Daube is sensitive to the fact that many of his design decisions could have caused perception issues, however. Besides Kellogg, the school’s ‘designer uniforms,’ have garnered a lot of attention too. Conceptualised by none other than legendary Indian fashion powerhouse, Sabyasachi, they celebrate the local textile Ajrak, which is very familiar to the women of this region.
“Both of them (Diana and Sabya) were risky decisions because you can absolutely come across as making a connection between luxury and poverty, which is scary,” he admits but he’s unwilling to let such thinking deter his process. “As humans we tend to only think about the ‘essentials.’ Who defines what’s essential? What makes us truly enjoy and reflect in our lives, is beauty. If happiness is the basic standard for what a successful life is, health is important and education creates freedom but just an education? Information without wisdom or some element of understanding through ethical teaching? Through beauty? That’s what makes us extraordinary. And that’s the part that is usually missed out in development programs, which I wanted the girls to have access to.”
Vandana Ranjitsinh, who runs her own practice and is a faculty member at Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies in Mumbai, takes Daube’s interpretation deeper still. Calling the school “a dew drop in the desert,” she believes the symbolic value of the school cannot and should not be discounted. “By creating a thing of beauty for a girl’s school in a place that has not valued their existence in so long, you’re essentially celebrating a girl child’s life. It shows you how precious that is.”
According to Kareem, her hypothesis has already been proven. He says local sentiments only began to thaw once the school’s structure was unveiled. “In Jaisalmer, I’ve always felt we are 50 years behind the rest of the country,” he explains. “When I first visited the village and told them I was working on a school for girls, they felt it was pointless—it was just a completely alien thought. Now, after so many of our own have worked on it, and so many have heard about it, jagrukta (awareness) is here. People come from nearby villages asking us how to admit their girls.”