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'Art & Culture Have No Religion': How Masooma Rizvi and RSS Institute Are Breaking Barriers

On August 15, Deendayal Research Institute's new foyer, redone with the spiral, emblematic of the philosophy of integral humanism, lamps signifying the thought of the Sangh ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh along with the living museum, murals and glossaries, will be thrown open to people.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:August 12, 2018, 1:18 PM IST
'Art & Culture Have No Religion': How Masooma Rizvi and RSS Institute Are Breaking Barriers
Cultural architect Masooma Rizvi working at Deendayal Research Institute (News18)

New Delhi: The Sangh Parivar’s latest project has kept cultural architect Masooma Rizvi busy these days. After two years of rigorous reading and breathing perfection into every mural and mosaic, her work is set to be unveiled in three days.

Though the artist has several designs to her credit, her recent one is special as she has been tasked to put together the crumbling mosaic of India’s cultural nationalism.

Deendayal Research Institute, built in 1972 and inaugurated by Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar, is one of the first buildings of the saffron outfit. The members have a special connect with the institute. Thus, they had to be absolutely sure of an architect’s skill before assigning the task of redoing DRI’s foyer.

It’s then that their search stopped at Rizvi’s Delhi Belita Design firm, which was established in 2004.

On the 15th of August, the new foyer with the spiral, emblematic of the philosophy of integral humanism, lamps signifying the thought of the Sangh ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh, along with the living museum, murals and glossaries will be thrown open to people.

“I have been attached with the project for the past two years. The most difficult task was to get the beard of Nanaji Deshmukh right. Also, the mud on his hand while holding a sapling is an important part of the picture. Everything has to show his philosophy — how he believed in the dignity of labour, Indian-ness and to serve the last man,” said Rizvi, who has an experience of over two decades in interior design, museology, and art curation.

In order to keep the ‘spirit of history and contemporary tastes’ intact, the Delhi-based cultural architect has read everything on and by Deendayal Upadhyay and Nanaji Deshmukh to be able to bring their thought in the murals and mosaics around.

“I have read on my subjects. The idea is not to just fill the spaces, but to add soul in the spaces I design, and that comes with reading and learning about my subjects of work,” she said.

Rizvi, who has studied in India and USA, is a trusted name when it comes to Delhi’s art and architecture. From restoring Rashtrapati Bhavan’s main building to revamping a kuttiya (hut) for APJ Abdul Kalam and redesigning Manekshaw Centre, the architect has many achievements to boast about.

She has also done murals at the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra commissioned by the Ministry of External Affairs and worked with “tough boss”, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, to redesign Amar Jawan Jyoti in Jaipur. However, it’s her work with DRI, which got people inquisitive about her project.

Ignoring people’s apprehensions about the right-wing outfits, Rizvi said, “I have respect for RSS. The respect they show to others, especially women is not seen at any other forum. Only people with narrow thinking have apprehensions about the Sangh, and they are only creating divisions in the country by doing this. People should have broader perspective. I feel there is unnecessary hype being created when it comes to RSS.

She further said that culture and art have no religion. “It is our heritage and our legacy handed down to us from centuries,” the architect said.

News18 has learnt that an outfit from Vrindavan has also shown interest in her work and is likely get in touch with her.

Besides, she has projects by Election Commission of India and National Security Council, which are yet to be completed. One of the assignments Rizvi is excited and about is designing of Indian Buddhist Temple complex in China. She is also pursuing her PhD in conservation.

Recently, a Sangh-backed organisation awarded her with the award of ‘eminent artist’. She was working on the Deendayal Museum in Jaipur, and came to DRI to read on the Sangh ideologue. That’s when she met Atul Jain, general secretary, DRI where she saw the mosaic that have been crumbling for decades.

Jain said DRI was “once the hotbed of political activities, this building of DRI has now become the hub of social reconstruction.”

He added, “Nanaji wanted to showcase the elements of cultural nationalism through the walls of this foyer. While they reflected through murals crafted 46 years back the mosaics started falling apart with the passage of time. We are now conserving it with the new look.”

| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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