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Mumbai Lifeline 786-Sites of commuting: sights of perception
The bar-waitress who is Aishwarya Rai to herself, or a trucker’s secret desire to be a matinee idol.
An inner wall of a train compartment that has long been used as an ‘interactive’ site of pasting and defacing advertisement stickers. The texts that assure a better, affluent, trouble-free you.
The colonial edifices that might be dwarfed only by your aspirations. The cabby who drives to the mall, leaving past his days as a textile worker. The Sai Babas, the 786s and the idols that bless us all.
The exploration of spatiality and temporality in Mumbai, from the vantage-point of a newcomer and a suburban Mumbaikar, is a never-ending novel. As dream-seekers turn into day job-holders, more space is divided, expanded and commuted. I explores revisits the formulations that are basic to the perception of space and time in Mumbai.I chooses different vehicles for the formulations, literally. The present suite of his paintings deals with the centrality of public transport vehicles to the everyday aesthetics of the city.
Per se, there are only two modes of Public Transport available in Mumbai. The ‘Mumbai Local trains’ that belong to Indian Railways, the largest public undertaking in the world, and buses that belong to BEST, arguably the most disciplined bus-operator in India. All other modes of hireable transport are privately owned, though the public authorities are supposed to control their operations. Taxis and Auto-rickshaws reign supreme when the trains and buses are sparsely available: typically in after-hours, and anytime in the newly developing areas of the city. This has been the situation for last four decades, and although every mode of transport has expanded with the city’s growth, Mumbaikars haven’t entirely skipped the long wait for a public vehicle. To add to their woos, any such vehicle is crowded/already engaged. Though a major overhaul, maybe a makeover of Mumbai’s transport system is on the cards for a decade now; the existing transport experience is unchanged, thanks to bureaucracy and shortage of funds.
There is a perceived, self-engaged, sentimental side to the experience of navigating through Mumbai in a public transport vehicle. The essence of this city of dreams, its gusto and ‘It’s my life’ attitude makes its presence felt in the user-made alterations of the carriages, too. ‘Decorated’ taxis and rickshaws make their kitsch tore-interpret glam and glitz that the city is proud of. The trains and buses, in turn, are more open and accommodative. They are ready to flaunt your graffiti or even to be assaulted by the selective, playful erasure of instructions that leave a cynical, yet humorous mark. The altered aesthetics enlivens, individualizes the otherwise identical carriages.
There is utilitarian value to the act of tearing off advertisements in Mumbai. The cloth banners, torn off the roads, have long served as bed sheets for the poor of this city, whereas the flex banners now are used for making shelters. As an ever-growing city, Mumbai did not wear an identical, planned, embellished look. Mumbai’s ‘subaltern aesthetics’ is not of decoration and colour. It is rather about individual fantasy and collective pain. It then allows the utility of tearing, sees the wicked joy of defacement as incidental to making yourself comfortable. It also gives you the multiplicity of lifestyle choices coupled with the freedom to choose/grow your ‘village’ within Mumbai. The aesthetics has grown with the spatiality and temporality, as perceived by the people.My paintings, as such, populate so many intimate perceptions that it is hard to stamp them cityscapes.
- Raj more
In Buddhism the white prayer flags are for the departed souls.... Prayers for those departed souls to rest in peace...
Today when Mumbai is burning lets pray for those 125+ departed souls... who laid down their lives !!!
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