By Taniya Dutta
Dingy, dark and dirt are the words that best describe a slum but one nondescript ghetto in Mumbai has become an attractive spot because of its bright, colourful mural walls-thanks to a bunch of creative brains.
Once stood like a sore thumb on a mound of trash with dreary walls and tarpaulin roofs erected on shanties, Asalpha slum in Mumbai, the financial capital of India now looks like a palette of colours.
The 175 walls of the dwelling that were riddled with fungi are not just spic and span but also dipped in splash of bright hues of pinks, blues, greens, yellows and reds. There are also walls and pipes that have dramatically been turned into portrayals of the people, their lives, and the city.
The drastic transformation of the once drab ghetto is a brainchild of a Harvard graduate and hard work of 400 artists who used 420 litres of paint to colour 50,000 sq feet area of the slum in three days.
Dedeepya Reddy, 31, who runs a co-founded creative agency Fruitbowl Digital in the city, started the movement Chal Rang De (Let’s colour) to bring change in the people’s perspective of slum dwellings and fill the lives of the dwellers with positivity and hopes.
In her initiative, Mumbai Metro and Snowcem Paints joined her hands and sponsored the funds to alter the perspective that the world has of urban slums.
Dedeepya said: ” I was always socially inclined and was determined to do something for the people. I would see the slum every day while travelling in metro to and from office.
“Mumbai-the Maximum city has maximum slums. It houses an estimated 6.5 million people in its slums. They are dirty and dark bur I wanted to bring a change in their lives, make them feel happy.
“Chal Rang De started out as our way to change the people’s perception of the city slums while also spreading happiness through art and colour.
“Mumbai, as a whole, has so many tales to tell in so many different ways, that we just wanted to provide a platform for the local talent to tell theirs w hile also giving the community the attention and identity it so rightfully deserved.
“We aim to transform the slums of our cities into a colorful amalgam of local stories and talent.
“By painting the walls of the slums with vibrant colors, we can not only change everyone’s outlook towards the areas but also create a positive emotion among the residents.
“We began with a handful of people, whose passion and dedication towards the cause inspired so many more amazing people to give us their time and skills.”
She organised the first leg of the project on December 2nd with a group of enthusiasts from her office, friends and acquaintance who worked for three days at stretch to give the slum its makeover.
With the positive response and the fruit of their hard work in front of them, Dedeepya and her colleagues went again to the slum the following weekend, this time with professional artists.
Dedeepya said: “With the success of the first leg of the project, we decided to invite professional artists to join our hands. We harnessed the power of social media to gather people.
“We were flooded with inquiries and event responses. Within four days, we received around 1,500 responses on Facebook and over 2,000 inquiries on our website. We could only call 400 volunteers because of the limited space and the equipment constraints,
“This slum was in itself a beautiful landscape. It was like a blank canvas and all we needed was to fill it with colours. Colours make everyone happy so why not fill the lives of these slum dwellers with colours.”
But it wasn’t a piece of cake for Dedeepya and her friends to kick start their project as they had to nudge the locals for whom the niceties were completely alien.
Dedeepya said: “People in slums are not used to nice talks or behaviour so they were naturally confused why we were even thinking of painting their walls. We had to convince them by showing the renders that how their slum would change completely.
“The painting was not an easy task either. The walls were eaten up by fungi and there were water leakages. The lanes were really congested and there was no address as such. We had to first spend days recceing the place, fixing walls with puttys and labelling the lanes.
“We have only used exterior paints that are durable and would last at least five years.”
Dedeepya now wishes to continue her initiative and change one slum at a time.
“It is a wonderful feeling to see people happy. A new kind of positivity and hope has been infused into their lives. This is also giving me the determination to continue the project.”