Fellow Since 1990
This profile was prepared when Debashish Nayak was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
Debashish is an architect with both an eye and a deep love for the accumulated architectural beauty that is any city's capital inheritance. He also understands how, if that inheritance is cared for, it will enormously improve the quality of urban life and, at least for the especially historic old cores that are the geographic heart of most cities, generate substantial tourist revenues. Since tourism is India's second largest earner of foreign exchange, the latter promise has national as well as local significance. But, how can India's cities restore their historic quality? Debashish believes that it will never happen without grassroots leadership - and that such leadership in turn is a most promising key to overall neighborhood and citywide renewal. He therefore works intensively to help each neighborhood see the beauty behind the billboards, garish replacement facades, and grime - and then take charge, piece by piece and group by group, until a critical mass of effort cumulatively reverses the process of decay with a new virtuous cycle fueled by pride first in the community's heritage and then in its new and dramatically demonstrated ability to join together and make a real difference. Once a community has learned it has this power, it will be tempted to use it again - and again.