Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CL Razdan, Architect Jammu

Chaman Lal Razdan studied architecture at College of Engineering Trivandrum two years junior to me. He was from Jammu and Kashmir and the language was a barrier to know each other. Even though we spent more than 3 years under the same portals, we did not know each other well. I almost forgot him as there was no chance to see him since I left the college in 1969.

After 43 years, Chaman Lal contacted me in December last from Katra where he was the director of the Mata Vishnodevi University School of Architecture. He searched out my phone through a student of his from Bangalore. Sine then we were keeping in touch, more sharing the notes of the old times at Trivandrum school which was being run at that time as a makeshift fledgling place. All of us sharing a sense of incompetence and insecurity of not being exposed the great architects and meccas of architecture of the time. The sense of being in not a great place could create a mindset of inferiority if you are in a field or profession where hero worship and one-up-man-ship is rampant, like in architecture.

We met again on 25th May 2012 at Jammu airport where he was waiting for me. Time has changed the contours in both of our bodies and faces and also of the minds. Still we recognized each other easily. Chaman Lal drove me to Patnitop that day where we stayed over night and drove again next day to Srinagar. He has changed from my impressions of the shy lanky lad to a mature person with firm opinions about architecture and many other aspects of life. We enjoyed two evening talking a lot and had morning walks in the lanes of Srinagar which he new well. In between we met many of his friends and clients. I had no idea about Chaman Lal's architecture. We stayed in a a hotel , meridiene, where he had added extensions. I was impressed by the simplicity and the directness of the addition which also exhibited the exuberance of the traditional wood craft of the region. Wood is woven like the shawls with great dexterity. The space Chaman Lal created had a crystalline quality and exhibited the innocence of a novice dabbling adventurously yet in subtle control. I liked it.

Later, my friends from Mysore joined us and we traveled to Gulmarg, to Kargil and to Leh. Chaman Lal came all the way helping us with the arrangements. His eagerness to be of help surprised me. He had kept contact with all his classmates and to Kerala and could speak a few words of Malayalam and knew few songs of the time. Thank you Chaman for the company and your eagerness.  You have humbled me. Your friendship with many at Srinagar and the value your clients had given you irrespective religion, makes me think that humanity is made of small episodes and little souls like you and not of great men. Salute to you, my friend and I am attaching a few pictures of Razdan's  Hotel Meridiene at Srinagar.