It was not his surname that prompted Nari Gandhi to wear khadi. He embraced the fabric because it was self-reliant, natural and allowed easy breathing. Just like the 30-odd structures built by a man who is often called the Howard Roark of India.
Gandhi–one of the four Indians to have appretinced under the legendary American Frank Lloyd Wright-was an iconic architect. He liked to work without an office and discarded conventions like floor-plan drawings and time-tables. Gandhi, who learnt pottery, would work with masons on each project, share his tiffin with them and use a wooden stick as his pencil. He sketched on the ground to explain his plan. If he wasn’t happy with a construction, he would immediately tear it down. Each of the homes Gandhi built, including actress Asha Parekh’s stone bungalow at Juhu, were products of a happy marriage between art and architecture.
Today, though, this marriage is being battered by builders, bulldozers and bahus. Fifteen years after this maverick Parsi architect died in a car accident, most of his built works (except for Jain House in Lonavla and the Bajaj House) have either been renovated or destroyed. One bungalow in Versova was used recently as the set for a saas-bahu soap. It is now a party venue, replete with a bar that glows in the beam of UV lights. Of course, none of these elements, including high-pitched melodrama and alcohol, is in tune with Gandhi’s organic philosophy.