Free Press Journal

Colouring Mumbai! Novel initiative to make city spaces vibrant

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Chal Rang De, a novel initiative of a group of youngsters promises to make city spaces more colourful and vibrant. Their vision and their campaigns have found instant resonance with thousands of volunteers and artists who signed up to support them from across the country. Asalpha was spruced up first, then Khar. And now they are being invited to come and paint across the world! That’s the power of a great idea!

Mukai, a middle-aged vegetable vendor in Sai Baba Nagar at Khar, was asleep one night inside her little tin-roofed store. A group of youngsters walked by. “Could we take your picture?” one of them asked her. Not knowing how to react, Mukai nodded sheepishly. Lo and behold…a few days later, she had a full-blown mural of her face painted on the walls behind her! “It feels great,” she says with a coy smile. “My picture was on TV!”

Believe it or not, it all began with a metro ride!


Dedeepya Reddy, artist and founder of Chal Rang De, was on the metro in 2017 when she noticed a bunch of houses on a hill in the distance as her train passed Asalpha. How awesome it would be if I could paint these houses and turn this neighbourhood into Positano, she thought to herself, recalling the cliff-side village in southern Italy. And the incredible thing is – she didn’t let it remain an idea. She actually made it happen!

Positive change

 

A world without colours would be a sad place to be in, announces the website of Chal Rang De, a non-profit on a mission to make Mumbai gorgeous again! Reddy believes colours can make a difference and she decided to convert her idea into something bigger.

The houses of Asalpha and Khar village bear an unusually vibrant look today. The dash of colour to the walls and roofs adds not just a positive vibe to the physical space but also a proud smile on the faces of its residents. As one walks through the area, the impact the project has had on the self-identity of the people living there is quite apparent.

Yet, one cannot help but notice, the filth in the nala that flows through the lanes and the litter. “We wanted to spruce up the place and of course cleanliness was an essential aspect,” explains Reddy. “We had installed painted dustbins and educated people not to throw garbage into the nalla. But old habits die hard. Change may be slow in coming…but it will come,” she adds.

The first project of the group was in Asalpha. After the metro ride, Reddy created a campaign calling those interested to participate in her vision. Within five days over 2000 people volunteered!

The volunteers came from all walks of society. There were doctors and architects, students and corporate executives. Some artworks were created by artists, some of whom came from as far as Nepal. One will find amongst the murals, stories from mythology, pictures of fish and fishermen, animals of rain forests and much more. Images that local people can identify with and also images that help share with children, a world that they would not ordinarily get to see.

“I feel happy,” smiles Chetan Gupta, a resident of Khar village who invites us onto the terrace of his home to take a look at the roofs painted under this initiative. “These roofs don’t leak like the tin sheets we had before. Life is much better for us during the monsoons.”

Apart from colour, the project also brought about such other positive changes. It introduced sustainable roofing which also brought down temperatures inside the house by 3-4˚c.

Impact of art and colour

“I was wary initially,” explains Jayshree Kaushik, aka Rosy Aunty who lives in a home with a colourful exterior in Khar. “A number of foreigners come here and take pictures and make derogatory remarks about living conditions in India. So, the first time they approached me, I shooed them away!” she laughs. But now, she is proud and happy. “We now like it when people come here and take pictures. Because they come to admire and appreciate, not to criticise or take pity.”

That is what art and colour can do for you. It can change perceptions and dramatically alter one’s own sense of self and self-worth. “We often hear that issues of sanitation, health and hygiene need to be discussed more urgently,” explains Reddy. “Of course, that is important. But art too can have a positive impact in that direction. The children who have painted these walls do not allow grown-ups to spit or litter around them. So, the same end can be achieved through positivity and art as well!”

“This is very refreshing to see,” says Jackeline Matos, an exchange student from Puerto Rico on a visit from UC Berkeley, USA. “I think art and colour help children to be positive and happy. It’s great to see the work they are doing here.”

No wonder the project received a great response from the authorities. “The local MLA at Khar, Shri Ashish Shelar, the Police, the BMC…they were all on board and supported this initiative whole heartedly,” says Sumitro Sircar, Head of Communications.

You can paint with them too!

Chal Rang De has plans to take this initiative to more places. And offers have come calling from all over the world.

“You have got to see the energy during those days,” reminisces Sircar. “It’s heady and contagious! We welcome everyone – young and old, artist or otherwise, to come and paint with us!”

Volunteers from all walks of life are welcome, with no artistic merit required. “Many thanked us for the opportunity as they said they hadn’t picked up a paintbrush after school! They enjoyed the experience of painting after all these years!” notes Sabha Hemani, Project Manager.

Delightful indeed it is to paint for pleasure and make new friends. Chal Rang De gives you a chance to return to those childhood days. And what’s more, you’ll be helping to spruce up your city and make houses more sustainable! So look out for the next campaign on their website and colour away.