Sand, Skin & Sky is a work of non-fiction that explores the notion of ‘home’ through the unique lens of movement.


The book unfolds 'home' through three people/ communities, exploring movement in a  geographical sense (Sand), a bodily sense (Skin), and through philosophical thought (Sky).

It aims to challenge the common urban belief that 'home' exists only within physical space, within fixture and settlement, and cannot be found in mobility.


By bringing to light three stories of migration, it attempts to highlight vital narratives and identities that are often overlooked or erased while designing for a diverse India. 

First copy of Sand, Skin & Sky


Undergraduate Thesis​,

ISDI, Parsons


Anando Dutta,

Imran Ali Khan


Ethnographic Research,


Publication Design


1 Year,

2017 - 2018


The idea of 'home' is one that is so universal and yet so subjective. It’s something that we try to realize at various points in our lives. We try to define it, often romanticize it, other times put in boxes, within structures, in houses.


Our meaning of 'home' can fall into either of three categories: the homeful, the homeless, and the homebound.


Homogeneous urban living perceives 'home' as a point of fixture. The idea of 'home' and movement often don't go hand in hand. Those on the move are often viewed as threats. They are labeled as wanderers with no social frameworks in place. This fear and sense of threat come from a sense of unknowingness and ignorance.


However, their movement is central to their story of freedom, and their stories and experiences are more liberating than terrifying.


Sand, Skin & Sky, attempts to explore home and belonging through the lens of the homebound — those in movement.




Migrant I, SAND:

Prabha Nemji Rambhia

Migrants II, SKIN:

The Hijra Community of India


Migrants III, SKY:

The Maldharis of Kutch

image (4).jpeg

Image 1: From an interview with Naani in Mumbai.

Image 2: Borrowed with permission from Parthiv Shah.

Saiba from the Hijra community, photographed by another community member.

Image 3: From an ethnographic field visit to Kutch.

Hanif Bhai and Gafur Bhai from the Maldhari Community.

A​ spread from the first section, 'Sand.'



Sand, Skin & Sky is heavily grounded in 2 major processes: literary research and ethnographic research, the first forming a base for the latter. 

Though the slides show a linear progression to aid the viewer in understanding the process, the actual process, like it often is while working with any complex issue, wasn't linear or step by step. There were multiple points where I paused, traveled back,

re-scoped, and moved forward.


Two methodologies that ​truly shaped Sand, Skin & Sky were:

1. Journalling as a tool of self-introspection and inquiry.

2. An ethnographic study centered around personal objects of 

     history and material culture.

Top: Reflections from the journal, brainstorming, and mapping, journal entries from the literary research.

Bottom: From a conversation with Jaisangh Bhai during the Living Lightly Exhibition in Ahmedabad, from an interview with my maternal grandmother at her house in

Mumbai, from an interview with Praveen Bhai in Kutch.


Narratives form the core of human communication. They are sense-making

tools and one of the primary ways in which we comprehend this complex world.

They provide context. 
They provide connections. 
They provide a community.


Sand, Skin & Sky intends to explore the role of design, narratives, and the self as tools of provocation. The three narratives lie at the intersection of 'home' and 'movement.'

Each narrative is an attempt to provoke the reader to question and converse on 'home' as

a linear, fixed, settled space and its implications on unurbanized India. 



SAND is an exploration of 'home' through my maternal grandparents, mainly through the lens of my grandmother, Prabha Nemji Rambhia. It centers around their migration from Kutch to Bombay. 


An archival research of the aspired home, of the home of the familiar and understanding home as an evolutionary idea — one that adapts with time and circumstances. 

In Naani's case, it is one that evolved from her house and habits of the familiar to a deeper understanding of the soul.

It also explores home as understood in mathematical figures, in square feet area; an idea of home within geographical space, the concept of homeownership, and the emotive realization of home within structures.

SKIN is an exploration of 'home' through the lens of the Hijra community of India, the oldest transgender community in the world, many of whom struggle to come to terms with their own bodies — arguably one's first home or place of belonging.

It explores the role of the Gharana system in creating a sense of belonging to first, their bodies, and second, to the community and society at large.  


It also explores the concepts of nationhood and citizenship i.e the idea of belonging to an entity much larger than oneself.


SKY is an exploration of 'home' through the lens of the Maldharis, a nomadic pastoral community of Gujarat, India.


It explores their multidimensional conception of home — one that is not embodied in one place, but is rather a reflection of their state of mind; one that is built, rebuilt and carried in memory and space through recreations.


Sand, Skin & Sky was designed to be read in its physical form, if you would like a copy, please reach out to me!

However, if you wish to access it online, you could read it here:


This thesis marked the end of my academic tenure as a Communication Design student at the Indian School of Design and Innovation, Parsons.


The intent was to culminate a well-informed investigation into a concept or a field of study that one closely felt aligned to. 

For me, this project has not only been an opportunity to merge my interests in anthropology and philosophy with design, but it also provided me the opportunity to explore writing and design in the social impact space.

My biggest learning from this project has been in conducting ethnographic research with communities, especially those vulnerable in nature. I learned to build relationships amidst existing power structures and communicate 

through loving and not ego-centric speech.


I learned in the process about work, but so much about life and relationships, from the sharing hands and hearts of the collaborators and those that I had the privilege to write about in Sand, Skin & Sky, and to them, I am truly grateful. 

The concluding spread of Sand, Skin & Sky