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Changing the face of Mumbai slums by adding colours

THE ASIAN AGE. | RAJKUMARI TANKHA
Published : May 28, 2018, 12:56 am IST
Updated : May 28, 2018, 12:56 am IST

Chal Rang De makes us want to keep pushing for a better, cleaner, and more colourful Mumbai.

A house with painted walls.
 A house with painted walls.

The next time you fly in or out of Mumbai, make sure you peep out of the window, i.e. if you happen to be sitting next to one. Else you could request your fellow traveller to let you have a dekho. And down below, you will get to treat your eyes to a blanket of bright colours — reds, yellows, greens, violets, blues... This happens to be nothing special the city government or BMC has done to beautify the city but yet another effort by Chal Rang De in order to make the Financial Capital of the country look aesthetically beautiful and lovable.

“After transforming the look of Asalpha slum in the city’s Ghatkopar suburb which is also called the Positano of Mumbai, we received numerous requests from all over the country and even beyond. Among our volunteers were amazing residents of Khar who introduced us to the area that we are working with now. This is an area that a lot of flights taking off from Mumbai pass and one of the first things you see from above the city. This gives us an entirely new opportunity to highlight the beauty of our city. For the first time ever, Mumbai is going to have a slum with sustainable roofing with a blanket of colours that shows the outside world just how beautiful the inside is,” says Dedeepya Reddy, co-founder, Chal Rang De.

But how easy or difficult is it to convince people of an area to change, even though it is for their good? “It varies from place to place and hugely depends on the perspective and openness of the people living in and managing the area. Khar was a little more challenging than our previous projects as there were many factors in play where opinions and motivations differed and clashed. But like in previous cases, these issues were resolved once the outcome and purpose of the activity was understood and supported,” shares Terence Ferreira, co-founder of Chal Rang De.

And do they involve locals too? “Of course! The more the merrier we usually say if we can manage them at the time obviously. But more than actual painting help, it is the knowledge the locals possess which really ups the ante without which we would be quite clueless about many things during the actual planning and execution phases,” puts in Dedeepa.

With a new project arrive thousands of new faces but the same unbreakable enthusiasm and spirit. The members of this amazing initiative are painting the walls and roofs of houses to change the way people look at this city and its slums. “The first weekend we were swarmed by around 1,250 volunteers and on the second, another 1,000 joined us. During the week, about another 200-250 volunteers helped out as and when we needed them to. Ideally, a volunteer is assigned to one particular wall along with other volunteers depending on its size and has to finish that wall as soon as possible. Most volunteers are so excited about painting that they end up being a part of two-three complete walls in a day,” she shares.

This time, the crew along with their workforce of willing members of the community are not only going to paint the walls of the slum but completely change the way it is looked at from above. Sustainable roofing, that is durable, reduces indoor temperatures by 3-4 degrees and is incredibly efficient compared to the temporary sheet roofing the locals employ during the monsoon.

With funding for 300 houses, they are covering the roofs in a colourful blanket of paint that they hope to eventually unfold onto all the 7,000 houses in the area. “The residents of Khar have as much pride in their homes as any Mumbaikar, if not more. They are amazing people who have been super supportive. As with all of our pr-ojects, we want the space to resonate with its people, through the colo-urs, the art on the walls, and surroundings. After Asalpha and the informal ‘No Spitting’ rule the residents imposed to maintain the painted walls, promoting cleanliness has become one of our number one priorities. We want to motivate the locals to keep their home as clean as possible by installing colourful bins around the slum, in the hopes that they themselves will realize the importance of it. We know it is going to be a challenge, and so does everyone else involved, but the spirit of the city and Chal Rang De makes us want to keep pushing for a better, cleaner, and more colourful Mumbai,” shares Terence.

Conventionally, from start to finish, the process of a makeover of an area takes about two months. “This includes the selection of the location, trial visits, logistics, planning and then the actual painting. Once the paint cans open, it takes about two-three weekends with a few days during the weeks to transform the place. The Khar project demands 10-12 days extra for the roofing installations and painting but we have managed to fit those days into our schedule,” informs Dedeepa.

Where do the colours and other stuff come from and who is financing this project? “Painting material, logistics and other required material is provided by sponsors for each project. For Khar, the paints is given by Nerolac while the roofing material provided by Pidilite,” says Terence.

Once over, who maintains the area? “Since they have been a part of the process from the beginning, the locals feel a responsibility towards the project and take up charge of its maintenance. We remain actively involved in the project area after the painting is done. Along with follow-ups, we also conduct art workshops, seminars for social issues, photowalks, and other activities that promote the area, boost local morale, and keep people motivated to maintain the area. The BMC and area MLA Ashish Shelar were supportive in beautifying the area and post our work, they will be actively involved in maintaining it as we are installing dustbins in the entire area to ensure they have easier access to garbage disposal,” says Terence.

And the plans for future? “We want to take Chal Rang De to every single location in the country that people ask us to come to,” he puts it.

Tags: ashish shelar, bmc, mumbai, chal rang de