FEATURE: THE SUNDAY TIMES OF INDIA/ PROFILE OF ARCHITECT JAISIM


The Times of India/STOI/Undated.




                                         Jaisim and the art of Objectivism



                                                                            

At 50, when he sits back and takes stock of his life and career, architect Jaisim allows a small smile to flit across his face. The houses, offices, retreats and resorts he has designed dot the landscapes of south India; he speaks at various architectural for a across the country, is part of quite a few housing committees and  generally, is a committed citizen of his society. In Bangalore, people call him the filmstars’ architect since the houses he designed for C. R. Simha, Girish Kasaravalli, Srinath, Uday and Sunder Raj continue to attract attention for their strikingly unconventional use of space and material.


However, there is another side to this compactly-built, grey-haired man with a perennial twinkle in his eye, a side the man, while not precisely wishing to conceal, has never spoken about. This is the side that has Jaisim naming his residences `Ego,` `Anthem `and `I Do` in succession, an act which confounds many but is illuminating to some.







Jaisim is an Objectivist. To the uninitiated, Objectivism is the philosophy founded and propounded by Ayn Rand, in her cult bestsellers The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and in her compact but comprehensive oeuvre  of non-fiction works. The Objectivist philosophy has the individual and his well-being at its core, upholding reason and rationality above all else. Detractors of the Russian-born author aver  that a philosophy that praises selfishness, condemns altruism and holds emotion as inferior to intellect is the philosophy of an egotistic monster, a set of value systems that cannot hold water in the business of day-to-day living.
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 one.
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.

Architects everywhere 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 architecture.

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 create them.

Some flaunt their Objectivist tendencies, others tend to be closet Objectivists. Where do you fit in?
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 my way.

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 today…
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.


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