On the passing of Architect Jitendra Mistry


7th February 2021

Dear Friends,

The Coronavirus has affected the entire world.  It brought the entire world to a standstill, and affected our lives and livelihoods.  As an institution, at The K J Somaiya Hospital and Research Centre, we did our best to prepare for and treat those who would be affected by the deadly pandemic.  In fact we treated more than 3800 people affected by the virus.

I never thought that the disease would hit home.  On 25 December in Ahmedabad, on Christmas Day, also वैकुंठ एकादशी, also मौनी एकादशी, my father in law passed away because of the disease.  He was 82 years young.  His name was Jitendra Mistry. 

It still feels odd for me to use the past tense when I speak about him.  I feel his presence strongly, and all around me.  Physically and emotionally.  The chair I am sitting on right now as I write this email was crafted by him.

He was an architect, wood worker, art collector and interior designer.  He has left behind a unique legacy that combines all of the above and also wester and Indian traditions.  His career spanned 6 decades.  His work was nothing less than a work of art.

I am not a student of art and architecture.  But from my father and father in law who collected art, I developed a sense of art appreciation.  To see beautiful things around us.  To appreciate beauty, whether it be beauty in nature, beauty in music, in sculpture, in paintings, in landscape, in architecture and in a campus.  To make that beauty available and accessible to all of us.

I took charge of Somaiya Vidyavihar and Somaiya Ayurvihar in 2010.  At that time, our campuses were a set of buildings and institutions existing in the large tract of land purchased by Shri K. J. Somaiya many years ago, and built on by him and my father Dr. S K Somaiya.

I had seen my father in law's work and had really liked it.  I asked him whether he could help create a sense of space.  We started by building 'footpaths' and an athletic track.  Immediately, a campus that had grown organically over the years, had a common space (athletic track) and walking roads that tied it all in.  

Since budgets were a constraint, we decided to add spaces bit by bit, and over the last 10 years, slowly but surely, we built them.  We added Gargi Plaza in front of the College of Engineering, 

the Founder's garden, 

the Haveli, 

and the garden in front of the Maitreyi hostel.  He designed the space where we put the statue of my father, with the fountains behind him.

At the Ayurvihar campus, he helped design the main access road, the semi-circular garden in front of the hospital,

the Vanaspatyam garden and more.

He designed the Sandipani hostel (prior to 2010), the Maitreyi hostel, 

the delightful K J Somaiya College of Physiotherapy.

Currently, the Ekalavya sports centre is under construction, and the Madhuban garden in the Vinay Mandir courtyard.  

He helped plan the retrofit of the hospital as we created the Superspecialty section, the casualty and also the external look and feel of the hospital.  

Two buildings that he designed and are still to be built are the administrative building of the Somaiya Vidyavihar University and a Museum to house the art collection of my father.  He had also said that we could house a part of his collection.

We created a master plan for the Vidyavihar campus and were working on parts of the Ayurvihar campus.  

I can keep going on.  As I walked through our campuses, whether it be the lobby of Maitreyi, the Founder's garden, the delightful college of Physiotherapy, and so many other spaces, I cannot but appreciate the power of spaces, of landscape or architecture that he designed and the sense of community that this helped create.  

Sahir Ludhianvi said 

माना कि इस ज़मीं को न गुलज़ार कर सके

कुछ ख़ार कम तो कर गए गुज़रे जिधर से हम

हम खुश नसीब थे कि आप यहाँ से गुज़रे।

A salute to a man who died young.  I will certainly miss you.


Samir Somaiya

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