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The need to collaborate – Archit Thapar, Anant Fellow

The need to collaborate – Archit Thapar, Anant Fellow

(Saturday March 24, 2018)

When a woman and man collaborate, they create new life. However, this spirit of collaboration hasn’t really become a core value for organisations and government alike. During my undergraduate experience, competition was rewarded whereas collaboration was considered as ‘cheating’. But after having spent just a few months in the Anant Fellowship, I realised how this incentive system was promoting friction rather than harmony. Because the approach to view things is extremely different here. Our cohort may not like each other, may fight for trivial things just like a family, but we stand united on a thread of ‘collaboration’. When it comes to working together or helping someone out, we set aside our differences and contribute through the multiple lenses that we bring to the table to solve the problem.

A typical day in the fellowship for me is nothing short of an adventure. I start my day by going for a walk in the campus, accompanied with a Christian from Madras and a Gujju from Bombay, where we spend some time reflecting on our life while admiring the biodiversity that surrounds us. By the time we step into our lecture rooms, I sit beside a writer from Pune with whom I usually gossip about how good or bad this module is turning out to be. On some rare evenings I decide to cycle back to the hostel while singing old Hindi movie songs accompanied with a historian from Ladakh who writes heart-warming poetry. Post dinner, I have this ritual of playing a table tennis match with an expert on sustainability from Ghana. Whosoever loses the match, ends up sponsoring the other person’s ice cream (I’ve gained a lot of weight recently). By the time I’m about to call it a day, my roommate, who is a mechanical engineer from Hyderabad, is curious to share and exchange the experiences that we witnessed during the day. When I first met him, I almost dreaded the thought of living with him, but as we started to have more conversations and sharing our insights, we realised how similar we are. I soon realised this
baggage of judgement and apprehension I carried, was because of my past experiences. This dates to my working experience in a multi-national architecture consultancy in Delhi. The process of completing a task, rested on various teams, across various departments and across various countries, but all of it happened in decentralised silos. The communication between the departments was limited. Collaboration was taking place amongst the same group of people, who belonged to the same school of thought and usually came up with similar solutions. This may have helped in achieving efficiency in terms of time, but how far can this approach go in terms of solving complex and unprecedented problems of the built environment?

The world needs to build 2 billion new homes over the next 80 years, as per world economic forum. How do we ensure that we achieve this without ruining our planet? Through Collaboration!

Through building channels of communication across diversity and through involving every stakeholder in the process of providing the solution.

Anant Campus – Fellows coming together for Live Action Project Debrief; Picture Credit – Joseph Rajini Asir I Anant Fellow

The contemporary world has realised the importance of it and we are beginning to see changes. Through my lens, the future will have more collaborations rather than corporations and competition. I already see it everywhere.

When we get to have multi-sensory experiences, our mind and body stimulates more organically. A collaboration of senses.

An orchestra is a collaboration of multiple people and instruments coming together to create harmony

In most urban settlements, a street acts as a collaborative channel of the city. People engage in multiple activities, through groups or individually. This collective engagement is what shapes the culture of cities. A cosmopolitan is merely a collaboration of multiple sub-cultures.

New age co-working and co-living spaces like ‘Roam’ is an example of creating spaces where people come together from diverse backgrounds to socialize, network and learn from each other. Much like Anant Fellowship.
Large furniture corporation like IKEA is now collaborating with niche designers like Ilse Crawford to redesign the experience of people visiting their stores. She puts in a beautiful way, ‘The best results are always with collaboration and contrast”.

NASA and LEGO are collaborating to design tools to aid education amongst kids.

Solar Impulse, a solar powered aircraft to move towards a sustainable means of transportation. It is a collaborative effort of Omega, Schindler and Deutsche Bank. To fund this initiative, they started a crowdfunding ‘Supporters Program’.

Harvard and MIT, came together to start an online learning platform, ‘edX’. A collaboration between the so-called competitors.

Social media is another industry which has vastly benefited through collaboration. We get access to a whole new world, which physically seems quite far to reach daily. A few fellows in my cohort have already collaborated to start a company which provides personalized desk solutions through art. Another fellow and me are also collaborating to form an online media company through the medium of comics. This new-found zeal amongst the fellows to come together and work on something they share a vision towards is an accomplishment of the fellowship. The space has rendered us the freedom to unlearn the social institutionalisation that raised a barrier in front of our will. Research shows that as infants, we are intuitively collaborative, but this gets lost due to age old education and organisation structures. The fellowship has empowered us to question the status quo and thus, while some of us might join existing organisations and reinvent the wheel there, others might end up setting up their own organisation where collaboration is rejoiced as a core value. Each and every fellow in the program is unique, this uniqueness is valued and appreciated in our environment which aids the process of collaboration and not of judgement. As part of my Live Action Project, I’m collaborating with a visual artist and a strategic designer from the fellowship to design a physical collaborative learning model, if successful, can be tested as a pilot for other institutions to mirror and test out.

To explain what I did with roughly 1000 words, Steve Lacy managed to put across through a sentence – “I think it is in collaboration that the nature of art is revealed.”


Archit Thapar is a student of Anant Fellowship, Anant National University’s flagship programme. The views expressed here are personal. 

Analysis of The Unreserved – Film Club @ AnantU

(Wednesday March 21, 2018)

On 13th March, 2018, the Film Club @ AnantU, in collaboration with the Nomad Cafe, Ahmedabad, had organised a community screening of the Indian documentary, the Unreserved (2017). Based on the screening and the discussions that followed, Dr. Sonam Mansukhani, faculty at AnantU, curated unerring analyses and appreciation pointers on the documentary.

The Unreserved is an inquiry into the lives of passengers who use the Unreserved Compartment, the cheapest way to travel across India on the Indian Railways system. The film portrays the passengers’ aspirations, efforts and opinions through conversations and personal stories.

Analysis and Appreciation
This documentary, directed by Mr. Samarth Mahajan and his team, explores the journeys of passengers travelling across India in an unreserved compartment. This team had earlier undertaken several projects by travelling on foot and sea. They now wanted to explore a new medium. Hence, they decided to travel by train. Their inspiration for the same came from Jagriti Yatra, an annual train journey of highly motivated youth, from within and outside the continent, between the ages of 20 and 27, for about a fortnight. Another book by Mahatma Gandhi, Third Class in Indian Railways, had also inspired them.
The director, through this film, has revealed the different personal journeys of passengers – an 80 year old man who shows off his physical fitness and flexibility, two brothers who are inseparable through thick and thin, a mother of 2 girls willing to risk her life in hope of a son, a young girl from North east who works as a house help in Delhi and tries to find parental love at her workplace, and many others; every story is distinct and touches one’s heart. The unstructured conversations revealed that each journey was marked by distinct themes, ranging from micro to macro perspectives. Love stories, religious and political issues, like the reservation system, the Kashmir issue, and the informal sector employment and, of course, cinema (the Rajnikant conversation as the director could not find another common ground with people from southern India) were some of the chapters that gradually unfolded. The purpose of each journey was different, yet each journey offered the hope of a better life, a better tomorrow.
Sitting in the packed unreserved compartment, the travellers gradually open up to the outsider (in this case, the director, who is also the researcher), sharing their personal experiences and deepest emotions, despite the diversity in background. The difficulties of communicating with people whom one doesn’t really know took a backseat with the director opening up about himself. He discovered that reciprocity was the key to dig deep within the lives of travellers. He clarified that neither is he from the media, nor someone with any agenda. Thus, he came across as an extremely relatable individual.
Coming from an engineering background, the director had a stunted idea about diversity as it exists in our society. Post these conversations, he felt privileged experiencing diversity as it exists. This has been captured not only in terms of the varied socio-cultural backgrounds, but the different layers of experiences that were shared in the heart-touching documentary.