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Conserving India's ancient world in changing times

Aishwarya Tipnis Aishwarya Tipnis grew up in the multi-faceted ancient, colonial and modern capital city of New Delhi in India and has had a life-long passion for architecture and history. Primarily, how to preserve a city's historical built environment but at the same time move with the times and the changes that brings.

Aishwarya was one of only six Indian graduates awarded the prestigious Scottish International Scholarship this year. Here she tells Contact of her fascination for conserving historic built environment and why she thinks Dundee can help.

"My country is a many layered palimpsest of various architectural styles and eras and each city has its own distinctive identity unparalleled with any other city in the world. I want to demystify and unscramble this unique diversity and work towards its preservation and enhancement," she said.

"India is a developing nation and it needs to march ahead, but we must not forget our past and make the best of both worlds. I believe that the purpose of conservation is not to arrest time but to mediate sensitively with the forces of change. It is to understand the present as a product of the past and a modifier of the future and to make our transition into the future as gentle as possible as change is inevitable."

Aishwarya is using her scholarship, which is run by the British Council on behalf of the Scottish Executive, to fund an MSc in European Urban Conservation at the University.

"It was a matter of great pride for my parents that I come here to study under this prestigious scholarship and I dedicate this course to my father who passed away last month following a brief illness, whatever I have achieved in my life is because of the support and encouragement of my parents at every stage of my life."

She chose the course at Dundee above others she was offered at University College London and the Universities of York and Bath due to the comprehensive course content covered at Dundee and the practical experience gained through the year.

"Two months into the course, I know I have made the right decision," she said.

"This course will give me an exposure to the latest conservation practices and procedures being adopted in the UK and a deeper understanding of conservation approaches in terms of urban controls, architectural guidelines and development restrictions in conservation areas."

Aishwarya plans to return to India when she finishes the course at Dundee. Armed with new skills and knowledge in conservation techniques her hope is to make conservation successful in India by getting people involved in preserving their urban heritage.

"In the realm of architectural conservation in India we have until now concentrated mainly on monumental edifices and religious structures. The urban city fabric, which forms a definite genre in the built environment, has so far been neglected.

"I believe that it is imperative to make it into a public movement, give it a broad base and begin at the grass roots level. My primary concern is to create awareness amongst the public."

Course tutor Dr Ralph Skea said, "Aishwarya has already proved herself to be an excellent student having prepared a very professional analysis of one of Dundee's historic conservation areas.

"Since starting in 1991, our programme has attracted graduate students from all over the world. Aishwarya is our first student from India - and hopefully not our last."

Aishwarya arrived in Dundee less than three months ago and so far she loves it.

"The course, the tutors, classmates, flatmates and the people of Dundee are very friendly and welcoming, the place is beautiful and offers me what I came here to learn about - historic cities and environments.

"I can proudly say that within two months, Dundee has become my second home."

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