be used for interior and exterior propaganda. Through the interviews, we got better understanding of the organization philosophy, expectation. Designing a logo as a revolutionary sign reminds us about the bird pin of Hunger Game, which brought us more excitement.

The Gateway of India

As we arrived to the waterfront, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who were also strolling around the area. This was after we had gotten a chance to tour several parts of Mumbai, such as the Bandra Kurla Complex driving tour, to view the large commercial buildings, and then spent time walking along the Colaba Causeway for some eating and shopping. This gateway symbolizes the beginnings and initial layout of the foundation for trading and exchanging. It opened in 1924 under the British rule (1858-1947) located in South Mumbai and overlooking the Arabian Sea. It lies at the water’s edge in the harbor of Bombay, which we were able to view from the water, during a boat tour.

In earlier times, it would have been the first structure that visitors arriving by boat to Mumbai would have seen. I find this interesting because it is symbolizing the dominance that the ruling government would have over its people while suggesting an open and inviting gateway to cross under. It embodies the restrictions on entry and access to India. To give a quick background on the architecture, noteworthy design inspirations combined the Roman triumphal arch with 16th century architecture of Gujarat. This is a blend thatarchitect George Wittet decided to mix from Hindu and Muslim architectural styles.

Over time, there was a transformation of this place where governors and rulers used to land upon arriving in India, which became a place to reflect upon suppression by the British people. The gateway acted as a symbol of the power and majesty of the British empire, while opposite the gateway tourists can view the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the king who established the Martha empire by using guerilla warfare to spread pride and courage to the people.

As visitors to this site, I can say that I felt as if this monument still held reminiscence of India’s history, although in a more positive and attractive way. The gateway was built and structured to look up towards the sky, although in modern times has shifted to raising your head up to maintain a positive outlook on where we now stand.



Mumbai Tour

Saturday morning we were picked up by the auto from Malavli for the weekend Mumbai Tour. The scenery while driving was a beauty! Mountains wrapped around our road with a large dry ravine off to the side, which promises to turn lush green in the monsoon season. We arrived at the Hotel Neelkanth on Linking Street, the main shopping district of the area. We spent our lunch at an interesting place called The Unrestaurant with quirky design and world cuisine: our orders included thai curry, sizzling steak with mashed potatoes, pizza and more.

The highlight of the day was the tour of Mumbai largest slum area, Dharavi. We took photographs upon entering from the bridge, and selectively throughout the area with permission, but otherwise shooting was restricted due to understandable reasons of home privacy. It was striking to learn that Dharavi houses 1 million people in the 1.7 square kilometer area, and that 40% of it is industrial with over a billion-dollar profit. There are assumptions and preconceptions surrounding Dharavi slums, which I, too, had, that stem from not knowing its story. The expectations did not match the reality. This community was hardworking, self-sufficient, close-knit, good-spirited and vibrant. They had their own food market, school, hospital, and businesses. We came across the DJ blasting the tunes and couldn’t afford not to bust a move- just ask Sarah! I left feeling impressed and uplifted. Interestingly, Dharavi is positioned in a prime area of Mumbai, neighbouring very expensive residential properties. We didn’t get to see the inside of the houses, but our tour guide Fahim explained that if the exterior may look rugged and unsightly, the interior space is equipped with showers and toilets (for some), and kept very clean.  On the flip side, the industrial facilities had an intense working environment. Evidently dense and hot, the working conditions were also unsafe in terms of proper safe surroundings, safety equipment and procedures as well as exposure to toxic substances, like when melting the aluminum in order to recycle it. It’s unfortunate that the millionaire industry owners don’t invest into improving the workers’ conditions. As well, not many people who are born and raised in Mumbai visit the slums, repelled by its exterior veil of unsanitary environment. Our other tour guide was one of them; and this was the first time she visited slums at twenty-four years of age. “It was different than I thought”, she shared. Still, with all its controversy, Dharavi has a lot of potential. . This tour was eye opening into another way of life I’ve never seen.

Dharavi: the Heart of Mumbai

Where do I start? Walking into the slum of Dharavi, Mumbai was an experience.  We were welcomed with colour. Skepticism and uncertainty rushed through me as we entered a world that was littered with trash and compacted with people.  In the eyes of the beholders the trash was opportunity. Every item that was thrown out was shifted through, sorted and reclaimed to create items that were sold across India and America. We stood on the corrugated rooftop where every space was utilized to maximize productivity.  The workers were dedicated and focused working diligently with little to no protection.  Aluminum was melted in a tank top, gloves and sandals. The glow of the fire and streams of sunlight were the only illumination required to perform the necessary task.  The compact maze of buildings had an interior pathway system that was a feat to navigate and even our native tour guide, Fahim, still got lost from time to time. The slum was divided logically by industry (clay, metal, plastic, cardboard, textiles etc.) with housing in its own division. Our two-hour came to an end and an amazing adventure that started with cautious steps ended with cricket bats and dancing, as we engaged with the amazing locals.

Students decide on partnering organizations and form two teams

On Friday, the end of the first week, we reviewed the organizations the students visited highlighting key observations, opportunities for projects, and potential for impact working with the time and resources of the three week course. The student discussed the challenges and potential they found within each organization. This discussion allowed students to distill the information they had gathered to help them narrow down the projects’ focus and how to divide into two teams for the remainder of the course.

Sarah facilitates as students distill organization information and balance the two working teams.

By the end of the day, students chose to work with Sadhana, the organization that works to promote the human rights of people living in the cantonment areas near Dehu Road, as well KESBO, the boys school and orphanage. The students then picked the organizations that they would most like to work with and the particular project opportunities that interest them. We looked the first choice of each student, as well as the skills and strengths of each member of the potential teams. The goal was to balance the two teams and to match up the skills and interests of the team with the partnering organization. It was decided amongst the students that Monifas, Felipe, Zimeng, and Maya will work with Sadhana and Kylie, Arielle, Vanessa, Mike, and Anna will work with KESBO.

The students then met as their newly formed teams to further discuss the project opportunities and to make a plan for the second week. They planned their schedule for the day and the type of activities and questions they want to ask their respective organizations. One of the benchmark activities for week 2 is for students to identify key stakeholders within each organization. From there, each student will conduct an interview with each stakeholder to gather important information to help them prioritize projects and offer crucial context to their observations and conversations thus far.