irst the trigger, then the target. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a strange book, Dekho. The title was a pointed invitation to see the book rather than to just read (Pado) it. Once 'inside', I became very aware that my act of reading Dekho, a collection of 'conversations' on design in India, not only involved scanning and processing the standard visual devices of letters and words that came trailing one after the other in rapid, tumbling code, but also the other more 'pictorial' forms accompanying the text on every page.
Even the usual depictions of photographs in the opening conversation, 'Learning Ground' with MP Ranjan, "one of India's most prolific design-evangelists", had text and image organically riffing with each other to produce a textual-visual experience. 'Spoken Words', the conversation with the late Raghunath K Joshi, professor at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Mumbai, was even more captivating as the images of a letter from a script in isolation or in a cluster suddenly showed themselves for what it is: a visual mark holding meaning(s) in its form, which, according to Joshi, holds in itself the sound of the word depicted ("Unfortunately in India, typographers and linguists do not work together.").
The same exploration into script continues in a different context in 'Letters From the East', a conversation with graphic designer Neelakash Kshetrimayam, who speaks about the re-emergence of Manipur's Meitei Mayeh script from the heavy weight of the more prevalent Bengali script.
There are so few books out there whose content actually mirrors the subject they deal with. Dekho, with its design elements, layouts, co-habitation of the visual and the textual, and its sheer playfulness, tells the viewer-reader what the book he is holding in his hands is about even before he starts reading any of the pieces in it. And after reading them, the reader comes out with a double happiness as if from a train ride in an amusement park.
It is impossible for me to share the experience of joined-at-the-hip seeing-reading Dekho as all I can do here is quote some of the text. As comic artist Orijit Sen in 'Of the Head, Hand and Heart', the conversation with him and Gurpreet Sidhu on the People Tree brand of designed products that they founded, says to reject the notion of art and craft residing in two separate compartments, "There is an intelligence in the hand — intelligence doesn't reside only in the head."