Minakshi Jain

Every meeting was a learning experience | Darpana Athale’s tribute to Architect Minakshi Jain

In this tribute to Conservation Architect Minakshi Jain, who passed away on June 14, 2023, Architect Darpana Athale reminisces about her interactions with Minakshi and Architect Kulbhushan Jain.
Minakshi Jain

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One of the first names in Heritage and Conservation Architecture in India that I had heard, as a student of architecture, was of Ar. Minakshi Jain and Prof. Kulbhushan Jain. And this stayed on top of the list years later too, even after I graduated or joined Indian Architect & Builder magazine (IA&B).

My first interaction with the Jains was around 1999-2000, when I started travelling to Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad for feature stories and special editions, on behalf of IA&B.

I was amazed at how the conservation process was so intensive and painstakingly slow, needing a great amount of patience, along with enough dedication, passion and grit. All these qualities were packed in Minakshi Jain, and left a lasting impression on me, from the first meeting itself. Every meeting was a learning experience and this only elevated the tremendous respect I had for her.

Quietly unassuming, but with strength and fortitude always visible through her wise eyes, Minakshi also became a role model for working in a field that very few women ventured into, especially when it came to the restoration of forts.

Listening to her anecdotes on how the Nagaur fort was being restored and some of the issues that they were facing, materials and techniques, the importance of research and good documentation, using minimal interventions and training craftspeople, were huge learning lessons. I think it was sometime then that I realised my deep interest in knowing more about the history, heritage and traditional craftsmanship of India.

I co-founded my firm Sarvasva Designs Pvt Ltd in 2005, a multi-disciplinary studio that works across spatial and product design, branding and environment graphics as well as social impact projects in education and crafts. And the deep love for heritage and conserving for the same led me to do many projects that somewhere can be attributed to the various interactions and learnings of all these senior mentors in the field, be it Nimish Patel or Minakshi and KB Jain. A few years down the line, Prof. KB Jain got in touch, out of the blue – he wanted us to collaborate on the Dandi March project. And even though we could not go ahead with that project, it was great getting back in touch with them both- understanding processes as well as many aspects of their working, through the discussions we had on the project. And even after ages, the warmth came through. Over time, I moved to Pune, and then to Goa, but kept myself abreast of the projects, the awards and recognitions and published articles, and books by Minakshi; and her special contribution to cities getting heritage status.

As an architect, especially as a woman, she showed us the path to standing for what we believe in, being disciplined, and having integrity and commitment towards the conservation of our heritage, no matter what the odds were.

Rest in peace, Ar. Minakshi Jain. Thank you for being a beacon of light and a guiding force to all of us.

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