I have often taken a metro to Andheri and back (to Ghatkopar). While returning to Ghatkopar, at Asalpha station, I used to spot the hillock on the left known as Asalpha village which had hutments layered upon each other. It many a times resembled the layered cakes (but we know life here is not a cake walk). On other occasions, it bore a striking resemblance to famous Key Monestry in Spiti.
I often thought of stopping by to click a picture of the white hutments and place it side by side with the picture of Key Monestry.
Both these had a striking resemblance in structure but a stark contrast- one located at sea level, other located higher up in the Himalayas. One placed marred by the dense population, the other rarely see people throughout the year. One place is abode to the humans, others to the spiritual beings. So, the thought kept on lingering and I never clicked the image.
This January’18, I came across a news about walls of the hutments on this hillock being painted with vibrant colors. I knew I missed the opportunity to click it in its original color. I had a mixed feeling. Soon, this place grabbed many lenses and eyes on the metro as well as some journos on the news channel;. Overall the news gave a positive vibe about the place, telling how the painitng of the walls has actually brought in a positive change. The painting was an initiative by an NGO ‘Chal Rang De’ based in Mumbai.
Me and my friends became very excited about visiting this place, to experience for ourselves how this simple but commendable initiative brought in a wave of attitude change. With the help of ‘The Photographers’ Blog’ we decided to have a photowalk to this place. The main motive was to see with our eyes the ‘murals’ and talk with the residents and if possible the volunteers who actually took this concept forward.
On 24th February, we visited this place, total 19 photographers together.
About the initiative:
‘Chal Rang De’ has been involved in transforming many places in Mumbai suburbs by coloring them which sub-consciously brings in a behavioral (positive) change in the locality as well as in the outlook of the society.
As mentioned earlier, the founder of the NGO ‘Chal Rang De’ while passing through Asalpha metro station thought that this can be a Positano of India. The structure had a striking similarity to the settlments in Positano, Italy.
A call went for volunteering to colour the walls of the area with vibrant colours and received a whooping response. The volunteers were shortlisted, color scheme decided and the locals were convinced while seeking their active participation.
After a tedious, tireless week long process of coloring, the makeover was complete.
We gathered at the starting point and shared some insight of photography techniques and kind of photos that we can expect here.
Once we started the climb, we knew we were in for a sweet treat. The place is a maze of well-constructed stairway 3 to 5 feet wide, with houses on both sides stretching further inside the alleyway. Each wall along the stairway was painted with vivid colors and the inner walls had very nice murals which often gave out some beautiful message or was either about the Mumbai or some super heroes.
The wall at the start of walk (or climb) is painted bright blue with different caricature style artwork depecting “Things To Do In Mumbai” which gave glimpse of what Mumbai is known for in terms of food, lifestyle, tourism etc.
On further climb, we found many such beautiful images.
We were more than happy to see so many kids living in this area. It seems they were now accustomed to cameramen coming to their area and clicking them. Most of the kids often wore a comfortable smile while a few really seemed to be annoyed by these weekend visitors, for, their each movement is being monitored by the cameramen.
Initially, we had a good time shooting pictures of kids in candid moment, but thanks to our friendly photographers Sumit Sawarkar, Darshan Ved, Pratiksha and Mansi, they became good friends with all. So much so that, this happened when we tried to take a group picture.
We thoroughly enjoyed this walk and got some beautiful pictures. I must say, the newly painted walls could match the vibrance of these young minds.
Soon, our photowalk was converted more into photowalk with kids.
While our friend Rutesh tried to ‘capture’ the kids returning from school, they ran away, but definitely gave a good picture in the process.
Our friend Avdhut tried to experiment with monochrome and was able to get some beautiful candid moments.
Another candid click by Centhil Kumar
The vibrant colours at times compete with the ones worn by locals. Coincidently, here it seems the salesman borrowed the color from the surrounding.
And we were often confronted by cats in the locality (just kidding). This one click made me rethink my decision for a moment- to click or not to click
Later, the shy ones offered to show their faces too.
While climbing up, we see this laundry (dhobi) on the right. They are not much interested to chat but didn’t mind us clicking as they are busy in their own activities and have a little time to argue, though one glance from them says a lot.
This part being open to sky, had a harsh light. Our friend Avdhut made a good use of ambient light and the light reflected from the white cloth just in time to get these intense expressions.
We were eager to interact with locals to know the change they have witnessed. We came across a group of ladies who offered us drinking water.
So, it began, the lady said “We locals have always kept this area clean. Each ones takes their individual responsibility seriously and maintains the cleanliness. We have had good water supply and sanitation facility which has definitely helped us in maintenance.
People have a perception that this is a slum and must be dirty, but they should visit this place and see for themselves that their perception is wrong and we keep this place neat and tidy, after all, this is our home.
We live together in harmony and are close knit community. We don’t even have issues with outsiders or visitors. Rather, we welcome visitors to our area.
After the coloring, the footfall here have increased, and even lot of foreigners visit us on weekends. We are more than happy to intereact, to tell them, there is no need to be afraid of us.
The other part is, kids are now happy due to these vibrant walls. They enjoy walking past these places. Some have started taking ‘selfies’ after looking at the tourists and their acts. Ha ha. The shy kids are now opening up to the visitors and have gained new confidence. “
On return, we met Pushparaj Shetty, a very active, energetic volunteer from the locality who explained the complete process of selection of site, color to efforts put in by locals.
On asking about further plans for the place, he mentioned that they are thinking of starting a flee market sort of where each of the residents will be able to sell some local goods or food items. The plan is yet under conception but hope to see the light of the day soon. This will help generate employment through increased footfall.
We were eager to know other initiatives Chal Rang De is doing when he mentioned that Chal Rang De recently painted walls of Saki Naka Police Station with the theme “Villains of Bollywood”. He shared his experience of this task as well. Here is a video grab from the talk we had.
At the very top of the hill, we took this group photo.
This walk made us realize that our perception of a subject is often eclipsed by our beliefs and presumption. Need is to go out and experience for ourselves, throw those old glasses and don a new ones to see the world through new perspective.
Look for other pictures of the event here.