Charles Correa, a contemporary architect, whose repertoire includes the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Ahmedabad and the assembly of Madhya Pradesh died after a brief illness in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Actor and activist Rahul Bose remembers the acclaimed architect -
“I don’t understand why architects want to build museums and art galleries. Those have their place, but they should be building schools and hospitals. Places that people use, engage with every day.” Time and again Charles Correa would surprise me. Here was India’s greatest, most feted architect articulating a philosophy quite contrary to what the general public reads and believes about great creators.
At the time he was about to leave to attend the opening of his retrospective held by the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. Sensing he had a million things to do, I offered to leave, but he asked me stay for a bit and chat. I loved listening to him. And not just about architecture, design and urban planning. He talked about cinema, education, Bombay, theatre, politics. And every time he would surprise me with a childlike irreverence for the norm.
Anyone who has met Charles will tell you how his sense of humour came heavily laced with mischief. He would love to provoke an argument and then set about countering it with energy, anecdotes and an inexhaustible mine of knowledge.
We got along terrifically, and would chat for hours. On one occasion I met his wife, Monica, and he at his home to invite them for the annual gala of my foundation whose theme was going to be The Idea of India. I said he was one of the fifteen Indians the foundation had chosen to honour as the torch bearers of the foundational idea of India. I quite shamelessly requested him for memorabilia, preferably precious memorabilia (he donated a fantastic piece: the blueprints of the Kanchenjunga building on Peddar Road in south Mumbai).
He listened to the names of others on the list — Amartya Sen, Amitav Ghosh, Zubin Mehta and RK Laxman, among others — and said: “But these are such stars in their own right. Who will buy my work? Are you sure you want me to contribute?”
After Monica and he attended the evening (where his piece was auctioned for a handsome amount), we sat with Amitav Ghosh and his wife, Deborah, and had a celebratory drink. The conversation sparkled, held together by Charles’ wit, warmth, love and generosity. And I remember thinking, this is one of the coolest guys on the planet.
Rest in peace, Charles. The world will miss you, as will I.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
Read:Charles Correa, face of contemporary architecture in India, dies