Soon after Mikhail S Gorbachev set in motion his policy of "perestroika" and "glasnost" in 1985, the Festival of India in the USSR took place over 1988 and 1989. "Gandhi: An Indian Revolution" was part of this exhibition, opening in Moscow on Gandhi's birth anniversary and travelling to the site of the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare in which the Germans were routed in the Battle of Stalingrad leading to the end of World War II, now known as to Volgograd, to Novosibirsk and Irkutsk in Siberia in winter.
We had to present Gandhi to a foreign people and nation not familiar with Indian history and culture. At the same time, we had to bring out the sense of India, the attitudes, its rich culture along with the Mahatma, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's unifying vision in his thoughts and actions, his universal diktat of being the change you want to see.
In spaces that varied from 10,000 square feet in Moscow to under 5000 square feet in Volgograd, we also had to brave the extreme winter of Russia and define a visual language that would emerge from the architectural and spatial elements in Gandhi's life. From his cement and brick plaster house in his birthplace of Porbandar, we showed the exposed brickwork of his life in London, thereby showing his personality opening up. We moved to his sojourn in South Africa, to the harsh metal of the railway station where he was thrown out when he dared to sit in a Whites-only train coach, to the corrugated metal of the roofs of Tolstoy Farm, a softening and change in his personality once again, as he began his experiments with satyagraha. From there to his wooden home in Ahmedabad and finally to the mud houses of Sevagram. Gandhi's persona emerged through the architecture he had occupied throughout his life. We also used verses from the Bhagavad-gita, a book he constantly read, as the philosophical anchor to the narrative we had designed.
Very well received wherever it travelled to in the USSR, it found a permanent home in a town near Irkutsk.