The Importance of being Sharukh Mistry

A few months ago, I was lost.

The streets of Indiranagar can do that to you. Bloody maze. They told me the office abutted a park. Well, there’s a reason they call Bangalore the garden city. Those directions were of much help.

It was my first day, a cool morning in late June. All the interns were called downstairs for a little session with him. The others seemed like a good bunch. About seven of us. Bangalore was not where I wanted to be, but there I was, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was most definitely a better option than staying home in Chennai. But in my mind, I was settling. That said, I was ready to love the city and my work with all my heart.

He entered the room wearing his khaki waistcoat, hair tied up in a small pony. He introduced himself as a ‘Bawaji from Bombay’, and narrated his story of how he courted his love, married, and began his practice in the beautiful city of Bangalore.

He asked us all why we were here, and what we were looking for. I told him I wasn’t sure what role architecture played in my life, and that I was hoping to articulate that role. I said I was lost, and that I was looking to find myself.

He smiled. He smiled with his eyes.

He said, “You’re lost! That’s great. It’s one of the best things, to be lost. It gives you a chance to find yourself in ways you had never before imagined.”

Those words stuck in my head. There was something about him.

My first stint at a practical training began. The days went on and work was going good. Working at office was like working in a treehouse. The place is beautiful. And so are the people. I was enjoying myself. Every now and then we would get to have a chat with him. I looked forward to those little incidental conversations. Our office trips to his farmhouse and to Kerala, made us all friends bonded by the love of water, trees, alcohol, and stupidity.

As the days passed, familiarity bred between all of us. Our little ‘mutter-mutter sessions’ with him grew more interesting. This was where we discussed anything under the sun, whether it was related to architecture or not. From Redistribution to Contextuality, we talked about things that shaped us into better human beings. It is always nice when someone with as much expertise as his, loves listening to what an amateur 20-something year old has to say about life, architecture, and beyond.

“You never stop learning”, is what he always maintained.

These ‘mutter-mutter sessions’ took place once every few weeks. Without doubt, it was the one event I looked forward to the most at work. For months now, I wished I’d find a mentor who could ‘show me the way’, and other such things. I was hoping I’d find one in him.

The times spent at office were occasionally interrupted with loud outbursts of hysterical laughter that rang from the terrace, traversing two intermediate floors, all the way to the ground floor (and sometimes to the road, but I think that’s me pushing it a bit far). His cabin sat on the terrace. No points for guessing.

It was such a hearty laugh. Everybody must learn to laugh like that.

With every passing day, I tried to ‘find’ a little more of myself. I cannot say I was entirely successful. And I didn’t think I would be, either. My little travels in and around Bangalore helped me grow; I realised how much peace and stability the momentum and uncertainty of travel gave me. I now know that this has to be one of the single biggest parts of my life.

One afternoon, over lunch, I expressed my desire to intern in a practice in Ahmedabad. It was something I had wanted for a tediously long time. I had applied, but not received a response yet. We spoke about it, and he told me to go after it. The next morning, he had come in earlier than usual. After winding up a meeting, he called out to me from above.

“Sunayana?” he looked down from halfway up the spiral staircase.

“Yeah Sharukh?”

“How badly do you want to get in there?”

“Pretty badly Sharukh.”

He smiled.

“Right then. Give me their email id. I’ll write them a little something for you.”

My heart skipped a beat. I was grinning uncontrollably. The note was gracious. I was overwhelmed. Now I didn’t care even if I didn’t get a chance to intern there, in Ahmedabad. This very act of kindness was enough to fill me with gratitude and satisfaction.

I got a call the very next day. I owed him everything.

Days passed, and time flew. My training was coming to an end. I had learned what separated architecture from buildings, and the true meaning and worth of what it is to design a space. It was something emotional, something responsible. More than anything, I learned what it meant to be truly inclusive; to love, and be loved; to be a good human being. And of course, what is the Mistry office without a drink or two? I had the time of my life.

A few months on, I realised I was still lost. But atleast now I could reassure myself, that it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Somewhere along these few months, I did find a mentor of sorts.

And that, is the Importance of being Sharukh Mistry.