Housing for all, understood by few:

Colloquial narratives from Delhi

Swati Janu and Anushka Shahdadpuri, in conversation with Camila Cociña

Published in Issue 3.2 // Conversations

Keywords: colloquial, India, master planning, housing, urban vocabulary, urban informality.


In this conversational piece, the authors reflect on their process of designing an interactive toolkit, named ‘Kaun Hai Master? Kya Hain Plan’ (Hindi for ‘Who is the Master? What is the Plan?’), in a step towards linguistic decolonisation. It was developed as a part of the Main Bhi Dilli (Hindi for ‘I’m Delhi too’) Campaign—a civic society campaign in Delhi formed to inclusively reimagine the latest Master Plan for Delhi 2041. The toolkit deconstructed the technocratic documents in English that represent Delhi’s Master Plans, and present a more inclusive alternative to the typical top-down processes behind formulating them. It was developed keeping in mind the communities who are typically left out of planning processes. Drawing from the experience of the workshops conducted using the toolkit, emergent narratives are offered to discuss methods in which key terms and concepts related to housing can be broken down to inform, and align with, people’s struggles in asserting their right to the city. The authors discuss outcomes from the workshops that may enable us to think of ways to embed learnings from on the ground experiences in policy and planning frameworks. Simultaneously, they urge for the expansion of vocabulary located within a particular place and its people.


Swati Janu is an Indian architect and writer whose work focuses on housing rights and participatory planning. She is the founder of the art and architecture studio Social Design Collaborative and has been an active member of the Housing Rights Task Force in Delhi.

Anushka Shahdadpuri is an Indian architect and is currently working as an associate researcher at Social Design Collaborative. She is the founder of Aamchi, a research platform centered around embedding culture and critical thinking within the architectural discourse. Social Design Collaborative is an interdisciplinary studio based in Delhi that works on community development, participatory planning and making public policies accessible through design.

Camila Cociña is a member of the RHJ editorial collective.

Download PDF

See article reference