by Quadrant


Listen to our various podcasts.


In Arcx, our six episode mini-series, Anjali Alappat talks to six South Asian sci-fi, fantasy and speculative fiction writers about literary inspiration.

Stories from the Subverse

In this spin off of our podcast series, The Subverse, we uncover hidden and marginalized stories through a more personal storytelling lens.

The Subverse - Season One

Season 1 of The Subverse contains eight conversations that range from the intricacies of origami and protein folding, to flow and play, to understanding bioacoustics, renewable energy, protecting our commons and the dark side of aesthetics in neoliberal cities.

The Subverse - Season Two

In Season 2 of The Subverse, ‘water’ is our main theme. Join us as we explore the multifaceted dimensions of this life giving molecule.


The Subverse, Season 2, Episode 10: Drawing the Line: Inventing Rivers, the Dissent of Rain and Embracing Wetness

In this episode, we speak with architect and planner Dilip da Cunha, based in Philadelphia and Bangalore. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and the recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship. He has authored several books, such as Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (2001), co-authored with Anuradha Mathur. His most recent book (and the subject of our conversation), The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Ganga’s Descent, was published by University of Pennsylvania Press in 2019. In 2020, he received the ASLA Honour award and the J.B Jackson Book Prize for his work.

In 2017, Mathur and Da Cunha founded a design platform called Ocean of Wetness. The organisation is dedicated to imaging and imagining habitation in ubiquitous wetness rather than on a land-water surface.

Our chat was a wide-ranging one, starting with the premise in many of his works: the line which separates land from water, which he terms “as one of the most fundamental and enduring acts in the understanding and design of human habitation.” He calls this the first colonialism, which took a wetness that is everywhere and turned it into a land and water binary. This led to the invention of rivers and source, course, and flood, leading us to see a river that flowed between two lines and flooded. Alexander’s eye represents the cartographer and surveyor, and Ganga’s descent is rain, colonised by river. Rain is no longer seen as feeding wetness but contained in gutters.

Da Cunha invites us to acknowledge wetness all around us, not contained in a place, and embrace living between the clouds and aquifers. He writes that “water is the first principle in the nature of moist things.” The city reinforces the line which separates water from land on the earth’s surface and it has become the quintessential settlement while reducing other modes of habitation to less settled or unsettled, creating hierarchies. He writes, “those educated with the map, inhabit a surface articulated with rivers, and their extension in pipes and drains.”

All this calls for a new imagination, driven by the celebratory event of rain — a re-heralding — and gradual steps, including learning from indigenous and other communities who have extended and nurtured ways of living with wetness.

To learn more about this remarkable work, visit