One of our childhood inspirations was the Late Architect Vanu Bhuta – the architect of Mahatma Gandhi’s Samadhi at ‘Rajghat’ – our maternal grand uncle. Perhaps on seeing his crazy schedules and demanding working routine, no one in our parent’s generation dared to profess architecture. But when we heard the following story, we decided to pick up the gauntlet.
Vanu kaka (as we called him) was invited by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister, to design Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi at Rajghat, New Delhi.
After the Samadhi itself was built, Nehru wished – in the landscape design – to surround it by expansive lawns, like a monument of India, in British colonial style. Whereas my grand uncle firmly believed that it should be a true representation of Gandhi – austere – the black granite cuboid simply rising out of bare earth. It was a fight between two architects. One, the architect of modern India and the other, a master builder of India. Nehru stuck to his views while Vanu kaka stormed out.
Years later, as the story goes, he refused Indira Gandhi’s proposal to design Nehru’s Samadhi saying : You want his soul to rest in peace.