Jaisim, however, begs to differ.
Was it an initiation
or an introduction, when you first came across Rand’s philosophy?
It was like coming home. I read The Fountainhead in 1970 and it was as if Rand was writing about a
world I knew well, where people lived by a code I recognised. Before Rand, I
lived by those principles unconsciously. After reading Rand, I could put a name
to my set of beliefs.
Rand has a sudden-impact
effect on a lot of people…
It’s more like a tidal wave. Back in Madras, where I studied
architecture, every collegiate carried a copy of The Fountainhead. In a state
of temporary osmosis, these youngsters become Howard Roark (the hero of the
book) for all of two or three months. The moment they run into someone or
something irrational on a large scale, that is when our Howard Roark crumbles
and renounces this `difficult` philosophy.
Yet it is on young
minds that Rand leaves a lasting impression.
True. I look for that certain spark in the eyes of the
youngat the conferences I am called to speak at, and I see it. I attempt to
catch and nurture that spark before it is doused, before their enthusiasm and
initiative is met and blunted by a jaded system.
I’m a subverting influence on young minds and proud to be
It has always been a struggle to convince the conventional
mind of the power and potential of the individual, of the ‘I’ over the ‘we.’ I
haven’t given up that struggle, now I merely concentrate on minds that may
recognise and reciprocate, rather then tackling minds that have atrophied.
Do you know, there are quite a few Howard Roarks, male and
female, among the young lot… arrogant as hell, brilliant in their field of work, people who don’t give a damn. They fill me with utter delight. As long as
they are there, Objectivism will never die.
seem to draw succour from The Fountainhead. The story of the defiant architect
who takes on the Establishment and wins has acquired the overtones of a legend.
I consider The
Fountainhead my personal Bible and dip into the book often. I knew nothing
of architecture despite studying it, up until I read The Fountainhead. The Architectural School taught me all about
conforming, about clarity, not the spirit of adventure. I was the maverick,
looking for what was not there as opposed to what was already there.
The common belief is
that Objectivists are a grim, brooding lot who come down heavily on those given
to jollity and other such ‘foolish’ behaviour. You seem to lack that
somber all-edges hardness.
Well, I find life a lot of fun. Maybe the humour
serves as a subconscious mask against the irrationalities of life. When I meet
ill-formed opinion, I have two options open: either to get annoyed or to laugh
it off. I choose the latter.
How do you manage to
balance professional integrity and success?
It is no easy task. The way I see it, there is no conflict;
the houses I design are my houses all the way through. I see building as
reflecting a conscious void and I fill that void. My clients give me freedom to
translate my ideas into brick and stone but I guess only a few of them grasp
that my houses are an extension of my values.
I do meet people who want a ‘Jaisim house’ to display their
Yusuf Arakkal paintings and Satish Gujral sculptures in. That used to trouble me
in my intransigent period. Now I see the job only as a chance at good
Earlier, atheists were
branded heretics and burned at the stake. Would you agree that the situation
has only marginally improved today?
I think atheists are seen as some threat to the given
absolute. I am comfortable with being a non-believer. Actually, I think that
the best temples were made by men who were atheist in spirit. They were
artisans who believed in themselves, that was their inspiration. I have
projects on hand for both the Chitradurga math and for Satya Sai Baba. I build
mosques, too. I make the shell, let others fill it with images of themselves,
their gods, whatever.
People need heroes. Some find them within themselves, others
Some flaunt their
Objectivist tendencies, others tend to be closet Objectivists. Where do you fit
Oh, I refuse to have anything to do with what I call
‘codified Objectivism.’ I have attended meetings where they discuss
Objectivism; these meets invariably descend into farce. I propagate my cause
In any case, I meet many people who are diligent, possess an
impenetrable integrity and do their work quietly, without caring one jot for
peer approval or opinion.
These people may not know about Rand or her philosophy but
I consider them Objectivists.
Many Objectivists are
a disillusioned lot, seemingly swamped by the utter irrationality of things
Perhaps my sangfroid
comes knowing that I have no urgent need to effect a change in the world. The
lady (Rand) was right about a lot of things. You cannot deal rationally with the
irrational; they win by default. All you can do is get out of their way and see
that they get out of your way.
I can never be Howard Roark. And I don’t want to be. Because
Roark is a spirit, a way of
looking at things. And once you know how to look at things the right way, all
the answers are there.
Sometimes the process is hard, specifically at times like
these, when jobs are reserved on qualifications of caste and creed over merit,
when killings are done in the name of temples, mosques and language, when
jingoism takes precedence over tolerance. When art and literature deify the
worship of mediocrity.
Yet you seem to have
found your survival technique.
I see the warps but in a detached manner. I view the system
not as a brick wall standing in my way but as a brick wall I have to somehow
get over. And of course, I find a way to get over it. It’s as simple as that.