It began slow today, i waited to get my hands on paint. Upon reaching , met two BBMP workers, who saw me approaching my work site and started smiling like crazy. They told me that they have cleaned the street up for me nicely and they wanted my team to paint. Dayum! that was awesome to hear.
Finally a bucket landed at my feet. Over eager.. took the white out, with yash helping me out, transferred via a used bottle picked from the street, onto a smaller used bottle, picked from college.
And then the stencil work, cleaning the wall, putting up the stencil, and painting..
The BBMP fellows were so damn good. They placed a stone inthe ditch so that i could stand on it and paint.
In between a guy came to see us work. He was getting a little too close for comfort. He touched my stencil and asked if this is a poster that i am working from. That freaked me a bit, cos there was no hello no small talk, nothing just an abrupt question, accompanied by his getting too close to my bag and touching my stuff. since i didn’t respond and kept on working, the fellow left and bugged Yash for a while. Finished the stencil quickly and i was done and ready to pack. Yash was working close by. He suggested I go ahead and do the rest of my concept freehand with chalk. Was a little anxious at the work involved cos of the bad back, but then what the heck. Gave it a go. And slowly started to draw.
The BBMP men came back to check on us and sat and looked at us draw for a while. They asked me how much am i being paid to do this, and to my ‘free’ response, they were a bit surprised. I told them that I am a student. One of these guys told me “bhagwan tumko accha rakhe”. That was sweeeweeeeet. Blessed by my audience. What more can I ask this day. Today I am gonna walk on clouds<3.
They left after a while. My buddies, raju, murali were there nearby fooling around and snoozing, lazing near me and Yash. Occasionally i would hear a whistle or some silly sentences from them and turn around and scold them. My Best pretension at being a strict schoolteacher that i could muster, and things would quieten for a while before it picked up again.
They had one more minion along with them today, who was a little too noisy and was disruptive. I saw two ladies from their locality approach and complained to them about this fellow, saying he is ‘disturbing’. Such sweet badass ladies, they took this fellow all the way back towards their homes scolding him in a high voice. Me and raju shared a secret smile at that. He wizened up i guess and stayed quiet after that. I was so tempted to straighten my back next to him while he snoozed, but then that was a street, a dirty one at that, and my supercleanfreak mind just couldn’t go dare.
Yash after finishing his work for the day, was hanging around. It took a little longer than expected for me to finish what i was doing.
Murali showed me a baby on the way back. I waved goodbye. Raju showed me his house near the temple. Noticed a drawing on the pillar and asked him about it. Yes, he is the one who’s done this, with Chalk.
I asked him to pose for me. Which he happily did. As an appreciation for all the work this sweet child has done for me, i am planning to paint a portrait of his on a postcard, and gift it to him. Am surely gonna miss him once our work at Dhanvantri will be over.
Go check the works out and the artists working there. And if you see Raju, curiously lurking around, give him a smile and a hug from me too.
Working right at the edge of a drain… there’s the bright blue tarpaulin i use to carry my stencils safely in, and to keep my bag on, and if needed to rest on. All the garbage that is visible on the road right next to me keeps falling from above, where the houses are. By the time I am done for the day, it feels so dirty, can’t even touch my own hands(does that make sense?). In the bus on the way back, its always important to remember not to touch any cute looking kids. As soon as i am home after this, i take a long hot shower scrubbing my hands and my hair thoroughly. The clothes worn for the day get a good long soaking and scrubbing. Not even week long sabbaticals from taking baths while trekking in nepal (cos it was too cold) ever felt this icky. But, love the whole process, and will definitely continue to paint on the street.
Seen in the pic are Yash and me. He was documenting the process.
This was a day of its own.. Started with cutting my next stencil. Traditional miniature style love birds, both female, cuddling and taking a selfie.. it took a while to draw and redraw cos I couldn’t get a face right.
After cutting, packed up and took a pool cab to the site. A techie sitting in the cab next to me was very keen on talking, so had to skip my customary uber nap. Upon hearing I am an artist and a student, he started asking me about my financials. I told him i’ll get there one day. Right now I am just happy that the start Bangalore team is giving me and my friends all the paint we need and the permissions and arranging all the factors for being able to paint unhindered. The fact that i am a woman and painting on streets makes him probably question me more insistently. Changing tactics i started talking to him in his boardroom language, the art being a project and the wall being my interface, about interacting with the street. I don’t think we understood each other much. He kept on trying to figure out the financials and the time constraints of an artist living in ibalur and working at a wall on Dhanvantri and studying in Ckp. I wish I had pretended to sleep.
Upon reaching my location met Osheen and Yash. I put up the stencil and proceeded to paint quickly before the back pain kicked in.
Last time when we went to the site together she was a little freaked out with all the people approaching us to know what we are doing and accidentally threw my phone in the piss ditch. That though is a story for another day..
Yash, me and Osheen, went in to meet Vyas who is painting nearby on the house walls of two local residents, transforming ordinary into extraordinary. I say it was the best suggestion Yash gave me today.
I am amazed and am feeling humbled to be able to visit the homes of the people who live here. A tiny corridor, its beyond words. Overwhelming. The place is so Lived. One steps out of the road into a whole community’s living room.
This is where the magic happens. Washing, cooking, sitting , chatting, just lazing and feeling the sun after a rain sprinkle. Reminds me so much of my nana’s home not the physicality of it but the feel of it… Makes me nostalgic. I wish she was alive. Remember sleeping in her lap while she lazily combed my hair. Playing with the neighbours kids and their goats, rabbits, pigeons, dogs, cats and envying the hell outta them and cribbing with mom on why couldn’t we live there in nana’s home in the village permanently. My mum had to drag me back home, after the holidays were over. Which i would be wholeheartedly protesting against, kicking and screaming.
This was a visit back.. eyes agog, wonderment in my heart, we just walked in right to the end where Vyas was working on his walls.. So envious of him right now.
We stayed for a while, i hungrily looked and looked, quenching that part of me which still is sleeping in Nana’s lap.
On the way back saw women preparing for a meal probably, peeling onions. So tempted to go sit with them. We overvalue our posh houses in our posh localities. They are dead and pretentious places to go to, to feel arrived.
Otherwise our most cherished memories still stay of moments long gone, of just being somewhere or with someone. Our houses, cars and bank balances never feature in them.
It is such a great opportunity that this team enables me to have. Appreciate my team so much.
I reach the site early to beat the sun.
Maybe I was too early. The roads were being cleaned by a pourakarmika lady. She stopped to view my work and appreciate it. She said its very nice.
Heartwarming. Tried to thank her through the language barrier. Words i do know – Dhanyawada gulu- flew off like anything. She left with a smile saying thankyou.
As usual my pals raju and ajmer came up to chat. We shared berries and raju helped me for a while. He skips school today and upon asking, he replies just because..
Ajmer came up to chat on the way to his school, and wheedled 5rs out of me for a pen. I searched his pencil box first just to make sure its not candy cash he’s after. The 5 bucks for the pen were exchanged with a terse instruction of buying the pen only. He says he will show it to me upon purchase.
With the help of Raju we completed two more figures in the composition. Upon his request, gave him one of my stencils with which he wishes to paint in his house.
My offer to paint it for him was summarily rejected on the point that he wishes to do it himself. We had a small discussion on cutting stencils, which frankly i have no right to give gyan on as i myself am a novice at it.
And besides there was this huge lecture by me on not skipping school and how important it is to get good marks.
Maybe it was a little too much and he weared off for a while. Later Vyas took him along with himself to his Paint Site.
After a while i was alone, painting.
Strangers kept coming up to view the process on their way to wherever. Most of them were pleasant. A guy on a bike stopped to tell me he ‘appreciates my initiative’. (Which is not mine though. Amitabh, Start bangalore all the way through..) He did want to chat a bit, but left upon seeing one of my male companion Artist – fellow Student at CKP, Vyas come up behind him. Phew! That was helpful.
And then there was an elderly fellow who came up and kept viewing my work from different angles, for a few minutes. Frankly speaking i was a little spooked by his popping up behind me left- right- left. Later he came up to me and demanded my phone number. His reason was he wanted to contract me to paint for him.
I succinctly pointed him towards Vyas and told the fellow, go talk to our Sir. Upon that this guy grumbles a bit about not getting my number and then he leaves too. That was a relief.
Painting on the street is a lot of fun, it has its own hazards too. Maybe men feel a woman painting on the street is more approachable. I am sure none of these guys would have come up and spoken to me had i been just walking on the street. A bane/ a boon/ whatever. Working on the wall opens up dialogues unthinkable normally too. Sometime it paves way for pleasant experiences. At times not. Thanks Vyas for working near me. Although I shouldn’t have used his manly shoulders as a crutch to hide behind during these dialogues. Next time around, will try and find a more creative solution. Some of the artists i have come across use headphones for the “do not approach me, i’m busy ” Vibe..
But how far will it be successful in india where one and all men feel its their birthright to come up to a woman painting on the street and be able to talk to her if she is alone.
Right now, on the way home. Sitting on the raised floor of a bus. No seats and am too tired to stand. There is one more woman sitting next to me with her child. Moral support. The lady right next to me asks, India? And I nod Yes. Cos this definitely is India.
The house is a huge mess. Kitchen untouched. Nursing a bad back.
Wall mural at Dhanvantri road, Bangalore
First time ever. Me painting on the street.
Numerous site visits, numerous ideas kicked down kudos to my thankless pals, and finally I get to work on my own wall ( the wall is not mine though, its only mine till the time i paint on it, and besides is it even then mine. Since the idea came on the street, the wall belongs to the street I guess)
Sitting on the street in bangalore, again a first, squatting ( but not to go ) leaning on our famous piss stained walls..
Dhanvantri has a charm of its own. Its rude and crude when you first visit, as most beautiful streets are. But one needs to be persistent and keep at it. ( at what though.. walking looking digging spying musing interpreting)
Working at the wall today I met over enthusiastic, gems of children. Murali, Raju and Ajmer.. Murali is a temple sculptor. Raju and Ajmer are in 8th and 6th std respectively.
Raju, the man, as Ajmer calls him bashfully (maybe cos he doesn’t wanna talk about himself), is one of the most helpful chaps I have come across. Give him 10 years of unhindered opportunities and you wont even recognise him. He has a fan in me. A school break cos of a teachers meet, lucky for me that due to this i got two amazing assistants. Although i was the one assisting these two artists.
So, the mural.. we ( the boys and me) started with the very first thing that comes to my mind, the question ‘why’
The image of a woman casually asking a peeing child, why?
Why do you pee on my walls? ( now the wall belongs to the artwork! )
To this the boy gestures – just because !
Just hustle to the side of the wall, open up the zip, and let go.. phew! Relief! Who the heck cares for the paint on walls.
When I will be working there tomorrow and the day after, will surely remember not to drink too much liquid! Hopefully she wont call me often, the bugger nature.
Wish I could just go too whenever and wherever, side of street, near the walls, bushes, plants.. endless list!
I am sure very few women have had this privilege or have the guts to do so openly. Note to self: wear a skirt. Find innovative ways to go..