Now that one has dealt with the deep initial grief that hits when hearing of the passing of a loved one, one realizes how much there is to say about the legacy of Pradeep Sachdeva’s life and work. In messages at his memorial, those who could be present had many ways of arriving at one common thought – that he was, above all his other qualities, a unique friend. However, Pradeep was a remarkable architect as well. His natural emphasis was on simplicity in aesthetics but his bold creative mind brought innovative change to public spaces in quiet, quirky ways. Nothing was overbearing, pompous or exuded dominance, as many buildings do, yet they grew on you and stirred your better feelings. An important characteristic, not often seen among the more flamboyant well-known names in his profession, was the uplift of the gifted but underprivileged artists and craftspeople in whom he saw the talent that could be incorporated into his work or even his beloved workplace at PSDA at Ayanagar in south Delhi.
My small and big associations with Pradeep were based on the surety that each would be there for the other. When the India Art fair asked my Dastkari Haat Samiti to offer some crafted art for its annual show, I remembered that his Ayanagar storeroom had some discarded old solid paper mannequins lying around unwanted. I asked if our young and imaginative artist Remant Mishra could create art on them. He not only said yes but allowed us to use his space freely. It was a short time just after the horrible Nirbhaya rape incident. We decided to paint an angered mannequin in red and another at peace in green imagery. Pradeep spent time enjoying its creation with us as if it was his own project. It emerged from his natural humanitarian instinct to help the needy. His office canteen is run by Janmadhyam, an NGO that helps disabled children, using cooks from the local village. He found poor paper firki makers, unknown stone carvers, and a student sculptor Narendra, whose striking work of a cyclist made of scrap metal, adorns his office garden. It encouraged me to patronize him too. I installed the cyclist outside our house. Today, it attracts kabadiwalas, municipal sweepers, and casual evening walkers who stop to look, then stands beside it to be photographed, just for fun. This was the ‘art and aesthetics in public spaces’ that Pradeep’s vision enabled, because the joy was not confined to the owners inside, but was shared with everyone.
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May - June 2020