Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seen Unseen - An evening in Dharavi.

On that narrow lane off '90 Feet Road' in Dharavi, a truck can block all view ahead. Yet, in such a place, a curious crowd had gathered under fluorescent yellow-orange shamiana that Saturday evening. There were local women and children dressed in their shiny best. There were those from lands beyond Dharavi in their ethnic kurtascool tees and what not. Passersby wondered what all the commotion was about. And as fleeting glances deepened into interest and the crowd spilled into the street, the organizers knew that this was going to be one exhilarating evening.

By the time, I reached there, a water bottle had been got into the system.. (that's what excitement did to us, to me) for I was going to see the 'Slumdog Millionaire' fame Dharavi.. (that's how non-mumbaikars knows the place).  As this post is about 'the' evening, so let me hold my thoughts on whether Danny Boyle did any good OR just-glorified-the-slum in a bad way.

So, the assembled had gathered to attend an exhibition by SNEHA on health. They were calling the exhibition Ghar Pe (At Home).. it was an installation of art pieces made by the local participants (mostly kids). I was in awe, for every piece evoked a particular aspect of health and was the culmination of almost an year’s efforts in creativity, conversations and skill acquirement. eg: mosquitoes embroidered on windows, photographs spread on utensils and dreams moulded into ceramic slippers, colored chits on turquoise wall with kids' name and their dreams.. they were just some of the examples of household items that were afflicted by a healthy dose of messages via this form of art, this form what I was experiencing for first time. Day of many firsts, i say!! 

The inaugural was preceded by a frenzy of photos taken by and of the participants of Dekha Andekha. 
The hall that is part of Ganesh Vidya Mandir was painted a turquoise green and saw almost two hundred and fifty visitors that evening. Among those who burst with excitement into the exhibition was Akku Behn, a middle aged sweeper from the neighbourhood. For Akku Behn, who had never been to an art exhibition before, the art pieces made by our participants led her to say that it is great that women are doing something different. And then in the crowd, was the little boy who wanted a fabric globe off a dream slipper to play with. And there was the sound of many an air kiss blown into the noisy room. :-)

Kids who had just been felicitated were exuberant when they saw visitors were paying *close* attention to their art pieces. This was yet another moment when a craftswoman metamorphoses into an artist and they recount a terrific time explaining their art to curious visitors. Zarina from the photography group feels that this exhibition is sure to bring about change in the neighbourhood.
As the street lights came out, the crowd  ventured outdoors. But I could see that everyone who had come there that evening, returned with a bit of turquoise.. including me.  :-) 


  1. Really interesting. I am a Mumbaikar, but i never knew Art Exhibits like these take place. There are some names, you have mentioned - Like Dekha - Andekha- i havent even heard of them.

    You have opened a whole new aspect to look out for. I shall keep a track of such exhibitions in coming future. Thanks.

  2. Initiatives like these will onl help in the betterment of the people living there. Will help in motivating others too in contributing to the cause.