Arushi Nayar: 'I Have Always Believed In The Metaphor That There Is Light At The End Of The Tunnel'

Arushi Nayar: 'I Have Always Believed In The Metaphor That There Is Light At The End Of The Tunnel'

The artist speaks about creating artwork for the 41 workers who were trapped in the Uttarkashi tunnel

Chinmay RavalUpdated: Saturday, December 16, 2023, 03:07 PM IST
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Scrolling through Twitter, or rather X, we came across a post with a difference. A young artist was looking for a way to reach the 41 workers who had been trapped in the Uttarkashi tunnel and eventually rescued. While the whole country was watching and praying for their safe extraction, this young woman was talking about MDF and paints. Turns out she was making 41 beautiful little works of art to give to each of the workers! The FPJ reached out to Arushi Nayar to talk about why she took up this project…

Excerpts from the interview:

What prompted this project?

When I read about the plight of the 41 gentlemen trapped inside the tunnel that collapsed in Uttarkashi, my heart went out to them even as I was touched and inspired by their courage and solidarity. I have always believed in the metaphor that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is the belief that kept me going even through difficult situations and trying times. I have called this the ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ project, and I came up with the idea due to how much it means to me that these 41 brave men held to finally emerge victorious.

My mentor once told me that instead of seeking one final day when there is light, that one should perceive that the light comes and goes. I believe she is right. However, for these 41 gentlemen, they literally lived in the darkness of a tunnel for 17 days, and saw that moment where there was, finally, light!

Praying for them, and for the rescue team and the rat-hole miners to finish their mission successfully as soon as possible, I would often think about the moment they would emerge victorious from the darkness of the tunnel. I would think about how they would be in tears at that moment, of how their family and loved ones would be in tears, of how the rescue team and rat-hole miners would be in tears. It would be a moment of pure joy, and of victory over darkness, hardship and extraordinary battles.

What were the material used?

I have used MDF wooden boards, wood stain, acrylic paint markers and varnish. I have used a mix of colours with a touch of gold, a sprinkling of magic, and my heart and soul.

What is the inspiration for the art depicted on the pieces?

When I started the first piece, I instinctively made a little star in gold on the top right hand, with circles of tiny gold dots around it representing radiating light. This star would become a key feature of all the artworks, as to me, it visually captures the moment the first ray of light would have entered the tunnel as soon as the rescue team achieved breakthrough.

On the bottom left, two people are depicted, holding hands. These are each of the 41 gentlemen, being held and congratulated and felicitated by me. I am saluting them for their strength and courage and resilience, and also thanking them for being such an inspiration for me.

The skies and the borders are made up of polka dots — almost representing the bokeh light effect.

There are birds in the skies, representing freedom. If you arrange each of the pieces next to one another, you will find that it becomes a game of ‘spot the difference’! These pieces look similar. But each of them is unique.

Did you manage to contact anyone to reach the rescued workers?

Yes! Some people saw my tweet and connected me to the right people! Mangal Kumar Saha, from Khurial Village, Katihar Bihar, will be facilitating the delivery of all these artworks to their intended recipients. Most of the artworks will be personally hand-delivered to each of the recipients by his contacts in each of the areas, but for some individuals who live in extremely rural areas of Jharkhand, these works will be sent to them by post.

I will be packaging each artwork along with a poem that I’m writing for them, to salute their courage. Mangal has told me that the staff that would be hand-delivering the artworks will make video clips of the artworks being received by them, to share with me, and perhaps read out my poem to them too!

Anything else you want to add?

When I first started this project, it seemed like a crazy idea. I shared this idea with my parents the morning of the day the rescue team was expecting to achieve a breakthrough. My family was very supportive and encouraged me. I started working immediately, and posted a few pictures on Twitter, asking to be connected to the 41 gentlemen. Not only did I find such people — I even had people come forward to say that they would like to support this project! Besides Mangal Kumar Saha, I had support from Sanal Natraj, VT, LS Srinivas, and of course, my family!

It is also important to acknowledge the work of the rat-hole miners, rescue team, the workers, volunteers, families, the govt. and all those helping out, and the prayers of the nation. I would make artworks for everybody if I could, but I am going to have to start by at least doing what I have the physical capacity to do!

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