Once stained with paan (a stimulating, slightly psychoactive preparation of betel leaf) and certain bodily fluids that for propriety’s sake we won’t get into, the walls of Mumbai have recently undergone a major facelift, thanks to the hard work and creativity of The Mumbai Wall Project.
An initiative to add color, form and texture to a space with the intention of starting a conversation amongst its inhabitants, The Wall Project began in the suburb of Bandra, when a man named Glenford D'Mello allowed a few brush-wielding young folks with a penchant for bold hues to paint on his property.
Daunted by the vagaries of bureaucracy, the renegade band of artists stuck to private walls until the city of Mumbai asked them to paint a 2.4 km swath of Tulsi Pipe Road in 2007. The project commenced on Independence Day (August 15th); more than 400 people showed up with paints and brushes.
The Tulsi Pipe Wall now provides a colorful backdrop to city life, and The Wall Project continues to grow organically, with new murals cropping up all over the place. It’s art for the public by the public, a space where people can communicate their most farfetched hopes and fancies—where instead of walking to work, for example, you can catch the sky bus.
After all, painting a fantasy on a wall might very well be the first step to realizing it.
But street art isn’t new to Mumbai. India’s swashbuckling truck-drivers have been pimping their rides for years. The resultant trucks, or “lorries,” are moving canvases that make a visual honk as loud as a claxon. Peace and love are popular themes along with social messages like “Don’t drink and drive,” and “We Two, Ours One,” an apparently ineffective family planning slogan made popular in the 1970s.
Why do they do it? Pride, for one thing, but it’s also true that when you spend most of your time on the road, your vehicle becomes home. This might explain why the lorries are often referred to as sons (beta), daughers (beti), and—we’re assuming this refers to a certain kind of wife—“tigresses” (shernee).
If you want to meet the guys responsible for these splashy automobiles, head for Wadi Bunder, an area located south of Chitrapati Shivaji Terminal, the headquarters of the Central Railway. The best place to view their art, however, is probably the highway.